Sherdog.com’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Sherdog.com Staff May 18, 2017
Parity just seems part and parcel of the heavyweight division. If you're constantly facing the sport's biggest men, throwing its biggest blows, it's hard to keep that crown from getting knocked off of your head, truly reign over your division and solidify yourself as a pound-for-pound talent. One year into his run as UFC heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic is doing a pretty fine job.

At UFC 211 in Dallas, Texas, Miocic tied the record for consecutive UFC heavyweight title defenses with a whopping two, a reminder of how fleeting long-term supremacy is in this weight class. More importantly, however, Miocic avenged his only loss in the last four years, blasting former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in just over two minutes.

That's five straight wins for Miocic, all by knockout, in a two-year span. All five fighters he put away were either former UFC or K-1 World Grand Prix champs. With victories over Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem and now, Junior dos Santos, Miocic is perhaps one of the 10 best heavyweights to ever step into the cage and he rises on our list, from seventh to fifth.

With the rarity of a heavyweight bout having legitimate pound-for-pound implications out of the way, we now return to more regularly scheduled P4P programming in the coming weeks, with a pair of bouts between ranked entrants: at UFC 212 on June 3 in Rio de Janeiro, No. 4 Jose Aldo and No. 8 Max Holloway fight to unify the UFC featherweight title and at on July 8 in Las Vegas, all-action fighters Robbie Lawler, our No. 7, and Donald Cerrone, our 10th-ranked entrant, have the chance to author 2017's “Fight of the Year.”

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1. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1)

Jon Jones is scheduled to fight in the next 10 weeks and that fight does happen to be against our No. 2-ranked fighter on this list, so maybe we are on the horizon of a serious pound-for-pound throne debate. Nonetheless, until UFC 214 comes and Jones can actually make it to the fight to replicate his January 2015 win or Daniel Cormier notches a victory for the ages, Demetrious Johnson is in this spot. “Mighty Mouse” hasn't lost in over five years, he's won 12 straight bouts, practically cleaned out the flyweight division and posted 10 consecutive UFC title defenses, tying Anderson Silva's record. While the UFC's 125-pound division has a compliment of quality prospects -- Magomed Bibulatov, Ray Borg and Brandon Moreno, for instance -- but all of them are a ways off from posing a legitimate threat to Johnson. A man Johnson has already beat twice, Joseph Benavidez, remains the most accomplished and viable challenger he could face for his potentially record-setting 11th title defense, but Benavidez was forced to pull out of his scheduled June 11 bout with Ben Nguyen. With Cody Garbrandt in doubt for UFC 213 on July 8, his would-be title challenger T.J. Dillashaw has called out Johnson, saying he would drop to 125 pounds for a flyweight title shot. Naturally, Johhnson wasn't going to hop back into action on seven weeks' notice, but Dillashaw publicly angling for such a fight further underscores the fact that what the MMA world now craves for Johnson is fights with the 135-pound elite.

2. Daniel Cormier (19-1)

Regardless of what his future holds as a coach and a broadcaster, Cormier has already established himself as a historically noteworthy fighter. Cormier was a 13-0 heavyweight who had dominated the likes of Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Jeff Monson, Roy Nelson and Antonio Silva before he ever cut to 205 pounds, where he has found another division to dominate. Still, no matter how much “D.C.” has done in two weight classes, he is still forever judged by his legendary feud with Jon Jones, more specifically, his January 2015 decision loss to “Jonny Bones.” Fortunately for the American Kickboxing Academy team captain, he's going to get his chance to avenge the loss, so long as Jones can show up to the cage, as Jones-Cormier 2 has been announced for UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, California. With all due respect to Matt Hamill's infamous disqualification win over Jones, if Cormier is able to become the first man to truly beat “Bones,” that win may be the single greatest victory in MMA history. Not only would Cormier finally be the legitimate 205-pound champion of the world, at that point, he may be the best fighter in the world. Also, having just turned 38 years old, Cormier is still a spry young man by heavyweight standards, should he ever want to return to the division for a major bout or two.

