’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Jun 6, 2017
Two of our pound-for-pound entrants just fought one another in what we may look back on as a historic passing of the torch. Two other P4Pers on this list are due to square off in a month’s time in what could prove be the “Fight of the Year.” Meanwhile, the current king of the sport has just engaged in combat with his own promoter.

Have no fear; this is just another pound-for-pound rankings update.

Max Holloway knocked out the greatest featherweight in MMA history -- Jose Aldo -- in a stirring three-round battle at UFC 212 on June 3 in Rio de Janeiro. The win was the 11th in a row for the exciting Hawaiian, who at just 25 years old, has an accomplished resume beyond his years and charisma to spare. “Blessed” may be the best young fighter in the game, and with his historic victory over Aldo, he rises from eighth to No. 4 on this list. Meanwhile, Aldo falls from that fourth spot to No. 7.

In just four weeks’ time, we get UFC 213, which means all-time action fighters, the 10th-ranked Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and the eighth-ranked Robbie Lawler, are due for their potentially violent and memorable showdown in Las Vegas. On the other side of the month, we have UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, California. It boasts the beyond-anticipated rematch between our second-ranked entrant, UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, and the only fighter to ever beat him, Jon Jones -- a man who spent over three years atop this list

As for Demetrious Johnson, the man who took Jones’ alpha status on our pound-for-pound ladder when “Jonny Bones” failed his doping test last summer, no one can be sure when he will next set foot in a cage. In the interim, his next fight seems certain to be with his promoter, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Read More » Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1)

With the dissolution of the Cody Garbrandt-T.J. Dillashaw bantamweight title fight once slated for UFC 213 and with Jon Jones’ return against Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 three weeks later, you would figure most of the discussion involving Johnson would center on certain questions like “Is he going to fight Dillashaw or Ray Borg?” and “When Jones comes back, is Johnson still the pound-for-pound king?” Then Johnson dropped a bombshell on the MMA world on June 5, calling out the UFC for “unfulfilled promises” and “bullying,” stating that the promotion has done little to promote him while trying to coerce him into a fight with Dillashaw. “Mighty Mouse” even claimed the UFC told him it would fold the flyweight division if he did not acquiesce to fighting Dillashaw. The 30-year-old Johnson can make the case that he has been underpaid, underpromoted and even disrespected by the UFC. Moreover, it is difficult to cast aspersions on his resume, given his accomplishments in two weight classes and his 12-0-1 record at flyweight. Nonetheless, given his history at bantamweight and how thoroughly dominant Johnson has been in dispatching his flyweight contenders, the MMA world still thirsts for him to embark on even richer historical challenges. As it stands right now, we appear to be in a promotional standoff.

2. Daniel Cormier (19-1)

Regardless of what his future holds as a coach and a broadcaster, Cormier has already established himself as a historically noteworthy fighter. He was a 13-0 heavyweight who had routed the likes of Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Jeff Monson, Roy Nelson and Antonio Silva before he ever cut to 205 pounds, where he has found another division to dominate. Still, no matter how much “DC” has done in two weight classes, he is still forever judged by his legendary feud with Jon Jones and more specifically his January 2015 decision loss to “Jonny Bones.” Fortunately for the American Kickboxing Academy captain, he will get his chance to avenge the defeat, so long as Jones can show up in the cage. Jones-Cormier 2 has been announced for UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, California. With all due respect to Matt Hamill’s infamous disqualification win over Jones, if Cormier can become the first man to legitimately beat “Bones,” it may go down as the single greatest victory in MMA history. Not only would Cormier be the true undisputed light heavyweight champion at that point, but he may be the best fighter in the world -- period. In addition, having just turned 38 years old, Cormier is still a spry young man by heavyweight standards should he ever want to return to the division for a major bout or two.

3. Conor McGregor (21-3)

Remember him? Never mind that he is the biggest draw in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, knocked the greatest featherweight of all-time, Jose Aldo, flat on his face in 13 seconds and demolished Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title to become the first-ever, simultaneous two-division UFC champion. What about Max Holloway, now our No. 4-ranked fighter, who just scored an incredible championship victory of his own over Aldo? “The Notorious” one was the last guy to beat him before the Hawaiian took off on his red-hot 11-fight winning streak, and he did so with a torn ACL. These things may seem like distant memories to many, given that the Irishman continues to zealously seek his multimillion-dollar boxing showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. However, the reason McGregor can dare to hold the UFC and multiple divisions in the sport hostage while demanding a fight with “Money Mayweather” is the fact that he has already established himself as historically great. Maybe someday he will bless us mere MMA mortals again.

4. Max Holloway (18-3)

It was just over four years ago that Holloway, then 21 years old, found himself outworked and outgrappled of all things by one Conor McGregor. Fast forward four years and Holloway finds himself in the same rarified air as the Irishman. He may not have beaten the best featherweight of all-time in a mere 13 seconds, but at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, Holloway nonetheless knocked out the legendary Jose Aldo to claim the undisputed UFC featherweight championship in thrilling fashion. The historic victory pushes the Hawaiian’s winning streak to 11 fights, with nine of those victories resulting in stoppages. More importantly, those wins have come over the likes of Aldo, former lightweight kingpin Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Cub Swanson. At just 25 years of age, with a beyond-dynamic fight style and charisma to spare, Holloway is the best young fighter in the sport. There are already plenty of naysayers who are keen to point out that he polished off McGregor’s leftovers. With that said, Holloway plans to reign over his division rather than chasing money fights, a la “Mystic Mac,” which means he may take on a challenge McGregor never did and one many accused him of ducking. With Holloway removing Aldo from the immediate title picture, the “Blessed” one is likely to face ever-sharp and relevant legend Frankie Edgar in his first title defense.

