Georges St. Pierre narrowly escaped Johny Hendricks' assault at UFC 167. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Over the course of a UFC tenure that began in 2004, Georges St. Pierre has compiled one of the most impressive resumes in all of mixed martial arts.
At UFC 167, St. Pierre added to those credentials with a controversial split verdict over Johny Hendricks. In his 12th straight win, “Rush” absorbed a number of heavy blows from the two-time NCAA national champion wrestler, including one that closed the champion’s right eye and another that staggered him in the second round. At the end of the night, St. Pierre’s face told a far different tale than the judges’ scorecards. Still, the Tristar Gym representative found a way to win through serious adversity, which, no matter the circumstances, is a sign of a champion.
Shortly after his hard-fought win over Hendricks, St. Pierre expressed a desire to step away from the sport he has helped to build. While UFC President Dana White was none too fond of the idea, the 32-year-old Canadian clearly needs a break. Whether his hiatus is more temporary or permanent is unclear. His status among the sport’s pound-for-pound best, despite the contentious nature of his most recent triumph, is unquestioned.
1. Jon Jones (19-1)
Heading into the UFC 165 main event, Jones viewed his showdown with Alexander Gustafsson as a chance to cement his place as the greatest light heavyweight champion in promotion history. While “Bones” was able to surpass Tito Ortiz’s record for 205-pound title defenses with a unanimous decision triumph, he learned that the 6-foot-5 Swede measured up to the challenge in more ways than just height. While 25 hard-fought minutes against “The Mauler” exposed more chinks in the New York native’s armor than his previous five title defenses combined, Jones also displayed admirable heart in the face of adversity. An eventual rematch with Gustafsson appears inevitable, but surging Brazilian Glover Teixeira is expected to face the pound-for-pound king sometime in March.
2. Jose Aldo (23-1)
The featherweight division’s Brazilian ace was not at his leg-kicking best at UFC 163, thanks to a foot injury sustained early in the bout; but, as champions do, Aldo found a way to win. When challenger Chan Sung Jung separated his shoulder in the fourth round, Aldo pounced on his wounded foe and pounded out his fifth consecutive title defense. While the Nova Uniao fighter continues to discuss a potential move up to lightweight, his next challenge will come at 145 pounds when he defends his belt against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169.
3. Georges St. Pierre (25-2)
Controversial scorecards aside, St. Pierre’s grit and perseverance in his five-round title defense against Johny Hendricks showed how GSP has managed to inhabit this list for so long. St. Pierre looked battered but never beaten at UFC 167, continuing to press on and fight through all that the hard-hitting Hendricks had to offer, ultimately adding the “Bigg Rigg” to his list of vanquished challengers. Though the fight’s outcome clearly warranted a rematch, it remains to be seen when -- or even if -- we will see St. Pierre in the cage again.
4. Cain Velasquez (13-1)
Velasquez removed any doubt as to who is the best heavyweight in the world by administering a brutal beating to Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. The final bout of the trilogy was never really in doubt, as the American Kickboxing Academy ace dominated in the clinch and rarely allowed his opponent any space to unleash his formidable boxing. Velasquez dropped his opponent in the third round and earned the stoppage late in the fifth, where dos Santos finally wilted after hitting his head on the canvas following a failed guillotine attempt. Brazilian submission specialist Fabricio Werdum will likely be granted the next shot at the champ, although a date for that bout has not been determined. What is clear is that with triumphs over the likes of dos Santos (twice), Antonio Rodridgo Nogueira, Antonio Silva (twice) and Brock Lesnar, Velasquez already ranks among the sport’s all-time heavyweight greats.
5. Anderson Silva (33-5)
For the first time in 17 UFC appearances, Silva’s night ended without his hand being raised at UFC 162. After taunting, baiting and clowning Chris Weidman for little more than a round, the Brazilian met his demise when the challenger connected with a left hook and follow-up punches to put a shocking and abrupt end to Silva’s championship reign 1:18 into round two. Until he steps into the Octagon again, the debate will rage on as to why “The Spider” suffered the first loss of his UFC career. Was it his apparent disregard for Weidman’s skills or was it something deeper, such as a waning motivation to compete? Silva took up UFC President Dana White on his offer of an immediate rematch and will try to take back his belt at UFC 168 in December.
6. Chris Weidman (10-0)
For months, Weidman claimed he was the man to dethrone reigning middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva. In the UFC 162 main event, he backed up his talk, knocking out the Brazilian a little more than a minute into the second frame. The Serra-Longo Fight Team member has demonstrated rapid progression in each fight, and his blend of wrestling, jiu-jitsu and constantly improving standup makes him a formidable obstacle for any potential challenger. Weidman will attempt to repeat his feat and prove his win over Silva was no fluke when they rematch on Dec. 28.
7. Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1)
There is “Mighty Mouse,” and then there is the rest of the flyweight division. The UFC’s lightest champ used his unparalleled speed and potent ground game to place challenger John Moraga firmly in the latter camp on July 27, when Johnson scored his long-desired first finish in the Octagon via fifth-round armbar. With wins over Joseph Benavidez, Ian McCall and John Dodson, Johnson has already gone through the best the weight class has to offer. Benavidez has won three straight fights since falling to the AMC Pankration standout, however, and their initial meeting was a closely contested split verdict. As a result, Benavidez will get another shot at Johnson at UFC on Fox 9.
8. Anthony Pettis (17-2)
Pettis needed five rounds and the remarkable “Showtime” kick to wrest the WEC belt from Benson Henderson in 2010, but he required far less time to earn his second victory over “Smooth” and become the new UFC lightweight king. In the UFC 164 headliner, Pettis softened his opponent with a series of brutal body kicks and then locked in a fight-ending armbar with 29 seconds left in round one. About the only thing that went wrong for Pettis was a knee injury he suffered while checking a kick. While the ailment was diagnosed as a sprain, lingering issues with the knee have forced the Roufusport standout to withdraw from a UFC on Fox 9 showdown with Josh Thomson.
9. Renan Barao (31-1)
With one spectacular spinning back kick to the face of challenger Eddie Wineland, Barao continued to put more distance between himself and the “temporary” label. With a resume that includes triumphs over Brad Pickett, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald and the aforementioned Wineland, nobody can deny that Barao has earned his current spot atop the division. The Brazilian will attempt to make his standing official when he welcomes reigning titlist Dominick Cruz back to the Octagon at UFC 169.
10. Benson Henderson (19-3)
After seven consecutive triumphs to begin his UFC career, “Smooth” relinquished his lightweight crown to the same man who snatched WEC gold from his clutches in December 2010: Anthony Pettis. The MMA Lab product had no answer for Pettis’ dynamic attack at UFC 164, as “Showtime” had Henderson reeling with a series of hard body kicks before finishing the fight with an armbar from guard in the opening frame. The emphatic nature of the loss means there will be no immediate rematch for Henderson, but his impressive track record figures to keep him booked in significant fights for the foreseeable future. Henderson will return to the cage in January, when he squares off with Josh Thomson in the UFC on Fox 10 headliner.