’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Apr 12, 2017

Since we last checked in with our pound-for-pound top 10, Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight king Tyron Woodley has settled his beef with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 209 in Las Vegas, and UFC 205-pound champ Daniel Cormier earned a second submission win over Anthony Johnson in Buffalo, New York. Was it enough to budge the order of our lineup?

No, it was not. In the absence of Cormier rival Jon Jones, 125-pound dominator Demetrious Johnson remains in our top spot while he awaits title challenger Wilson Reis in the UFC on Fox 24 headliner on April 15 in Kansas City, Missouri. By the same accord, while his March 4 majority decision over Thompson was a major accomplishment, it was not enough to propel Woodley past year-in, year-out pound-for-pound staple Jose Aldo (live odds).

Even though we have no movement in the top 10, there is no reason to despair. In fact, the coming months have two bouts on the schedule between current Sherdog pound-for-pound stalwarts.

At UFC 212 on June 3 in Rio de Janeiro, the greatest featherweight of all-time, Aldo, is lined up to unify his slice of the UFC featherweight crown with surging Hawaiian Max Holloway. While you can quibble about whether our no. 3, Conor McGregor, is the true 145-pound champion, Aldo-Holloway will pit our fourth-ranked entrant against our no. 8 -- a major pound-for-pound clash any way you size it up.

Just over a month later, on July 8 in Las Vegas, former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, our sixth-ranked pound-for-pounder, will finally meet Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, our no. 10, at UFC 213.

If those matchups are not good enough for you, we can really stretch it: Ninth-ranked Michael Bisping is still due to defend his UFC middleweight title against perhaps greatest mixed martial artist in history, Georges St. Pierre, later this year. Meanwhile, the aforementioned McGregor might still get his date with arguably the greatest boxer of this generation: Floyd Mayweather Jr. Maybe our forthcoming calendar is more profound than we realize.

Read More » Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1)

After Joseph Benavidez prevailed over Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo at "The Ultimate Fighter 24" Finale, it seemed like Johnson-Benavidez 3 was a lock. Even if "Mighty Mouse" has already beaten Benavidez twice, including the most vicious knockout finish of Johnson's entire career, a third win would still be the most impactful, relevant win the 125-pound champion could pick up in the UFC flyweight division. Nonetheless, Wilson Reis, the man Johnson was originally set to face before injury struck prior to UFC 201 in July, is going to get the next title shot. If Johnson prevails over his Brazilian challenger on April 15, it will tie him with all-time middleweight king Anderson Silva for the most consecutive UFC title defenses (10) and put another top-10 flyweight on his ledger. Even so, if Jon Jones can come back and topple Daniel Cormier once more to regain his throne, there is only one move that can put Johnson on top: a return to 135 pounds and wins over the likes of Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw.

2. Daniel Cormier (19-1)

Towel-related controversy aside, Cormier's win over Anthony Johnson at UFC 210 was still a major addition to his résumé, even if it was an even faster rear-naked choke win than his May 2015 victory over “Rumble” the first time they met. Over the last seven years and change, Cormier has crafted a truly special record as both a heavyweight and a 205-pounder, one that puts him among the best 20 or 25 fighters in this sport's history. However, to no one's surprise -- and with good reason -- Cormier's legacy is and will continue to be defined by his January 2015 loss to Jon Jones. For now, the 38-year-old “D.C.” may revel in calling Jones “ineligible.” UFC President Dana White may say that a Jones-Cormier rematch cannot headline a pay-per-view event because of “Jonny Bones'” lack of reliability, but for "DC" to jump to the next level of all-time greatness -- and to the top spot on this list -- he will have to hope for a Jones rematch later this year and then win it. Otherwise, Jones will always be the specter that hangs over the otherwise brilliant career of the American Kickboxing Academy team captain.

3. Conor McGregor (21-3)

As British and Irish tabloids begin to cover McGregor as a full-blown, mainstream person of interest, charting his nightclub appearances and painstakingly describing the designers of his apparel, it is easier than ever for MMA fans to be repelled by the Irishman's legitimate global celebrity. With that said, only a fool would attempt to dispute McGregor's pound-for-pound credentials. While his March 2016 slip-up against Nate Diaz will not be forgotten anytime soon, “Mystic Mac” still avenged his loss five months later, while axing the likes of Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier; and that was before he moved up to 155 pounds and destroyed Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title. Undoubtedly, McGregor's current MMA presence is a sore spot for the sport's purists, as he continues to attempt to use his superstardom and UFC credentials to lure all-time boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. into a crossover confrontation. Despite the hurdles, each passing week makes McGregor-Mayweather seem at least remotely more feasible. Should “The Notorious” one get bored of trying to coax “Money May” into the ring, he will have no shortage of worthwhile contenders to his UFC title, whether it is Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov or someone else entirely. After all, he reigns at 155 pounds, the deepest and most talented division in the game.

4. Jose Aldo (26-2)

Aldo is the greatest featherweight in mixed martial arts history, has been a pound-for-pound staple for going on eight years now and is still only 30 years old. Yes, his pound-for-pound stature is mitigated by the fact that Conor McGregor dropped him on his face in 13 seconds at UFC 194 just 17 months ago, but Aldo's record is still historically fantastic; and since his loss to McGregor, “Scarface” bounced back and put on one of the best performances of his entire career, besting perhaps the finest incarnation of Frankie Edgar over 25 minutes at UFC 200 in July. It is a perfectly legitimate critique to say Aldo's UFC featherweight title is on the illegitimate side, given that he has not avenged his loss to McGregor, but at this point, that fact is secondary: Aldo is next lined up to unify his piece of the UFC 145-pound crown against Max Holloway at UFC 212 on June 3. McGregor or not, a victory over Holloway would be one of the biggest wins of the Brazilian's carer and further entrench him as the all-time best at 145 pounds.

