Love him or hate him, Jon Jones is back on top.
While many observers will chose to place an asterisk next to Jones’ accomplishments due to his many transgressions, not the least of which includes a questionable drug test history, there is no one better once the Octagon door closes. “Bones” proved that once again at UFC 232, as he was rarely threatened by Alexander Gustafsson en route to a third-round technical knockout victory in a clash for the vacant light heavyweight belt at the Forum in Inglewood, California. It was a far cry from their first meeting, when the Swede took Jones to the brink of defeat some five years ago at UFC 165. That Jones could dispatch a man regarded as the world’s third best light heavyweight speaks volumes about his standing -- not only in the division, but in the sport as a whole.
As a result, Jones returns to claim the top spot in our pound-for-pound poll, a designation he lost due to inactivity from numerous suspensions and sanctions. While Jones’ placement was a divisive topic among Sherdog.com staff and contributors, the final rationale is simple: The Jackson-Wink MMA product still owns an undisputed head-to-head triumph over Daniel Cormier, the previous No. 1, at UFC 182. That, despite all that has followed since then, still carries plenty of weight.
For the time being, Jones’ return to the pound-for-pound rankings signals the exit of Tony Ferguson, an action that feels criminal considering El Cucuy’s 11-fight winning streak. However, 2019 will bring plenty of opportunity for change in this poll. But for now, it’s time to welcome back one of its staples -- for however long he proves capable of sticking around.
Without further delay, the updated Sherdog.com Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:
1. Jon Jones (23-1)As long as Jones stays out of trouble, there is no better fighter at 205 pounds. The Jackson-Wink MMA standout reminded the world of his greatness at UFC 232, when he emphatically defeated Alexander Gustafsson by third-round technical knockout at the Forum in Inglewood, California. It was a far cry from their first meeting at UFC 165 in 2013, when the lanky Swede took Jones to the brink of defeat before losing a unanimous decision. After dispatching Gustafsson, Jones targeted rival Daniel Cormier for a third meeting at 205 pounds — although it might be more beneficial for “DC” if the fight occurred at heavyweight.
2. Daniel Cormier (21-1)The best thing you can say about Cormier’s effort at UFC 230 was that it was predictable. “DC” landed multiple takedowns on underdog Derrick Lewis before securing a tapout with a rear-naked choke at the 2:14 mark of the second stanza. With the win, Cormier became the first fighter to defend titles from two divisions in UFC history, though he will officially be stripped of the 205-pound crown when Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson step into the Octagon at UFC 232 on Dec. 29. He also set the stage for his anticipated showdown with Brock Lesnar early next year, targeting UFC 235 on March 2 for his farewell bout.
3. Max Holloway (20-3)After a rough year saw Holloway suffer through multiple fight cancellations, “Blessed” closed out 2018 with a bang at UFC 231. The reigning featherweight champion busted up the previously undefeated Brian Ortega for four rounds, ultimately forcing a doctor stoppage before the fifth round could commence. The Hawaiian fighter, who owns the second-longest winning streak in UFC history, wants a fight on his home soil. Regardless of the venue, the identity of his next opponent could prove to be very interesting. A move up one division to lightweight, where numerous tantalizing matchups await, could also be in Holloway’s future.
4. Tyron Woodley (19-3-1)Woodley continues to make his case to be known as the “Greatest of All Time” at welterweight. In the UFC 228 headliner, “The Chosen One” dispatched Darren Till via second-round submission, tapping out his English opponent with a brabo choke in the second frame. Unbeaten in his last seven Octagon appearances and the owner of the longest active title defense streak in the UFC, Woodley is in a great spot right now -- regardless of how history currently sees him.
5. Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0)Post-fight shenanigans aside, Nurmagomedov was in prime form against Conor McGregor at UFC 229. He completed takedowns, applied heavy top pressure and generally made life difficult for the knockout-minded Irishman at every turn. “The Eagle” even survived adversity -- he lost a round for the first time in his promotional tenure -- before tapping McGregor with a neck crank at the 3:03 mark of round four. As dominant as any fighter in the UFC, Nurmagomedov has won 11 consecutive bouts in the promotion.
6. Robert Whittaker (20-4)After nearly a year away from competition, Whittaker returned to the Octagon and delivered an instant classic in a rematch against Yoel Romero in the UFC 225 headliner. The Australia-based fighter survived knockdowns in the third and fifth rounds to hold off “The Soldier of God” -- a man he also defeated for interim 185-pound gold at UFC 213 -- for a narrow split decision triumph. Whittaker, who has won nine consecutive fights, will coach opposite Kelvin Gastelum on Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” before squaring off with his rival at UFC 234 on Feb. 9 in Melbourne, Australia.
7. T.J. Dillashaw (16-3)Nothing quite slams the door on a rivalry like back-to-back knockouts. Dillashaw did just that in the UFC 227 headliner with his second finish in as many outings against former Team Alpha Male training partner Cody Garbrandt. The Duane Ludwig protege has won eight of his last nine fights in the Octagon and is securely in the Greatest of All-Time discussion for his division. A showdown with Henry Cejudo will be next for Dillashaw at UFC Fight Night in Brooklyn on Jan. 19 with the 125-pound belt on the line.
8. Henry Cejudo (14-2)When Cejudo made his mixed martial arts debut on the regional circuit, Demetrious Johnson was already the UFC’s reigning flyweight champion. When he squared off with “Mighty Mouse” the first time, he clearly was not ready, losing via first-round technical at UFC 197. The second time around, Cejudo had clearly evolved, and he ended Johnson’s record title reign with a split decision triumph in the UFC 227 co-main event. While Cejudo’s division may be on its last legs in the UFC, he will defend his flyweight crown against 135-pound champ T.J. Dillashaw at the UFC’s debut on ESPN+ in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Jan. 19.
9. Demetrious Johnson (27-3-1)All good things must come to an end, including Johnson’s record streak of 11 successful flyweight title defenses. “Mighty Mouse” did not go down easily, losing a tension-filled split decision to Henry Cejudo in the UFC 227 co-main event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. With that, Johnson’s run in the UFC has reached its end, as the promotion “traded” the pound-for-pound stalwart’s contract for that of former One Championship and Bellator welterweight titlist Ben Askren. Johnson is scheduled to take part in One’s upcoming 125-pound grand prix tournament, beginning with a matchup against Yuya Wakamatsu on March 31..
10. Stipe Miocic (18-3)Heavyweight title reigns are fleeting, even if you have authored the longest such reign in UFC history. That proved to be the case for Miocic, who fell to reigning light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier via first-round knockout in the UFC 226 headliner. The defeat snapped a six-fight winning streak for the Ohio firefighter, who had bested Francis Ngannou, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem during his stay at the top.
Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Jesse Denis, Eric Stinton, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry, Jacob Debets, Nathan Zur, Kevin Wilson, Edward Carbajal, Jason Burgos, Guy Portman, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Mark Raymundo, Jordan Colbert, Jordan Breen, Mike Sloan, Tom Feely, Adam Martin and Joao Baptista.