’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Brian Knapp Dec 5, 2017
There was a time when the thought of defeating Jose Aldo at all was laughable. Max Holloway has beaten him twice in six months.

The Hawaiian retained his undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title in a rematch with Aldo, as he disposed of the Brazilian great with third round punches in their UFC 218 main event on Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Holloway closed the show 4:51 into Round 3, roaring to his 12th consecutive victory before a crowd of 17,587. The FightMetric numbers were jaw-dropping. Holloway fired off 397 significant strikes in less than 15 minutes and outlanded Aldo by a 2-to-1 margin: 174-87. Of those 174 strikes, 135 were directed to the head, as the champion soaked his counterpart with merciless output. Aldo, his odometer trending in the wrong direction, simply could not keep up.

Now firmly entrenched as the top fighter in the world at 145 pounds, Holloway moves to the second spot on our pound-for-pound list. Meanwhile, the previously ninth-ranked Aldo drops out of the Top 10 for the first time in years, his departure clearing the way for interim UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker to enter at No. 10. Bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw creeps up one slot to ninth.

Without further delay, the updated Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:

1. Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1)

If you plan to break one of former middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s records, you ought to do it in style. This certainly was not lost on Johnson at UFC 216 on Oct. 7. In a title defense the world knew he would win, “Mighty Mouse” dominated challenger Ray Borg before hitting a breathtaking slam-into-armbar sequence that should earn him “Submission of the Year” honors, to boot. With the victory, Johnson earned his 11th straight UFC title defense, surpassing Silva’s all-time mark of 10. Where he goes next is anyone’s guess, but a superfight with newly crowned UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw appears to be on the table.

2. Max Holloway (19-3)

Holloway has begun to build his case as the greatest featherweight of all-time. Blessed with otherworldly physical skills, the accompanying competitive drive and a charisma that drives his likability factor through the roof, the 26-year-old Hawaiian on Dec. 2 retained his 145-pound championship with another eye-popping stoppage of Jose Aldo in the UFC 218 headliner. Holloway has pieced together a 12-fight winning streak since he suffered back-to-back losses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor in 2013, making tremendous strides with each outing. He has subdued Aldo (twice), Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson during his current tear, with five of those victories resulting in finishes. Those six men have 137 career wins between them.

3. Daniel Cormier (19-1, 1 NC)

Cormier once again owns the UFC light heavyweight championship and ranks as the No. 1 fighter in the world at 205 pounds, though the path he took to get there was far from ideal for anyone involved. Cormier could not defeat archrival Jon Jones in their July 29 rematch and settled for a no-contest after Jones’ “B” sample came back positive for steroids. While the American Kickboxing Academy captain becomes a victim by proxy in the “Bones” saga, no one can overlook his stellar accomplishments in two weight classes. High-profile victories over Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson (twice), Anderson Silva and Alexander Gustafsson highlight his resume. No matter his future in the cage, “DC” remains inextricably linked to Jones. Cormier has now been assigned to a UFC 220 showdown with fast-rising Swiss contender Volkan Oezdemir on Jan. 20 in Boston.

4. Conor McGregor (21-3)

Public interest in a McGregor-Nate Diaz trilogy has cooled for the time being, with the ascent of Tony Ferguson to UFC interim lightweight champion. However, “The Notorious” one has started a different kind of politicking ahead of a potential title unification bout with Ferguson, insisting he will not return to the Octagon until he is made co-promoter and/or given equity in the promotion. All things considered, the most optimistic return date for the Irishman is UFC 222 on March 3 in Las Vegas. However, UFC President Dana White has publicly admitted that we may have seen the last of McGregor, given the financial windfall he reaped from his foray into professional boxing opposite Floyd Mayweather Jr.

