Georges St. Pierre made sure there would be no shakeup in the rankings this time out.
In the main event of UFC 158, GSP showed why he is Sherdog.com’s No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter by defending his UFC welterweight title in a shutout of former Strikeforce ace Nick Diaz. Before a wild hometown crowd in Montreal, the 31-year-old executed a near-flawless game plan, shutting down Diaz’s high-level boxing with takedowns and stifling the Californian’s jiu-jitsu attack from top control to secure 50-45 scores across the board.
St. Pierre is far from finished, however. Unlike middleweight counterpart Anderson Silva, the French Canadian still has plenty of challengers rising up in the ranks. Next up will likely be power-punching wrestler Johny Hendricks, who took a unanimous nod over recent GSP opponent Carlos Condit in the UFC 158 co-main event.
Speaking of Silva, though, the top-ranked pound-for-pounder finally has a date for his return. For the first time in nearly two years, “The Spider” will defend his UFC middleweight belt in a bout that is not a rematch when he goes up against unbeaten prospect Chris Weidman at July’s UFC 162.
1. Anderson Silva (33-4)
There is not much left, if anything at all, for Silva to accomplish at middleweight. He’s the most dominant champion the division has ever seen and has mopped the floor with virtually every challenger sent his way. When a fighter is this good, it’s hard to find worthy opponents, but the UFC seems to think it has one in Chris Weidman, who will attempt to dethrone the 37-year-old Brazilian come July 6 at UFC 162. How do the middleweights match up? While Weidman is an accomplished wrestler and unbeaten in MMA, he has fewer fights (nine) than Silva has consecutive title defenses (10).
2. Georges St. Pierre (24-2)
St. Pierre kept his chokehold on the 170-pound class by dominating Nick Diaz in a five-round rout at UFC 158, adding the brash Californian to a list of victims which includes Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes. Still only four months removed from an 18-month hiatus due to ACL reconstruction, GSP said after the bout that he’s looking to take a break. Whenever he returns, St. Pierre will have to deal with another tough challenger in Johny Hendricks.
3. Jon Jones (17-1)
The light heavyweight king has answered all challenges during a dominant title reign, most recently taking out Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in September. Once his coaching stint opposite Chael Sonnen on “The Ultimate Fighter 17” runs its course on FX, “Bones” will defend his strap against the outspoken wrestler in the UFC 159 main event on April 27. If Jones vanquishes Sonnen, as expected, it figures to be an interesting second half of 2013 for the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts member, with a wide array of potential opponents looming, including lucrative cross-divisional bouts against the likes of Daniel Cormier or Anderson Silva.
4. Jose Aldo (22-1)
In his first title defense since January 2012, Aldo held off hard-charging former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in the UFC 156 headliner. Shortly thereafter, 155-pound contender Anthony Pettis informed UFC President Dana White that he would like to drop a weight class to face the Brazilian champion. After initially balking at the match, Aldo and his team have agreed to square off with Pettis at UFC 163 on Aug. 3. The deal comes with an added incentive: if he is victorious, Aldo will receive an immediate title shot at 155 pounds.
5. Benson Henderson (18-2)
After claiming and defending the UFC lightweight title in a pair of hotly contested wins over Frankie Edgar, Henderson left little doubt in his latest defense. Before an audience of millions on network TV, Henderson grounded, pounded and ultimately took a unanimous decision over top contender Nate Diaz. Henderson’s recent run at 155 pounds has given him one of the strongest records in all of MMA, but there is no time for “Smooth” to rest on his laurels. Next up: a long-anticipated showdown against Strikeforce lightweight champion -- and fellow pound-for-pound rankings resident -- Gilbert Melendez in the UFC on Fox 7 headliner.
6. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)
Melendez’s on-again, off-again Strikeforce lightweight title defense against Pat Healy was rescheduled for the company’s final show on Jan. 12. One problem: Melendez’s knee injury still was not healed, forcing him off the show. However, we now get what the world really craves: Melendez against top 10, elite lightweights on a fight-in, fight-out basis. The Cesar Gracie disciple makes his Octagon debut in April against reigning 155-pound champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 7. It has been a long time coming.
7. Cain Velasquez (11-1)
Velasquez has been awaiting his next opponent since he avenged his only defeat with a dominant five-round verdict over Junior dos Santos at UFC 155. The course of the heavyweight division took a dramatic detour on Feb. 2, however, when Antonio Silva knocked out No. 1-contender-in-waiting Alistair Overeem at UFC 156. With no obvious title challenger on the horizon, Velasquez will now face “Bigfoot” for the second time in a year on May 25. Their initial meeting was far from competitive, as the American Kickboxing Academy product used a violent ground-and-pound assault to decorate the Octagon floor with Silva’s blood at UFC 146.
8. Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1)
As we begin to wonder what various pound-for-pound greats might look like fighting a weight class above the one they dominate, Johnson is becoming one of the few truly successful fighters to actually fulfill the “drop a weight class and dominate” expectation. Johnson remained unbeaten at flyweight and established himself as a champion with staying power at UFC on Fox 6. In front of a national television audience, “Mighty Mouse” survived the knockout power of John Dodson early, then had plenty left in reserve for the championship rounds to close out a unanimous decision victory in his first 125-pound title defense. Unfortunately, injury has delayed his second defense, which would have come against John Moraga on April 13.
9. Joseph Benavidez (17-3)
For years, while he toiled and overachieved at 135 pounds, MMA fans and pundits believed Benavidez had the potential to be the best flyweight fighter in the world. With the 125-pound class now installed in the UFC, the 28-year-old Team Alpha Male representative is doing his best to prove them right. Despite falling to Demetrious Johnson in a close September five-rounder for the UFC flyweight belt, Benavidez is already back in title contention after outworking former divisional ruler Ian McCall in a unanimous decision at UFC 156. Next up for the 28-year-old: an April meeting with surging Shooto vet Darren Uyenoyama at UFC on Fox 7.
10. Renan Barao (30-1)
Barao successfully defended the UFC interim bantamweight strap against 22-year-old prospect Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in February. With a resume that includes triumphs over Brad Pickett, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber and the aforementioned “Mayday,” Barao has earned his place atop the division, even if his title comes with a “temporary” label. The date for a desired showdown with Dominick Cruz remains unknown, as the reigning 135-pound king has yet to establish a timetable for his return from multiple knee surgeries. In the meantime, Barao has a date with former WEC champ Eddie Wineland in the main event of UFC 161.