Sherdog’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10 Rankings

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Jon Jones joined rarified air at UFC 285.

By submitting Ciryl Gane with a guillotine choke in the opening round of their heavyweight title bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, “Bones” became just the eighth fighter in UFC history to capture championships in two divisions. For many, the successful transition to heavyweight only solidifies Jones’ status as the MMA GOAT. For Sherdog staff, his triumphant return was also enough to regain the No. 1 pound-for-pound spot he held for years before going on hiatus.

While Jones’ overall body of work is undeniable, his absence — coupled with a pair of shaky light heavyweight title defenses immediately prior — was a primary topic of discussion regarding his placement in the poll. Ultimately, he was able to move past Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski, who only just recently sparked a pound-for-pound debate of their own with a memorable clash at UFC 284. For now, Jones will occupy the No. 1 spot in Sherdog’s pound-for-pound poll. A matchup with former champ Stipe Miocic appears to be imminent, and if he stays active, Jones will have plenty of opportunity to cement his current pound-for-pound ranking.

Note: Previous ranking in brackets.

1. Jon Jones (27-1, 1 NC) UFC [NR]

After a three-year absence, Jones looked as strong as ever in a new division, authoring a first-round submission triumph against Ciryl Gane in the UFC 285 headliner on March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In victory, “Bones” staked his claim to GOAT status while adding heavyweight gold to his trophy case. The longtime light heavyweight king has set his sights on a showdown with ex-heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic for his first title defense, with UFC 290 looking like an ideal landing spot for the bout.

2. Islam Makhachev (24-1) | UFC [1]

Though he was hardly dominant, Makhachev found a way at UFC 284, earning a five-round verdict against reigning featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski in the evening’s main event at the RAC Arena, in Perth, Australia. While the size advantage wasn’t as big a factor as expected, Makhachev nonetheless extended his winning streak to 12 and retained his 155-pound belt in the process. While he may yet have unfinished business with Volkanovski down the road, Makhachev will now devote his focus to a full cadre of contenders in the UFC’s always-crowded lightweight division.

3. Alexander Volkanovski (25-2) | UFC [2]

Volkanovski performed admirably in the UFC 284 headliner, giving Islam Makhachev everything he could handle for five rounds before ultimately falling in a closely-contested unanimous decision defeat. The reigning UFC featherweight champion undeniably raised his stock in the loss, and he has a legitimate claim to a rematch against his Dagestani rival. However, there’s also business to attend to in his weight class, where Yair Rodriguez claimed interim gold with a dominant performance in the UFC 284 co-main event. While Volkanovski can clearly hang with the world’s best at lightweight, it seems likely that he turns his attention to a 145-pound title unification bout next.

4. Francis Ngannou (17-3) | UFC [3]

Ngannou displayed a significant step in his evolution at UFC 270, as he relied on takedowns and positional control to grind out a unanimous decision win over Ciryl Gane to unify the heavyweight title at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. While it wasn’t the most thrilling performance, the effort speaks volumes about Ngannou’s resolve, when in previous fights he struggled to do anything of note when forced to go past the second round. After being sidelined for the remainder of 2022 due to knee surgery, Ngannou was unable to come to terms with the UFC for a deal to defend his heavyweight crown against Jon Jones. As a result, he was stripped of his belt and granted his release, making him one of the most coveted free agents in combat sports. If “The Predator” doesn’t book an MMA bout by July 22, his rankings eligibility will expire.

5. Leon Edwards (20-3, 1 NC) | UFC [4]

Edwards is living proof that a fight is never over until the final bell sounds. “Rocky” was well behind on the scorecards against Kamaru Usman with time winding down in the fifth round of their headlining bout at UFC 278 when he unleashed a head kick knockout that will go down in history. Edwards, who endured some hard luck at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, will carry an 11-fight unbeaten streak into his first 170-pound title defense. Edwards will attempt to prove that his most recent victory was no fluke in a trilogy bout against “The Nigerian Nightmare” at UFC 286 in London.

6. Kamaru Usman (20-2) | UFC [5]

In MMA, all good things must come to an end, and that includes Usman’s 15-fight UFC winning streak. “The Nigerian Nightmare” was well on his way to a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph over Leon Edwards in the UFC 278 main event when his opponent shocked the world with a head-kick knockout late in the fifth round. Usman will get a chance for redemption when he faces Edwards in a championship trilogy bout at UFC 286 in London.

7. Patricio Freire (35-5) | Bellator [6]

Freire was methodical in victory against Kleber Koike Erbst at Rizin 40, as he denied his foe’s takedown attempts and landed solid offense on the feet en route to a unanimous decision triumph against the Japanese promotion’s featherweight champion on New Year’s Eve. “Pitbull,” who is currently on his third reign as Bellator’s 145-pound king, has won 10 of his last 11 professional appearances dating back to 2017. A potential trilogy against A.J. McKee, the only man to defeat him during that time, looms large in the coming year.

8. Charles Oliveira (33-9, 1 NC) | UFC [7]

Oliveira entered UFC 280 with the confidence of someone on an 11-fight winning streak, but in the end he simply had no answers for Islam Makhachev. The Brazilian was outgunned on the feet and outgrappled on the canvas en route to a second-round submission loss in the evening’s main event at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 22. The setback doesn’t diminish all that Oliveira has accomplished, most notably a complete turnaround from a middling featherweight to one of the top talents in the sport at 155 pounds. The defeat didn’t dampen his resolve, as “do Bronx” was already plotting his climb back to the top in the fight’s immediate aftermath.

9. Brandon Moreno (21-6-2) | UFC [8]

Moreno got the last laugh against Deiveson Figueiredo, as he improved to 2-1-1 against the Brazilian with a doctor stoppage victory at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro. Moreno now begins his second reign as flyweight champion with the Figueiredo rivalry clearly in his rearview mirror. It seems quite likely that Alexandre Pantoja — who owns wins over Moreno at UFC Fight Night 129 and on “TUF 24” — will be next on the fight itinerary for “The Assassin Baby.”

10. Alex Pereira (7-1) | UFC [9]

Pereira maintained his combat sports mastery over Israel Adesanya in the UFC 281 headliner, rallying for a scintillating fifth-round technical knockout victory at Madison Square Garden. It’s an improbable rise to the top of the middleweight division for “Poatan,” who becomes champion in just his fourth UFC appearance. As deadly as is striking appears to be, Pereira’s lack of wrestling acumen means that he’ll have plenty of challengers lining up to take his title. First, though, will be a rematch with Adesanya at UFC 287 — the fourth combat sports meeting overall between the two rivals.

Other Contenders: Israel Adesanya, Dustin Poirier, Aljamain Sterling, Vadim Nemkov, Jiri Prochazka.

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, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry, Edward Carbajal, Marcelo Alonso, Tudor Leonte, Keith Shillan, Tyler Treese and Lev Pisarsky.
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