’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Mar 17, 2014

It took 10 brutal rounds against Georges St. Pierre and Robbie Lawler to get there, but Johny Hendricks is finally UFC welterweight champion. “Bigg Rigg” captured the title vacated by St. Pierre with a five-round victory over Lawler at UFC 171 in a bout that ranks among the best championship fights in recent memory.

For all his hard work, Hendricks deserves more than just a shiny gold belt to wear around his waist. He also makes his debut in Sherdog’s pound-for-pound top 10. As the ruler of one of the sport’s most loaded divisions, his spot among the elite is certainly well-deserved.

As Hendricks ascends, we bid adieu to Gilbert Melendez, whose place would have been more secure had the judges favored him in a controversial loss to Benson Henderson in April. “El Nino” will have a chance to reclaim his place when he squares off against lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at the end of the year.

On the horizon is the return of Jon Jones, the reigning pound-for-pound king. The Jackson's MMA export will square off with surging Brazilian Glover Teixeira at UFC 172 in April. Coming off the greatest challenge of his career to date -- a narrow decision triumph over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 -- the pressure will be on “Bones” to maintain the lofty standard of excellence that propelled him to the sport’s top spot. If he falters, there is always hungry new talent waiting to take his place. Just ask Hendricks.

1. Jon Jones (19-1)

Heading into the UFC 165 main event, Jones viewed his showdown with Alexander Gustafsson as a chance to cement his place as the greatest light heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history. While “Bones” surpassed Tito Ortiz’s record for 205-pound title defenses with a unanimous decision triumph, he learned that the 6-foot-5 Swede measured up to the challenge in more ways than just height. While 25 hard-fought minutes against “The Mauler” exposed more chinks in the New York native’s armor than his previous five title defenses combined, Jones also displayed admirable heart in the face of adversity. An eventual rematch with Gustafsson appears inevitable, but surging Brazilian Glover Teixeira will challenge the pound-for-pound king at UFC 172.

2. Jose Aldo (24-1)

Aldo’s featherweight title defense at UFC 169 was far from dramatic, which is a testament to his dominance as champion. The Nova Uniao standout had his way with Ricardo Lamas for four rounds, landing multiple punching and kicking combinations, as well as a pair of late takedowns. A final salvo from Lamas in round five was not nearly enough as Aldo had his hand raised for the 17th consecutive time -- including six successful UFC title defenses. After the win, “Scarface” seemed eager for a super fight against lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, but Pettis is now tied up with Gilbert Melendez. For now, the Brazilian is awaiting his next assignment, which could be a rematch with Chad Mendes or Cub Swanson.

3. Cain Velasquez (13-1)

Velasquez removed any doubt relating to the identity of the best heavyweight in the world by administering a brutal beating to Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. The final bout of the trilogy was never really in doubt, as the American Kickboxing Academy ace dominated in the clinch and rarely allowed his opponent any space to unleash his formidable boxing. Velasquez dropped his opponent in the third round and earned the stoppage late in the fifth, where dos Santos finally wilted after hitting his head on the canvas following a failed guillotine attempt. Brazilian submission specialist Fabricio Werdum was expected to receive the next shot at Velasquez, but after undergoing shoulder surgery, the champion could be out until late 2014.

4. Chris Weidman (11-0)

Weidman cemented his spot atop the middleweight division with a second consecutive triumph over Anderson Silva in the UFC 168 main event. After nearly finishing “The Spider” in the opening frame, the Serra-Longo Fight Team standout checked a kick that resulted in a gruesomely fractured leg for Silva, ending the bout 1:16 into the second round. Unbeaten in seven Octagon appearances, Weidman will make his second title defense against former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida, who stepped in to replace original challenger Vitor Belfort.

5. Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1)

There is “Mighty Mouse,” and then there is the rest of the flyweight division -- that much remains clear. When Johnson bested Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 for the promotion’s inaugural flyweight strap, it was a closely contested split decision in favor of “Mighty Mouse.” In their rematch at UFC on Fox 9, Johnson affirmed his place as the division’s undisputed king with a first-round knockout victory. Since he first captured 125-pound gold in September 2012, Johnson has defended his title three times in increasingly impressive fashion. As it stands, the AMC Pankration representative has bested the two men directly below him in the flyweight division: Benavidez and John Dodson. While a rematch with Dodson could eventually come to fruition, Johnson could also look to pursue super fights against opponents from other weight classes.

6. Renan Barao (32-1)

Barao looked better than ever in dispatching Urijah Faber for a second time in the UFC 169 headliner. The bantamweight ruler floored “The California Kid” with a right hand two minutes into the bout and kept the pressure on with knees and punches. Once Faber recovered, “The Baron” dropped his foe yet again with an overhand right and followed up with a barrage of unanswered hammerfists to get the victory. While the stoppage was disputed, it is hard to fault Barao, who was nearly flawless up until that point and is now firmly established as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best. While Nova Uniao teammate Jose Aldo has toyed with the idea of moving up a division, Barao appears content to reside atop the bantamweight heap for now.

7. Anthony Pettis (17-2)

Pettis needed five rounds and the remarkable “Showtime” kick to snatch the WEC belt from Benson Henderson in 2010, but he required far less time to earn his second victory over “Smooth” and become the new UFC lightweight king. In the UFC 164 headliner, Pettis softened his opponent with a series of brutal body kicks and then locked in a fight-ending armbar with 29 seconds left in round one. About the only thing that went wrong for Pettis was a knee injury he suffered while checking a kick. Currently on the mend from surgery, Pettis will film a new season of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite rival coach Gilbert Melendez in May, with the two expected to face off later this year.

8. Anderson Silva (33-6)

Nobody wanted to see Silva’s night end the way it did at UFC 168, as the longtime pound-for-pound king suffered a broken left leg when Chris Weidman checked a kick during the second round of their headlining matchup. The Brazilian underwent emergency surgery following the bout and is expected to make a full recovery. According to UFC President Dana White, “The Spider” could climb back in the cage before the end of the year. Silva, who turns 39 in April, was victorious in his first 17 UFC appearances before falling to Weidman in consecutive bouts.

9. Johny Hendricks (16-2)

Hendricks fell short in his bid for the UFC welterweight title when he faced Georges St. Pierre in November, but the “Bigg Rigg” made his second opportunity count. By finishing strong in the five-round main event of UFC 171, the 30-year old Oklahoman outlasted and outpointed fellow bruiser Robbie Lawler, claiming the belt vacated by GSP in December. Lawler is just the latest in a series of major scalps for Hendricks, who has picked off big-name 170-pounders from Jon Fitch to Carlos Condit on his way to the throne. There will be no shortage of opposition for Hendricks in the suddenly shaking welterweight ranks, with fellow UFC 171 winners Tyron Woodley and Hector Lombard already chasing title shots.

10. Benson Henderson (20-3)

In case anyone forgot, the former lightweight champion is a master of the high-wire act. Henderson proved it once again, taking a hotly contested -- and controversial -- split verdict over Josh Thomson in the UFC on Fox 10 headliner. “Smooth” is now 3-0 in UFC bouts that result in split decisions, with triumphs over Thomson, Gilbert Melendez and Frankie Edgar to his credit. Such efforts may not win him new fans, but he remains a fixture near the top of the 155-pound weight class. However, the lack of an emphatic victory over Thomson -- plus two defeats against reigning lightweight champion Anthony Pettis -- makes for a tough road back to the top for the MMA Lab representative.


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