’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Aug 2, 2016

It has been a year of volatility at the championship level in mixed martial arts. The topsy-turvy nature of 2016 has seen seven new UFC champions minted in just seven months of action, which is exactly the sort of chaos powerful enough to reshape the pound-for-pound rankings.

On the surface, there is only one real “happening” in this pound-for-pound update -- the first appearance of new UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. His nasty knockout of formerly third-ranked Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 in Atlanta not only drops the “Ruthless” one down this list but sees the former University of Missouri wrestler debut at No. 6. Woodley’s appearance alongside the deposed Lawler on this list serves as a testament to the quality of the welterweight division, but the latest UFC championship upset is not necessarily the biggest drama surrounding the latest pound-for-pound top 10.

Even though he has not fought since April, the reason why the oft-troubled Jon Jones has not fought since then is why he remains the most crucial conversation in the pound-for-pound universe. Since Anderson Silva fell dramatically to Chris Weidman over three years ago, “Jonny Bones” has been the king of the list and, frankly, the king of MMA. However, having popped positive for hydroxiclomiphene and letrozole in a June 16 pre-UFC 200 test, Jones faces a $500,000 fine and, more importantly, a potential two-year ban from the sport. Jones’ pending hearing is one of the most important pound-for-pound moments in MMA history; should the former UFC light heavyweight champion have his suspension upheld, even if it is not for two years, he risks removal from this list. That would pave the way for Demetrious Johnson on the pound-for-pound throne and further legitimize the “‘Mighty Mouse is the best fighter in the game” discussion that stemmed from UFC 197.

This edition of the pound-for-pound elite also says goodbye to a regular of this list, a man who has crept in and out of our top 10 for over six years: Frankie Edgar. The entrance of Woodley bumps the previously 10th-ranked Edgar, who was in his second stint on the pound-for-pound list over four years after dropping the UFC lightweight title to Benson Henderson. If the 34-year-old New Jersey native ever does complete his much-discussed debut at 135 pounds, he might be fit for a third run here.

Read More » Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Jon Jones (22-1)

Jones is MMA’s best light heavyweight and also the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Beyond those superlatives, he might be the greatest mixed martial artist ever. None of that matters, however, in light of his failed June 16 anti-doping test, as “Jonny Bones” tested positive for hydroxyclomiphene and letrozole, two anti-estrogenic agents. Jones will face a hearing in the near future, and if he cannot provide an overwhelmingly compelling excuse for his blown test, he risks a fine and a suspension, as much as $500,000 and two years away from the sport. In his last four fights alone, Jones has thrashed nearly half the 205-pound Top 10, besting Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Daniel Cormier and Ovince St. Preux. Those accomplishments will be set to the side if Jones’ suspension is upheld, and we will have a new No. 1 at 205 pounds and a new pound-for-pound king.

2. Demetrious Johnson (24-2-1)

Pound-for-pound king Jon Jones struggled to shake off the ring rust and dominate in typical fashion against Ovince St. Preux at UFC 197. Meanwhile, on that same card, Johnson defended his UFC flyweight title for the eighth time, easily knocking out previously unbeaten Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo with vicious knees to the body in under three minutes. As a result, many fans and media alike began proclaiming “Mighty Mouse” the pound-for-pound ruler of the sport. Now, Jones faces a suspension of up to two years, which would remove him from the current MMA scene, as well as these rankings. Should that come to pass, Johnson will ascend to the pound-for-pound throne, as he heals from injury and awaits his slated Dec. 3 date with the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 24 in his ninth flyweight title defense.

3. Daniel Cormier (18-1)

Cormier is in an unenviable position. He now holds the undisputed UFC light heavyweight championship, but his loss to Jon Jones at UFC 182 cannot be ignored. Soon, on account of a pending United States Anti-Doping Agency suspension, Jones may become an afterthought for the time being, allowing Cormier to rise in these pound-for-pound rankings and become a truer 205-pound champion. Nevertheless, given their epic rivalry and the outcome of their January 2015 encounter, Cormier will not be measured on his outstanding resume as both a heavyweight and a light heavyweight; he will be measured by the fact that he has yet to defeat Jones. Worse, Cormier is already 37 years old, so even if Jones is not hit with the full two-year suspension, it could forever alter and spoil the viability of a Jones-Cormier rematch. Cormier’s wins over Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson, Dan Henderson, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva speak to his multidivisional dominance, but unless he can eventually secure and win a rematch with “Jonny Bones,” the Olympian will never nail down the MMA legacy he feels he deserves.

4. Eddie Alvarez (28-4)

He has spent the last eight-plus years putting in work as a top-flight lightweight, and in July, Alvarez cemented himself as one of the very best fighters ever at 155 pounds -- the deepest and most talented division in MMA for several years running. Once you get beyond the B.J. Penns and Takanori Gomis of the world, how many lightweights are left with better resumes? While he soundly fell to Donald Cerrone via decision in his September 2014 debut in the UFC, Alvarez has ripped off three straight victories over three of the 10 best lightweights in history, topping Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis before running roughshod over Rafael dos Anjos for the title. Given his upset win for the strap and the nature of the 155-pound weight class, the deck is stacked against the Kensington, Pennsylvania, native to be a reigning, defending champion. Should he hold onto his title, Alvarez stands the chance at crossing out other excellent lightweights such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Will Brooks and others, expanding on an already legendary record.

