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There’s death, taxes, and then there’s the dominance Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The Dagestani successfully defended his lightweight title in emphatic fashion at UFC 242, submitting Dustin Poirier with a rear-naked choke in the third-round of their headlining encounter in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. That makes 12 consecutive Octagon triumphs and 28 straight professional victories overall for “The Eagle,” who was never truly threatened by Poirier after dropping a round for the first time in his career against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last October.
That performance allows Nurmagomedov to move past Henry Cejudo and into second place in our pound-for-pound rankings, and a win over Tony Ferguson could give him serious consideration for the No.1 spot ahead of Jon Jones in the future. Poirier, meanwhile, must endure the disappointment of a championship defeat that featured only a few fleeting moments of success. “The Diamond” sees a six-fight unbeaten streak come to an end and falls to the bubble list (making its own pound-for-pound debut) in our latest poll, while Ferguson takes his place at No. 10.
1. Jon Jones (25-1)For the second time this year, Jones needed five rounds to retain his 205-pound belt in a matchup with a converted middleweight. Unlike his five-round beatdown of Anthony Smith in March, Jones did experience some adversity against Thiago Santos in the UFC 239 main event. The Brazilian striker punished Jones’ legs with low kicks and attacked with aggression throughout their 25-minute encounter but ultimately dropped a split decision to Jonny “Bones.” Upon further examination, Jones might have been more in control than it initially appeared, as he was the far more efficient striker throughout the contest, while Santos often struggled to navigate the reach of his foe. Still, losing a scorecard is a first for Jones, and only time will tell if it’s the beginning of a decline or simply the product of a cautious performance against a dangerous foe.
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0)Nurmagomedov needed less than 15 minutes to dispatch Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, and he made it look astonishingly easy. “The Eagle” overwhelmed his opponent with takedowns and pressure from the outset of the bout, gradually wearing Poirier down until he secured the rear-naked choke submission at the 2:06 mark of Round 3. The reigning lightweight champion’s winning streak is now at 12, which ties him with Tony Ferguson for the sixth-longest winning streak in UFC history. Ideally, Ferguson will be the next opponent for the fearsome Dagestani grappler.
3. Henry Cejudo (16-2)After a shaky first round, Cejudo turned up the heat on Marlon Moraes in the UFC 238 main event, winning via third-round technical knockout to become the fourth simultaneous two-division champion in the history of the Las Vegas-based promotion. It’s difficult to deny the Olympic gold medalist as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best given recent wins over Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw and Moraes. “The Messenger” plans on defending on both his flyweight and bantamweight belts – and he even has designs on making an eventual move to 145 pounds. All those plans will likely have to wait until 2020 as Cejudo recovers from shoulder surgery.
4. Stipe Miocic (19-3)Down on the scorecards after three rounds, Miocic showed the ability to adjust at UFC 241, as he attacked Daniel Cormier’s body to set up a fourth-round technical knockout victory in their rematch in Anaheim, Calif. Not only was it a nice rebound from his KO loss to “DC” in their first meeting at UFC 226, but it refocused talks on Miocic as potentially the greatest heavyweight of all-time. The Ohio-based firefighter now owns five victories in UFC title bouts, the second most in the history of the heavyweight division.
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. A title unification bout with interim champ Israel Adesanya will take place at UFC 243 on Oct. 5.
6. Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1NC)For three rounds, Cormier waded forward with total disregard for Stipe Miocic’s power in the UFC 241 headliner. That approach ultimately failed him in the fourth stanza, however, as Miocic began to dig to the body. Those blows gradually accumulated until Miocic was able to hurt “DC” and flurry for the finish at the 4:09 mark of the period. Now, instead of contemplating a trilogy bout with Jon Jones, Cormier will sit down with his family to make an “educated decision” regarding his fighting future. With no belt in his possession, any possible matchup with Jones would almost certainly have to occur at 205 pounds.
7. 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. After recovering from double-hernia surgery, Usman was expected to defend his belt against Colby Covington at UFC 244, but negotiations for the bout fell through and it’s currently unclear when the reigning champ will return to the Octagon.
8. Max Holloway (21-4)Holloway remains the unquestioned king of the featherweight division. After a loss to Dustin Poirier in a bid for the interim lightweight crown this past April, “Blessed” returned to form at UFC 240, as he outstruck Frankie Edgar for the better part of 25 minutes in the evening’s main event at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The gives the Hawaiian 16 featherweight wins and 17 overall in UFC competition, and at 27 years old, he could just be getting started. Holloway’s most likely next opponent, Alexander Volkanovski, was in attendance for the UFC 240 bout, setting the stage for an interesting matchup later in 2019.
9. Demetrious Johnson (29-3-1)“Mighty Mouse” punched his ticket to the One Championship flyweight grand prix final with a unanimous verdict over former Deep champion Tatsumitsu Wada at “Dawn of Heroes” on Aug. 2. Johnson will square off with Danny Kingad in the championship round in Tokyo on Oct. 13. It’s important to note that the AMC Pankration product is essentially fighting at bantamweight given One Championship’s weight class specifications. The former UFC flyweight titlist has lost just once in 17 professional appearances dating back to 2011.
10. Tony Ferguson (25-3)It wasn’t necessarily the ending he envisioned, but Ferguson appeared to be well on his way to defeating Donald Cerrone at UFC 238 before the contest was halted prior to round three due to “Cowboy’s” swollen eye. Cerrone certainly got his shots in, but “El Cucuy” utilized his usual multi-faceted offensive approach to land more than 50 significant strikes in both the first and second rounds. With 12 consecutive wins under his belt, there is no more deserving No. 1 contender at lightweight than Ferguson, and perhaps after Khabib Nurmagomedov’s dominant victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, “El Cucuy” will indeed be next in line. Even the champion himself seems to think Ferguson the most worthy challenger.
Other Contenders: Dustin Poirier, Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington, Israel Adesanya, Joseph Benavidez.
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, Eric Stinton, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry, Jacob Debets, Nathan Zur, Kevin Wilson, Edward Carbajal, Jason Burgos, Guy Portman, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Keith Shillan, Mike Sloan, Tom Feely and Tyler Treese.