3. Conor McGregor (21-3)

The birth of McGregor's first child -- named Conor Jr., naturally -- provided a brief diversion from McGregor's well-publicized international party tour and the ongoing negotiations surrounding his would-be mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Now that we've moved on from that chapter in the McGregor saga, it's back to strictly Mayweather politics, although UFC President Dana White has stated publicly that he thinks “Mystic Mac” will be back in the Octagon by the year's end. The never-ending drama surrounding MMA's top star often distracts from how good the man's resume is: McGregor is 17-1 over the last six-plus years and has finished 15 of those opponents, including the greatest featherweight ever, Jose Aldo, and one of the five best lightweights ever in Eddie Alvarez. Even many of McGregor's less-acclaimed wins have aged well, such as his victories over Max Holloway, who is now a fixture of this pound-for-pound list and Dustin Poirier, who has become an outstanding lightweight. It's still anyone's guess if and when “The Notorious” one will defend his UFC lightweight title, but if there's any solace to be had, it's that when the Irishman does fight, he doesn't skimp when it comes to choosing opponents.

4. Jose Aldo (26-2)

Aldo is unquestionably the all-time finest featherweight and likely the greatest sub-lightweight MMA fighter ever. He went a decade without losing a single bout and when he did, though it came in a humiliating, 13-second fashion against McGregor, it at least came against a fellow P4P entrant and a historically noteworthy fighter. The Brazilian's lone post-McGregor bout at UFC 200 last July is also a major consideration: while “Scarface” already owned a February 2013 win over former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, it was Edgar's UFC featherweight debut. When the pair rematched last summer, Aldo put on one of the most brilliant, consummate performances of his 12-year career against a version of “The Answer” that had recently ripped through the red-hot featherweight division. Aldo has been at the top -- or near the top -- of the sport for so long that he may seem like a fading legend but he is still just 30 years old and is now heading into one of the most relevant and important fights of his entire career: at UFC 212 on June 3 in his adopted home of Rio de Janeiro, Aldo will seek to unify the UFC featherweight titles with our No. 8 entrant Max Holloway. As is the case with Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, the masses will continue to judge the Nova Uniao product by his loss to McGregor, but a win over Holloway would re-affirm Aldo atop the 145-pound class once again while also giving Aldo, at worst, one of the three most significant, meritorious wins of his career.

5. Stipe Miocic (17-2)

Unless you're Fedor Emelianenko or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira over a decade ago, it's hard to hold down a steady place in the pound-for-pound ranks for a sustained period of time, but Miocic now has a year under his belt on this list and is showing no signs of slowing down. Since his June 2013 breakout win against Roy Nelson, Miocic is 8-1 and now he has avenged that lone loss, atoning for his December 2014 slip-up against Junior dos Santos at UFC 211, knocking “Cigano” out in just over two minutes. In his last five starts, the Ohio native has knocked out five top-10 opponents and only Mark Hunt saw the second round. The other four -- Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem and dos Santos -- are all historically accomplished heavyweights; in the case of dos Santos, we're talking about one of the 10 best heavyweights ever and in Werdum, perhaps one of the three finest of all-time. The dos Santos win gave Miocic two consecutive UFC heavyweight title defenses and one more would give him the record outright for the weight class. Though the likes of Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou represent fresh, new heavyweight challengers, which are always at a premium, Miocic is tearing through so many of the division's legends have many fans coveting a clash with Cain Velasquez, a bout with much richer historical significance and one with the rare ability to help elevate a heavyweight's P4P stature.

6. Tyron Woodley (17-3-1)

Woodley's wins over Carlos Condit, Kelvin Gastelum, Dong Hyun Kim and Stephen Thompson are all notable and rich in merit, but the UFC welterweight champion's position on this list is primarily buoyed by his title capture against Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 last July. Woodley wasting Lawler in the first round wasn't just brutal and resounding, it was and is a remarkable historical win, given the incredible run Lawler had put together late in his career to reign over the always-outstanding 170-pound division. Anticipating his third UFC title defense, Woodley began training camp without an opponent, knowing he would likely await the winner of Demian Maia-Jorge Masvidal on May 13 at UFC 211. With Maia's victory and UFC boss Dana White's blessing, it seems like Woodley-Maia will go ahead. Given Maia's recent run at 170, the Brazilian might make our list if we made it a Top 20, so he certainly would provide an outstanding, worthwhile opponent for “The Chosen One.” Yet, just days after confirming Maia would get a title shot, Dana White has commented that Maia may need time off and quietly left the door open to a potential Woodley-Georges St. Pierre bout.