5. Tyron Woodley (18-3-1)

Woodley has been on fire for over three years. He has gone undefeated in his last six bouts, taken the UFC welterweight title in devastating fashion from an entrenched champion like Robbie Lawler and then successfully defended that championship three times in less than 12 months. It is no wonder the man is a little miffed he did not get a date with Conor McGregor or Georges St. Pierre and the accompanying payday. Indignation aside, “The Chosen One” is just hitting his prizefighting prime at 35 years old and now has a better handle on the identity of his next challenger. UFC President Dana White has said that the winner of the Lawler-Rafael dos Anjos battle on Dec. 16 will get the next crack at Woodley. In the meantime, the two-time NCAA All-American wrestler plans to weigh his options, which include a surgical procedure on his shoulder that could keep him shelved well into 2018.

6. Stipe Miocic (17-2)

Miocic has on his resume successful UFC title defenses against Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem, both via knockout. With just one more defense of his throne, Miocic will have the most heavyweight title defenses in Ultimate Fighting Championship history in a single reign. The question regarding the identity of his next challenger was answered on Dec. 2 in Detroit, where frightening contender Francis Ngannou nearly decapitated Overeem with a left uppercut in the first round of their UFC 218 co-main event. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Ngannou has rattled off 10 consecutive victories, all of them finishes, and holds a perfect 6-0 record in the UFC. Needless to say, Miocic will have his work cut out for him when the two meet, perhaps as soon as UFC 220 in January.

7. Robbie Lawler (28-11, 1 NC)

Lawler for three consecutive years was one half of MMA’s unanimous “Fight of the Year.” When he lost his UFC welterweight title via brutal knockout to Tyron Woodley in July 2016, no one would have held it against the “Ruthless” one if he decided to hang up the gloves after 15 years in the fight game. Instead, Lawler bounced back 12 months later, as he earned a fun decision over Donald Cerrone at UFC 214 and put himself in prime position to contend once more. Lawler will face former UFC lightweight champion turned welterweight contender Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC on Fox 26 main event on Dec. 16 in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and if UFC President Dana White is to be believed, a shot at Woodley’s championship will go to the victor.

8. Tony Ferguson (23-3)

Ferguson’s immediate fate rests in Conor McGregor’s hands. Despite claiming the UFC interim lightweight title by submitting Kevin Lee with a triangle choke at UFC 216, Ferguson has found the Irishman to be an elusive target in his pursuit of a blockbuster unification bout. McGregor has publicly stated he wants equity in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and co-promotional rights before agreeing to the match, leaving “El Cucuy” with an unclear future until the demands are resolved or refused. Nevertheless, Ferguson carries with him one of the best resumes in the sport at 155 pounds. “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner has won a divisional-record 10 consecutive fights, with victories over Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza and Josh Thomson, among others.

9. T.J. Dillashaw (15-3)

Dillashaw lost his UFC bantamweight title by the slimmest of margins in January 2016, dropping a split decision to two-time champion Dominick Cruz. It took him nearly two years, but “Killashaw” is back on top of the bantamweight world. At UFC 217 on Nov. 4, he finally got his showdown with former Team Alpha Male training partner Cody Garbrandt and overcame nearly being stopped in the opening round to knock out “No Love” and take back the UFC title at Madison Square Garden in New York. A Garbrandt rematch or a showdown with another top 135-pound contender seemed like the immediately sensible option for Dillashaw’s first title defense of his second reign, but instead, the newly minted champ called out flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson for what would be a monumental superfight.

10. Robert Whittaker (19-4)

If the world -- or at least the UFC -- was just a little more of a meritocracy, then there would be no question that interim middleweight champion Whittaker would be on deck for the newly returned Georges St. Pierre, suddenly the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s “real” 185-pound titleholder. Despite the promotion announcing its debut in Perth, Australia, with UFC 221 on Feb. 11 and that Whittaker would headline the card to unify the middleweight crown with the winner of GSP-Michael Bisping, those plans already seem to be eroding. While UFC President Dana White remains adamant that Whittaker is next for “Rush,” he has since talked about St. Pierre’s next bout coming back in Montreal. The immediate future was further muddied by the revelation that GSP was suffering from colitis and would be out indefinitely.

Sherdog’s pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of staff members and contributors: Jordan Breen, Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Jesse Denis, Anthony Walker and Chris Nelson.
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