5. Stipe Miocic (17-2)

Unless you are Fedor Emelianenko or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira from a decade ago, it is difficult for a heavyweight to hold down a steady place in the pound-for-pound rankings for a sustained period of time. However, Miocic now has a year under his belt on this list and shows no signs of slowing down. Since his June 2013 breakout win against Roy Nelson, Miocic is 8-1 and has avenged that lone loss, atoning for his December 2014 slip-up against Junior dos Santos by knocking out “Cigano” in just over two minutes at UFC 211. In his last five starts, the Ohio native has knocked out five top-10 opponents, and only Mark Hunt saw the second round. The other four -- Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem and dos Santos -- are all historically accomplished heavyweights; in the case of dos Santos, we are talking about one of the 10 best heavyweights ever and in Werdum perhaps one of the three finest of all-time. The dos Santos win gave Miocic two consecutive UFC heavyweight title defenses; one more would give him the outright record for the weight class. Though the likes of Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou represent fresh, new heavyweight challengers, which are always at a premium, Miocic is tearing through so many of the division’s legends that it has many fans coveting a clash with Cain Velasquez -- a bout with much richer historical significance and one with the rare ability to help elevate a heavyweight’s pound-for-pound stature.

6. Tyron Woodley (17-3-1)

For nearly 20 years running, the welterweight division has been a difficult proving ground where title reigns matter. The likes of Hayato “Mach” Sakurai, Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre and Robbie Lawler forged legendary MMA legacies based on their dominance of what has consistently been among the deepest weight classes in the sport. To beat a welterweight king at his peak is no joke, and Woodley’s brutal demolition of the aforementioned Lawler at UFC 201 in July remains the biggest reason he is our No. 6 pound-for-pound entrant. However, the former University of Missouri wrestler is no one-hit wonder, as “The Chosen One” also boasts recent wins over the likes of Carlos Condit, Kelvin Gastelum, Dong Hyun Kim and Stephen Thompson (twice). The 35-year-old Woodley’s position could be better. He is not always thrilling to watch, and he is antagonistic with his own promoter. Moreover, his expected next opponent is jiu-jitsu wizard Demian Maia, who has been on an incredible hot streak that would land him on this list if we made it a Top 15 or Top 20. While a win over Maia would represent the second-biggest victory of Woodley’s career, the 170-pound ace continues to hold out hope that the Brazilian needs time off, giving him the chance at what he has termed “a legacy fight.” We have a feeling Woodley is thinking about that other welterweight champion who just unretired.

7. Jose Aldo (26-3)

In the often backwards logic that guides MMA discourse, perhaps there is no greater proof that we are in the midst of a legend than to see that same fighter pilloried for a defeat. If nothing else, it certainly seems to be the case for Aldo. From November 2009, when he savaged Mike Thomas Brown in World Extreme Cagefighting, to that fateful night in December 2015 when he met Conor McGregor for just 13 seconds, Aldo did not just stand atop the featherweight division; he ruled it with an iron fist. After he was dethroned by McGregor at UFC 194, he responded with a brilliant victory over a surging Frankie Edgar -- a victory even more historically rich than the first time he defeated “The Answer.” Many seem keen to write off the Nova Uniao product, even though he does not turn 31 until September and was up 20-18 on all three scorecards against Max Holloway prior to his third-round knockout loss at UFC 212. Plain and simple, Aldo may be 1-2 in his last three bouts, but all three of those contests have come against truly special fighters: the UFC’s first simultaneous two-division champion, a two-division legend and the best young fighter we have seen since Jon Jones. It is hard to say what fight makes sense next for Aldo and how much longer he has left in the cage, but for now, “Scarface” can still fight.

8. 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 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 meets 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 an unfathomable fourth year in a row.

9. Michael Bisping (30-7)

Bisping’s late-career ascent to UFC middleweight champion has been truly bizarre. Two years ago, he was already on the wrong side of 35 years old; his career had been defined by big-fight failures; he was suffering through a detached retina; and it seemed like “The Count” may top out with respectable-but-unspectacular wins over the likes of C.B. Dollaway and Thales Leites. Then came his dramatic, controversial upset of Anderson Silva. Then he somehow destroyed a cresting Luke Rockhold on short notice to claim the middleweight crown and parlayed it into revenge on a 46-year-old Dan Henderson. Weird as it might be, Bisping has beaten two of the 10 best MMA fighters of all-time in less than 18 months and then seemed prime to take on another in the recently unretired Georges St. Pierre, rather than facing undisputed No. 1 contender Yoel Romero. Then it turned out Bisping-GSP and its dramatic announcement was premature and the Brit was headed to the sidelines while Romero and rising contender Robert Whittaker duke it out for an interim title at UFC 213 on July 8. Like we said, this is a strange world. After all, Bisping is here at No. 9.

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 operates 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 moved up to welterweight. 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, he can earn perhaps the biggest win of his career next time out, as he faces former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler on July 8 at UFC 213 in Las Vegas.


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