’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff May 17, 2016

Fabricio Werdum’s rise to the top the heavyweight division and a lofty place in these pound-for-pound rankings -- No. 5, to be specific -- was a spectacular one. Unfortunately for “Vai Cavalo,” his fall from the throne and this list was just as spectacular.

Werdum has been a perennial top 10 heavyweight for a decade now, but his run over the last six years has been particularly miraculous. There was his shocking 69-second submission of heavyweight overlord Fedor Emelianenko, his tapout of the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, his flying knee knockout of Mark Hunt and his thrashing of Cain Velasquez to claim UFC gold. However, at UFC 198 on May 14, after 11 months away from the cage, Werdum went out in front of 45,000 Brazilian fans in Curitiba and ended up flat on his face courtesy of Stipe Miocic’s right hook.

Werdum remains one of the five best heavyweights in history, but for now, he exits this list. In his stead enters Frankie Edgar, who has been on the outside looking in -- a position with which he has grown all-too familiar -- since falling from this top 10 three years ago.

When Edgar slid out of’s pound-for-pound rankings in February 2013 after his loss to Jose Aldo, it was a different landscape. Demetrious Johnson was barely on our list, just beginning his trailblazing path to flyweight super-dominance, and Dan Henderson had a comfortable spot in the middle of this group. Times have changed, but since that Aldo loss, so has Edgar. He has ripped through Charlies Oliveira, B.J. Penn, Cub Swanson and Urijah Faber before detonating hands on former two-time UFC title challenger Chad Mendes in just over two minutes in December.

If there are critiques to be had about Edgar sliding in the backdoor of these rankings, “The Answer” can address them at UFC 200, where he meets Aldo once more in a sensational rematch.

Read More » Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Jon Jones (22-1)

Jones never lost his UFC light heavyweight title in the cage. However, in the time that has passed since Jones ran away from the scene of a three-car accident he authored by running a red light in April 2015, Daniel Cormier has taken the UFC’s strap. No one has beaten Jones to supplant him on our pound-for-pound list, yet when “Jonny Bones” could not thrash Ovince St. Preux in less than 10 minutes at UFC 197 in April, many were keen to champion Demetrious Johnson as the sport’s king. Regardless, his win over “OSP” set the stage for Jones to finally rematch his nemesis and fellow pound-for-pound entrant Cormier at UFC 200 in July. Aside from the bragging rights associated with going up 2-0 on your hated rival, a pair of convincing wins over a two-division stud like Cormier is what all-time great resumes are made of. Also, a second win over Cormier could pave the way for a much-anticipated move to heavyweight, which could help Jones put an end to any modern debate over the greatest MMA fighter of all-time.

2. Demetrious Johnson (24-2-1)

When a 10-0 Olympic gold medal wrestler shows up to challenge for your title and you knee in his guts, taking less than three minutes to do so? Yes, that is a sign you have your division by the throat. In Johnson’s case, though, the symbolism of his dominance over the 125-pound category goes even deeper. The 24th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” will take 16 unsigned flyweights coached by previous Johnson victims Henry Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez and award the winner a title shot against Johnson on Dec. 3. The flyweight division is still young and shallow overall as a result, but its top talents are truly outstanding. Unfortunately, Johnson has thrashed just about all of them. If “Mighty Mouse” is to ever make a legitimate claim to being the sport’s top dog, it will have to come in a rematch with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, vying for titles in two weight classes.

3. Rafael dos Anjos (25-7)

They say uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Nowhere in MMA is that truer than at 155 pounds. The lightweight division remains MMA’s deepest, most talented and most volatile weight class, but dos Anjos has been brutally dominant in its midst over the last two years. He has consecutively dominated Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone with a volume-oriented attack that grows more violent each fight. By virtue of his being UFC lightweight champion, any man who winds up in the cage with dos Anjos will be certified as elite. Need proof? Dos Anjos before he broke his foot was supposed to defend his title against UFC featherweight champion and pound-for-pound entrant Conor McGregor at UFC 196 in March. McGregor was in turn taken out by a late replacement in Diaz. Does that mean dos Anjos is looking at a more comfortable contest next time out? No, not a chance: On July 7, dos Anjos puts his UFC title up for grabs against the always-dangerous Eddie Alvarez, who has been one of the division’s finest for eight years and counting.

4. Luke Rockhold (15-2)

Three years past, few people hold Rockhold’s spinning heel kick knockout loss to a testosterone-fueled Vitor Belfort against him, especially after he took the middleweight championship from Chris Weidman at UFC 194 in brutal, lopsided fashion. Rockhold is now in possession of one of the most complete and dynamic offensive arsenals in the sport, yet his reign at 185 pounds cannot truly start unless he can replicate his Dec. 12 win over Weidman come UFC 199 in June. If Rockhold can hand his fellow pound-for-pound entrant a second decisive loss in less than six months, it would go down as a massive accomplishment. It would also clear the way for a potential bout with Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero or a rematch with former Strikeforce champion “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza. A potential murderer’s row is ahead of Rockhold. If he can defend his middleweight title several times, we will be staring at a historically impressive collection of victims.

5. Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC)

Lawler has authored the “Fight of the Year” in back-to-back years, first against Johny Hendricks in March 2014, then against Rory MacDonald in July 2015. However, Lawler-Hendricks spawned a rematch, albeit one that Lawler won, and his bloodbath with MacDonald was the second meeting between the two. In a division as deep and historically outstanding as welterweight, there is a natural impulse to want to see a fighter seek to clean out his division like Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre did. As you can imagine, when Lawler went out at UFC 195 and turned in another likely “Fight of the Year” just two days into 2016, taking razor-thin split decision over Carlos Condit, there was simultaneous excitement and anguish over the prospect of an immediate Lawler-Condit rematch. If you are a fan of variety, you can now rejoice: Instead of Condit, Lawler will defend his title next against Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 on July 30. Ironically, in a division with so much constant activity, the title bid went to Woodley, who by fight time will have been out of the Octagon for 18 months.

6. Daniel Cormier (17-1)

Cormier has an impressive dossier. Wins over Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson offer an impressive cross-section of elite heavyweight and light heavyweight talent; and other than Gustafsson, whom he had to outlast in a rugged war of attrition, Cormier has dominated all of them, as well as his 11 other foes. However, for all Cormier’s greatness, he has found himself a foil in Jon Jones, not only the sport’s most dominant athlete but perhaps its greatest ever. If Cormier can legitimize his UFC light heavyweight title reign by defeating Jones at UFC 200, it would be one of the single biggest victories in MMA history and the sort of win that could crystallize Cormier as one of the sport’s all-time great big men, regardless of whether or not he split his time in two divisions.

7. Conor McGregor (19-3)

McGregor is blessed -- and not because he is now MMA’s biggest box office draw and superstar, with the ability to initiate a promotional standoff with the always iron-fisted UFC. He is also blessed because he finds himself in a weight range overflowing with outstanding, elite fighters. Before Nate Diaz stepped into the UFC 196 headliner and kicked over “Mystic Mac’s” apple cart, McGregor was transitioning from clobbering the greatest featherweight ever, Jose Aldo, in 13 seconds to trying to dethrone the champion of MMA’s best weight class, Rafael dos Anjos. The other viable options: a rematch with Aldo or a 145-pound title defense against another pound-for-pound entrant, Frankie Edgar. When McGregor returns to the cage, he figures to be in there with some of MMA’s very best fighters, even if he does not avenge his submission loss at the hands of Diaz. Until then, McGregor will be content to publicly politick with pound-for-pound kings in other sports, like Floyd Mayweather Jr.

8. Jose Aldo (25-2)

It is a characteristic of a strong division that when the best possible fight does not get made, Plan B is still pretty good. Such is the case with MMA’s all-time finest featherweight. Aldo was torched by Conor McGregor in just 13 seconds at UFC 194 in December, so it seemed that anything less than a redo for the Brazilian would not amount to much in the legacy department. However, even if McGregor is not a part of it, Aldo’s July 9 rematch with Frankie Edgar for the interim UFC featherweight title is still a bout rich with historical significance. While Aldo already owns a win over Edgar, it came in “The Answer’s” first Octagon appearance at 145 pounds. Since then, the New Jersey native has run roughshod over his competition. Despite the true title not being on the line this time, Aldo-Edgar 2 offers even higher stakes and potential achievement than the first go-around.

9. Chris Weidman (13-1)

In addition to a host of other strong middleweight victories, Weidman’s finishes against all-time great Anderson Silva remain two of the most significant wins in the sport’s history, hence his placement here. However, MMA’s pound-for-pound universe is a vicious one, and frankly, not even beating perhaps the greatest fighter of all-time twice is enough to let you rest on your laurels. The immediate rematch can be a gift or a curse. If Weidman is to stay on this list and remain a viable pound-for-pound contender, he will have to even the score with the increasingly dominant Luke Rockhold, who seized control of their December bout and hammered Weidman to a fourth-round stoppage.

10. Frankie Edgar (20-4-1)

Since entering the UFC over nine years ago, Edgar has crafted an exceptional ledger, as one of the best lightweights ever and while currently forging one of the best 145-pound resumes we have seen. In wake of his February 2013 loss to Jose Aldo, “The Answer” has steamrolled his featherweight competition, best exemplified in his five-round humiliation of surging contender Cub Swanson and his quick-and-dirty knockout of two-time UFC title challenger Chad Mendes. Edgar wants a shot at Conor McGregor and the legitimate featherweight championship, but his consolation prize is no pittance: a UFC 200 rematch with Aldo for the interim strap. It is far from a perfect scenario for “The Answer,” but the Aldo rematch is one of three upcoming bouts between top 10 pound-for-pound fighters; and a win over the greatest featherweight of all-time and the last man to beat him might constitute the greatest win of Edgar’s storied career.
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