’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Feb 3, 2014

Jose Aldo’s spot in the pound-for-pound poll remains secure, but with decision victories in four of his six UFC outings, the featherweight champion might have a ways to go before he can match the heyday of fellow Brazilian -- and former pound-for-pound ruler -- Anderson Silva.

Yes, Aldo was superb in routing Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169, but a return of the World Extreme Cagefighting buzzsaw who stopped seven of his eight opponents would certainly be welcome. If the likes of Cain Velasquez and Chris Weidman can continue to build their resumes in the manner they have, Aldo could be hearing footsteps in the coming months.

Another fast riser on this he list is Aldo’s Nova Uniao teammate, Renan Barao. “The Baron” made short work of Urijah Faber in the UFC 169 main event, stopping the “California Kid” in a little less than four minutes. The stoppage may have been premature, but Barao appeared to be on the path to victory regardless. Finding worthy challengers for the newly undisputed bantamweight champion will be the next task.

Perhaps a little friendly competition between the two training partners will propel both champions to new heights as the year continues. There is nothing like a little company at the top to bring out the best in a finely tuned professional athlete. Both Aldo and Barao are at the top of their games; seeing who can top whom figures to be delicious theater.

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 the promotion’s history. While “Bones” surpassed 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 will challenge the pound-for-pound king at UFC 172.

2. Jose Aldo (24-1)

Aldo’s featherweight title defense at UFC 169 was far from dramatic, which is a testament to his dominance as champion. The Nova Uniao standout had his way with Ricardo Lamas for four rounds, landing multiple punching and kicking combinations, as well as a pair of late takedowns. A final salvo from Lamas in round five was not nearly enough as Aldo had his hand raised for the 17th consecutive time -- including six successful UFC title defenses. Aldo’s next move could be interesting. While the likes of Cub Swanson and Chad Mendes are eager for another crack at the Brazilian, UFC President Dana White seems to be leaning toward making a super fight between Aldo and lightweight king Anthony Pettis later in 2014.

3. 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 was expected to receive the next shot at Velasquez, but after undergoing shoulder surgery, the champion could be out until late 2014.

4. Chris Weidman (11-0)

Weidman cemented his spot atop the middleweight division with a second consecutive triumph over Anderson Silva in the UFC 168 main event. After nearly finishing “The Spider” in the opening frame, the Serra-Longo Fight Team standout checked a kick that resulted in a gruesomely fractured leg for Silva, ending the bout 1:16 into the second round. Unbeaten in seven Octagon appearances, Weidman will make his second title defense against the red-hot Vitor Belfort in Las Vegas at UFC 173.

5. Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1)

There is “Mighty Mouse,” and then there is the rest of the flyweight division -- that much remains clear. When Johnson bested Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 for the promotion’s inaugural flyweight strap, it was a closely contested split decision in favor of “Mighty Mouse.” In their rematch at UFC on Fox 9, Johnson removed all doubt as to the identity of the division’s undisputed king with a first-round knockout victory. Since he first captured 125-pound gold in September 2012, Johnson has defended his title three times in increasingly impressive fashion. As it stands, the AMC Pankration representative has bested the two men directly below him in the flyweight division: Benavidez and John Dodson. While a rematch with Dodson could eventually come to fruition, Johnson could also look to pursue super fights against opponents from other weight classes.

6. Renan Barao (32-1)

Barao looked better than ever in dispatching Urijah Faber for a second time in the UFC 169 headliner. The bantamweight ruler floored “The California Kid” with a right hand two minutes into the bout and kept the pressure on with knees and punches. Once Faber recovered, “The Baron” dropped his foe yet again with an overhand right and followed-up with a barrage of unanswered hammerfists to get the victory. While the stoppage was disputed, it is hard to fault Barao, who was nearly flawless up until that point and is now firmly established as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best. While Nova Uniao teammate Jose Aldo has toyed with the idea of moving up a division, Barao appears content to reside atop the bantamweight heap for now.

7. 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 forced the Roufusport standout to withdraw from a UFC on Fox 9 showdown with Josh Thomson. After undergoing surgery, Pettis is likely out until mid-2014. A lucrative showdown with Jose Aldo could await when he returns.

8. Anderson Silva (33-6)

Nobody wanted to see Silva’s night end the way it did at UFC 168, as the longtime pound-for-pound king suffered a broken left leg when Chris Weidman checked a kick during the second round of their headlining matchup. The Brazilian underwent emergency surgery following the bout and is expected to make a full recovery. Prior to undergoing the procedure, “The Spider” reportedly asked when he could begin training again, but it is unclear if an eventual return to the Octagon is in the cards. Silva, who turns 39 in April, was victorious in his first 17 UFC appearances before falling to Weidman in consecutive bouts.

9. Benson Henderson (20-3)

In case anyone forgot, the former lightweight champion is a master of the high-wire act. Henderson proved it once again, taking a hotly contested -- and controversial -- split verdict over Josh Thomson in the UFC on Fox 10 headliner. “Smooth” is now 3-0 in UFC bouts that result in split decisions, with triumphs over Thomson, Gilbert Melendez and Frankie Edgar to his credit. Such efforts may not win him new fans, but he remains a fixture near the top of the 155-pound weight class. However, the lack of an emphatic victory over Thomson -- plus two defeats against reigning lightweight champion Anthony Pettis -- makes for a tough road back to the top for the MMA Lab representative.

10. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)

After a narrow -- and controversial -- loss to Benson Henderson in a lightweight title bout in April, Melendez returned to his winning ways at UFC 166. For two rounds, “El Nino” showcased his technical superiority over Diego Sanchez before electing to go all-in during a wildly entertaining third-round brawl against “The Dream.” Despite some harrowing moments, Melendez emerged with a three-round verdict and likely increased his fan base in the process. The Skrap Pack representative’s only defeat in the past four-plus years came against Henderson, meaning he should not be far removed from the 155-pound title picture.


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