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It was a long road to championship gold for Dustin Poirier, but that only the made the payoff that much sweeter.
In his 22nd Octagon appearance, “The Diamond” authored a career-defining performance, as he outdueled featherweight king Max Holloway over five rounds in the UFC 236 headliner to capture the interim lightweight championship. Superior punching power carried Poirier to victory, as he rocked Holloway on multiple occasions over the course of their 25-minute encounter. The American Top Team product endured his opponent’s trademark volume attack as the bout progressed and responded by opening a bloody cut on Holloway’s forehead with a knee late in the fourth. From there, “Blessed” couldn’t recover enough to sway the judges’ scorecards down the stretch.
With that, Poirier enters the Sherdog pound-for-pound poll for the first time in his career at No. 7. More importantly, a title unification bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov -- and a chance for further advancement -- likely awaits later this year. Holloway, who was valiant in defeat, falls from third to eighth after seeing his 13-fight winning streak come to an end.
Without further delay, the updated Sherdog.com Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:
1. Jon Jones (24-1)It wasn’t his most thrilling triumph to date, but Jones maintained his spot atop the division with relative ease thanks to a suspenseless five-round drubbing of Anthony Smith in the UFC 235 headliner. While potentially attractive opponents await at heavyweight, “Bones” seems more interested in clearing out the competition at 205 pounds. Jones, who is unbeaten in his last 16 outings, will continue to try and work his way through the division when he meets Thiago Santos in the UFC 239 headliner on July 6.
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. Cormier became the first fighter to defend titles from two divisions in UFC history. Cormier previously set March 20 as a retirement date, but lingering issues from a back injury suffered before UFC 230 will force “DC” to fight beyond his 40th birthday.
3. 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. Nurmagomedov received a nine-month suspension — which can be reduced to six with the production of an anti-bullying PSA — and a $500,000 fine for his role in the post-fight brawl that occurred after the bout. It appears that the Dagestani won’t return until the end of the year.
4. Henry Cejudo (15-2)Few fighters have authored a pair of back-to-back triumphs like Cejudo. After edging pound-for-pound great Demetrious Johnson to claim flyweight gold at UFC 227, the Olympic gold medalist needed just 32 seconds to dispatch reigning bantamweight king T.J. Dillashaw in the UFC Brooklyn headliner to retain his title. Plenty of uncertainty remains regarding the future of the flyweight division in the UFC, but Cejudo made a strong case to keep it around for a while longer. For now, however, Cejudo will pursue his dream of becoming a two-division champion when he faces Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight strap at UFC 238.
5. Robert Whittaker (20-4)An emergency hernia surgery forced Whittaker to withdraw from his scheduled title defense against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234. Even more disappointing, that’s twice that “The Reaper” has been forced to pull out of headlining championship fights in his home country of Australia (An injury also forced him out of a proposed matchup with Luke Rockhold at UFC 221.) Whittaker has won nine bouts in a row but is still awaiting his first official belt defense, as his UFC 225 triumph over Yoel Romero was a non-title bout due to Romero missing weight.
6. Kamaru Usman (15-1)Even those who predicted victory for Usman couldn’t have imagined “The Nigerian Nightmare” being as dominant as he was against Tyron Woodley at UFC 235. Usman claimed the welterweight throne on the strength of five dominant rounds against Woodley, overwhelming his opponent with wrestling, clinch work and top control. In fact, Usman probably deserved more 10-8 scorecards than he received. Nonetheless, Usman has hardware for his trophy case and an ongoing 10-fight winning streak. Former interim champ Colby Covington is likely next on his agenda.
7. Dustin Poirier (25-5)It took him 22 fights to get there, but Poirier is finally a UFC champion. “The Diamond” went five hard rounds with featherweight king Max Holloway, relying on his power to pull out a unanimous decision triumph in the UFC 236 headliner. Poirier has lost just once in 11 bouts since moving up to lightweight, compiling a resume that includes victories over the likes of Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Anthony Pettis, to name a few. That path doesn’t get any easier for the American Top Team product, as he now has a title unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov in his sights.
8. Max Holloway (20-4)For the first time in a long time, Holloway couldn’t simply wear down an opponent with his volume-based striking attack. The reigning featherweight king was very competitive in his first lightweight foray at UFC 236, but it was ultimately the power of Dustin Poirier that won the day — and interim 155-pound gold — in Atlanta. The decision defeat brings an end to a remarkable 13-bout winning streak for “Blessed,” who must now decide if a move to lightweight is in his long-term best interest.
9. Demetrious Johnson (28-3-1)Johnson kicked off his One Championship tenure with a second-round submission of Yuya Wakamatsu in the opening round of the promotion’s flyweight grand prix. “Mighty Mouse” survived a game effort from his unheralded opponent before locking in a power guillotine choke at the 2:40 mark of the second round at One “A New Era” on March 31. A closely contested split-decision setback against Henry Cejudo in his final UFC appearance is Johnson’s only loss since 2011, and the AMC Pankration product figures to have a good opportunity continue to pad his record against lesser competition in his new home.
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, Keith Shillan, Jordan Colbert, Jordan Breen, Mike Sloan, Tom Feely and Adam Martin.