5. Rafael dos Anjos (25-8)

In his second UFC lightweight title defense on July 7, dos Anjos was absolutely raked on the feet by Alvarez; and though the Brazilian never hit the ground, he had his crown captured by the former Bellator MMA champion. However, dos Anjos maintains a comfy place in these rankings because of his recently outstanding resume and the quality of the division over which he lorded, if only temporarily. Dos Anjos was 10-1 in his last 11 outings heading into the Alvarez bout and had beaten Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone, consecutively and in dominant fashion. It remains to be seen if dos Anjos can knock off another string of elite lightweights to get another crack at UFC lightweight gold. The 31-year-old’s track record over the last four years suggests he will have ample opportunities to put high-level prizefighters on his ledger, even if he finds it hard to come by a rematch with Alvarez.

6. Tyron Woodley (16-3)

After 18 months away from the Octagon, Woodley took the UFC welterweight title in his return to action, smashed pound-for-pound stalwart Robbie Lawler in just over two minutes and gained easily the most outstanding, resonant victory of his career. Woodley owns wins over Carlos Condit, Kelvin Gastelum and Dong Hyun Kim in just his last five bouts, but dethroning Lawler puts Woodley in a new stratosphere. Though “The Chosen One” has been quick to call out Nick Diaz for what he deems a “big-money” fight for his first title defense, Woodley’s path to climbing the pound-for-pound rankings runs through the legitimate No. 1 contender at 170 pounds right now: Stephen Thompson. “Wonderboy” himself has enjoyed a 170-pound run that places him among the top 15 to 20 fighters on the planet.

7. Robbie Lawler (27-11, 1 NC)

Heading into his UFC 201 title defense against Tyron Woodley, the 34-year-old Lawler had won eight of his last nine bouts in the ultra-deep welterweight division; and should his UFC 195 classic with Carlos Condit hold out for another five months, he will have won three straight “Fight of the Year” awards. However, in spite of his outstanding record in one of MMA’s finest weight classes, Lawler’s one-sided knockout loss to Woodley sets him back. Lawler has toppled Condit, Rory MacDonald, Johny Hendricks, Matt Brown and Jake Ellenberger in the last two years alone, but in order to maintain his position on this list and get another crack at UFC welterweight gold, the “Ruthless” one will need to rebound and prove he can still stand up to the damage he withstood throughout his unexpected championship run.

8. Conor McGregor (19-3)

McGregor’s pound-for-pound status presents a unique case. On one hand, McGregor has beaten a wide cross-section of the ever-improving featherweight division, taking out the likes of Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo -- the greatest 145-pound fighter of all-time. On the other, McGregor was soundly dispatched by lightweight Nate Diaz in their 170-pound bout in March; now, he has opted to rematch Diaz at the same weight come UFC 202 on Aug. 20. “The Notorious” has already put together a quality pound-for-pound resume at 145 pounds and claimed the UFC featherweight crown in the process, but if he falls to Diaz for the second time in less than six months, he will inevitably see his stature fall among the greatest fighters in the sport.

9. Jose Aldo (26-2)

Aldo is the greatest featherweight mixed martial artist in history, and his first slip-up in a decade against Conor McGregor does not do much to undermine his place. Though Aldo may be waiting for the chance to settle the score with McGregor in a rematch for UFC gold at 145 pounds, “Scarface” has since gone out and registered an outstanding and dominant second win over Frankie Edgar to affirm his place among the sport’s Top 10. Aldo’s fate to an extent is still bound to McGregor’s forthcoming Aug. 20 clash with Nate Diaz, but even if the Brazilian never catches a second bout with “The Notorious” Irishman, his outstanding record as a featherweight -- never mind whatever opponents he may meet in the immediate future -- will keep him buoyed on this list.

10. Dominick Cruz (22-1)

At only 30 years of age, a huge part of Cruz’s prime as a prizefighter has already been stolen by knee and groin injuries. However, since his latest return in 2016, he has managed to fight twice already, regaining his UFC bantamweight title from T.J. Dillashaw in a nip-tuck split decision in January before retaining it in the rubber match against rival Urijah Faber. The question for Cruz, one of the best fighters in the game looking to quickly re-establish his dominance in the division, is whether or not he can replicate his win over Dillashaw. Outside of a rematch with Dillashaw, the golden goose for Cruz -- at least as far as hardcore fans and media are concerned -- is a rematch with flyweight ruler Demetrious Johnson, who has gone on to dominate the 125-pound weight class since he first lost to Cruz as a bantamweight back in October 2011. While the 135-pound division may lack for depth of contenders right now, Cruz’s next likely opponents, Dillashaw or Johnson, both give him the chance to add major wins to his record and make up for the lost time he watched go out the window due to his spate of injuries.
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