5. Tyron Woodley (17-3-1)

In the last two years, Woodley has beaten Kelvin Gastelum, Robbie Lawler and Stephen Thompson, all while taking the UFC welterweight title. His fight style may not thrill everyone and some MMA folks may even find Woodley's public griping annoying, but lately, “The Chosen One” has been producing results in one of MMA's finest weight classes. Woodley's majority decision over Thompson at UFC 209 in March may not be enough to elevate him over a legend like Jose Aldo, but if the former Mizzou Tiger can keep racking up Ws, the sky is the limit for his pound-for-pound potential. Woodley's next opponent figures to be determined by the Demian Maia-Jorge Masvidal showdown at UFC 211 on May 13, a fight that is emblematic of the cutthroat, competitive level of the 170-pound division, both inside and outside the UFC ranks.

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

In spite of an incredible second UFC run in which he captured the promotion's welterweight crown and redefined himself as an all-time great, Lawler is still most remembered for how he lost the UFC 170-pound title in July, falling prey to Tyron Woodley's powerful right hand. That result notwithstanding, the “Ruthless” one has one of the sport's finest records over the last four years. Coming off of a career-changing title loss, the three-time reigning “Fight of the Year” author is not taking any softballs in his return. Initially, Lawler was lined up to face Donald Cerrone at UFC 205 in New York in November, but the former champion said he needed more time to train. For some, it would be an excuse to bypass such a contest, but not for Lawler. Now working under the tutelage of Henri Hooft, Lawler expects to meet Cerrone at UFC 213 on July 8 in Las Vegas. The matchup could give Lawler another milestone win and perhaps make him “Mr. FOTY” for a fourth year in a row.

7. Stipe Miocic (16-2)

Miocic is the top heavyweight in the world and successfully defended his strap in front of essentially a hometown crowd at UFC 203 in Cleveland in September. Still, that does not mean the heavyweight champion is happy, especially after he made 25 percent less than challenger Alistair Overeem. Contracts be damned, it is always harder for heavyweights to make their way up the pound-for-pound ladder due to the dearth of depth in the division and the seemingly constant turnover. Yet Miocic is finding his way. If Miocic can avenge his December 2014 loss to former champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 on May 13, he will tie the all-time record for successful UFC heavyweight title defenses, add another all-time great to his hit list and prove that a big man with staying power can reign alongside the sport's finest fighters.

8. Max Holloway (17-3)

UFC champions of various shapes and sizes tend to make the pound-for-pound top 10 list: Fighting in the sport's largest organization and rising to the top of a division usually suggests some sort of noteworthy greatness. With that said, you can disregard Holloway's interim featherweight title, but nobody can deny the record the “Blessed” one has put together since his 2013 losses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor. Since then, Hollloway has ripped through 10 opponents in the Octagon, finishing seven of them, in a tear that includes Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas and former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis. The featherweight division is finally percolating and beginning to emerge as one of MMA's most thrilling weight classes, joining 155 and 170 pounds. Holloway is now due to unify his part of the UFC featherweight title with Jose Aldo at UFC 212 on June 3 in Rio de Janeiro. It might not be a showdown with McGregor, but Holloway has a chance to jump to a stratus shared by MMA's top five fighters. What's more, the Hawaiian is still only 25 years old, our youngest pound-for-pound entrant by far.

9. Michael Bisping (30-7)

We will not shy away from sharing a sentiment we have expressed since Bisping joined this list as UFC middleweight champion: At 38 years old and still suffering from the impact of a detached retina, it amazes us as much as it does you. Nonetheless, Bisping has run through C.B. Dollaway, Thales Leites, Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson in his last five appearance. Given that his first title defense came against a 46-year-old Henderson -- legend or not -- it is fair to critique Bisping's reign with some skepticism. However, “The Count's” next move is much harder to peg and far more difficult to define: Bisping has vowed later this year to defend his 185-pound throne against perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time, Georges St. Pierre, despite the fact that "Rush" has been away from the sport for nearly four years. However, no date has been set, prompting questions about whether or not “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner will wind up facing rightful no. 1 challenger Yoel Romero before a meeting with St. Pierre can take place.

10. Donald Cerrone (32-7, 1 NC)

Cerrone's career is largely marked by his big-fight failures, be it Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, Rafael dos Anjos or Jorge Masvidal. Even so, “Cowboy” is not just one of MMA's most dynamic fighters but one of its most accomplished. The 34-year-old Cerrone is one of this sport's most active competitors and he is does it in MMA's two best divisions, lightweight and welterweight. After proving himself as a top-three fighter at 155 pounds, Cerrone blew his December 2015 UFC title challenge against dos Anjos and then moved up to 170. The Jackson-Wink MMA product ripped through Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story and Matt Brown before ultimately falling to Masvidal in January. Losses matter, but prizefighting is a realm defined by “Who did you beat and how did you beat them?” Cerrone, who averages four UFC bouts a year, intuitively grasps that concept. Above and beyond that, Cerrone can earn perhaps the biggest win of his career next time out, as he figures to face former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler on July 8 at UFC 213 in Las Vegas.
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