7. Robbie Lawler (27-11, 1 NC)

In spite of an incredible second UFC run in which he captured the promotion's welterweight crown and redefined himself as an all-time great, Lawler is still most remembered for how he lost the UFC 170-pound title in July, falling prey to Woodley's powerful right hand. That result notwithstanding, the “Ruthless” one has one of the sport's finest records over the last four years. Coming off of a career-changing title loss, the three-time reigning “Fight of the Year” author is not taking any softballs in his return. Initially, Lawler was lined up to face Cerrone at UFC 205 in New York in November, but the former champion said he needed more time to train. For some, it would be an excuse to bypass such a contest, but not for Lawler. Now working under the tutelage of Henri Hooft, Lawler meets Cerrone at UFC 213 on July 8 in Las Vegas. The matchup could give Lawler another milestone win and perhaps make him “Mr. FOTY” for a fourth year in a row.

8. Max Holloway (17-3)

Since 2014 began, very few fighters have been as brilliant as Holloway, who has gone 10-0 with seven finishes in that span, doing it against the likes of Andre Fili, Ricardo Lamas, Charles Oliveira, Anthony Pettis, Jeremy Stephens and Cub Swanson. Even better than that, Holloway is only 25 years old, making him not just the youngest fighter on this list but considerably so, as he is over three years younger than McGregor, the only other 20-something we have ranked. The “Blessed” one has a thrilling, high-volume style of fighting, charisma in spades and is a focal point of the featherweight division, which because of Holloway and other young fighters like him, has become one of the sport's very best weight classes. There is a tension, though, between the bright, shiny “new school” at 145 pounds and the fact the division's champion is still Aldo. At UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro on June 3, Holloway will meet Aldo to unify their slices of the UFC featherweight title and if he is successful, the Hawaiian will own a win over the greatest 145-pounder ever and as a result, a loftier place in our Top 10. Furthermore, if Holloway defeats Aldo, he could wind up in a bout with another all-time great, Frankie Edgar, who is perpetually orbiting in and around this list.

9. Michael Bisping (30-7)

When we last checked in with Bisping, he was looking at a pound-for-pound clash of a different kind, with the UFC pushing for Bisping to defend his middleweight title against MMA legend St. Pierre, fresh out of retirement. Undeniably, a win over arguably the greatest fighter ever, albeit in his first bout in nearly four years, would've been a major achievement for “The Count,” while also being the biggest payday of his career. Instead, St. Pierre's insistence on not fighting until November has led the UFC to change tack, now pushing for Bisping to defend his crown against rightful No. 1 contender Yoel Romero. A title defense against Romero is anything but lucrative and poses a more serious set of problems, as evidenced by the fact the challenger opened nearly as big as a 4-to-1 favorite over Bisping, but would be infinitely more rewarding in the pound-for-pound sense. Undefeated in his eight Octagon bouts, Romero is 6-0 with four knockouts since the last time GSP fought; if Bisping-Romero gets the green light and the Brit pulls off it off, it will not only be another “Upset of the Year” contender for late-career Bisping, but at worst, the second-best win of his career, despite already owning wins over legends like Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva.

10. Donald Cerrone (32-7, 1 NC)

Cerrone's career is largely marked by his big-fight failures, be it Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, Rafael dos Anjos or Jorge Masvidal. Even so, “Cowboy” is not just one of MMA's most dynamic fighters but one of its most accomplished. The 34-year-old Cerrone is one of this sport's most active competitors and he is does it in MMA's two best divisions, lightweight and welterweight. After proving himself as a top-three fighter at 155 pounds, Cerrone blew his December 2015 UFC title challenge against dos Anjos and then moved up to 170. The Jackson-Wink MMA product ripped through Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story and Matt Brown before ultimately falling to Masvidal in January. Losses matter, but prizefighting is a realm defined by “Who did you beat and how did you beat them?” Cerrone, who averages four UFC bouts a year, intuitively grasps that concept. Above and beyond that, Cerrone can earn perhaps the biggest win of his career next time out, as he faces former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler on July 8 at UFC 213 in Las Vegas.

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