10 Best UFC and MMA Fighters
by Trevor Whenham - 7/18/2013
We haven’t checked in on the MMA pound-for-pound rankings since February. Not much has happened since then — other than a shocking loss by the longest-reigning champion in the history of the sport, of course. Needless to say, that has shaken up the rankings significantly — even though the rest of the champs have done their job if they have been asked to. (Previous rankings are in brackets)
1. Georges St. Pierre (1)
Since last time we did these rankings, St. Pierre has fought once. His five-round unanimous decision over Nick Diaz was a total master class in the art of MMA. He was exceptional, and yet again showed just how many ways he can be frighteningly dangerous. He’s as good as there is right now, and I absolutely will not drop him from this top spot until he loses. We’re not scheduled to see him again until November, so patience is required — though not as much as was needed as he came back from his injury two fights back.
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2. Jon Jones (3)
Jones didn’t just beat Chael Sonnen in April. He utterly humiliated him. Now only Tito Ortiz has defended the light heavyweight title as many as the five times Jones has, and chances are good that he will shatter that record before he is done. A toe injury he is recovering from now shows he is mortal, but he is expected to be fine by the time he faces Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. If Jones can stay healthy and keep his head from getting too inflated by all the praise heaped on him, then it’s tough to see him getting beat any time soon.
3. Jose Aldo (4)
Last time out Aldo defended his title against Frankie Edgar in his first fight in over a year. Now he is on another long layoff — just over six months will pass between the Edgar fight and the Aug. 3 defense against Chan Sung Jung at UFC 163. Aldo hasn’t lost since 2005, so regardless of how often he fights, he is about as good as they get. What’s hardest to believe about him is that he is still just 26, so his best years are ahead of him if he can stay healthy.
4. Benson Henderson (5)
It once seemed easy to dismiss Henderson as a less-than-elite champion. With each passing win, though, his credentials become even more established. His split decision win over Gilbert Melendez in April wasn’t easy, but it was an impressive win against likely the biggest talent in his weight class. No denying it now — Henderson is the real deal.
5. Chris Weidman (unranked)
Some would argue that I am punishing Anderson Silva too much by dropping him as low as I have. I can’t put Weidman ahead of the four champions ahead of him, though, and I refuse to put Weidman behind the man he beat when so many before him have failed to do so. Weidman has never lost, and he kept his composure while waiting for what turned out to be a perfect opportunity to make Silva look silly. Very impressive. Now, whether he can keep the title is another matter, but let’s just let him enjoy what he has accomplished first.
6. Anderson Silva (2)
Silva is obviously an incredible fighter — easily one of the three best MMA fighters on the planet. His passive aggressive cockiness has been growing with each outing, though, and as we saw last time out he isn’t always going to get away with that. I didn’t like that Silva’s first reaction after the fight was to step away from the sport for a while, but he got over that quickly enough after gaining some perspective. He’ll be champion again, and he’ll work his way back up this list — as long as he learns from what happens and renews his hunger and focus.
7. Cain Velasquez (7)
Last time out Velasquez almost made beating Antonio Silva look too easy. Now he faces a rubber match against Junior dos Santos that will fail to excite most fans because Velasquez was so very dominant last time they met. His biggest problem right now is that the heavyweight division is short of obvious strong contenders.
8. Demetrious Johnson (8)
The first flyweight champ that the UFC has ever had will be defending his title for the second time on July 27 against John Moraga. Because the division is so new and the hierarchy is still working itself out, it’s hard to get a real sense of just how good he is. What is clear, though, is that a guy who was a solid bantamweight has really found his place by losing some weight.
9. Gilbert Melendez (6)
Melendez’ career took a hit in April when he lost the tough decision to Henderson. There is no shame in losing a close fight to a good champion, though, so I’m not going to write Melendez off yet. What matters now is how he bounces back from the loss, starting with a fight against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166. A convincing win there should earn him another title shot.
10. Ronda Rousey (10)
You could argue that guys like Renan Barao or Joseph Benavidez are more deserving of this final spot. I gave the spot to Rousey last time, though, and she certainly did enough to keep it. At the end of February she was very convincing in beating Liz Carmouche in her first official UFC defense. It remains to be seen if this division can grow and really establish itself, but as the trailblazer in the UFC that she is, she deserves a lot of credit.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham