Rankings: Jones vaults toward the top
Editor’s note: Rankings will be updated during the week after UFC 129.
Jon Jones emphatically answered all the questions about whether he’s ready for championship-level competition in UFC 128, dismantling Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the UFC light heavyweight championship.
“Bones” raised a new set of questions with the victory. Who can beat him? Fans immediately clamored for a superfight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva. But the world’s top-ranked fighter, who had little trouble in his previous forays up to the 205-pound weight class, found this week a fortuitous time to declare middleweight his permanent home.
So where exactly do you rank Jones among the world’s pound-for-pound fighters? Jones has rarely been challenged in his 14 pro fights, with only a chintzy disqualification in a match he was dominating against Matt Hamill blemishing his record.
The 22 voters on the Yahoo! Sports rankings panel have decided, for now, that Jones belongs in fourth, behind Silva, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.
Quite frankly, that’s a fair judgment. Silva has a record UFC win streak and a 4½ year title reign on his résumé. St. Pierre hasn’t lost a round in three years. And Aldo has torn through his division in a manner similar to Jones – but did so with a fraction of Jones’ fanfare for most of his 11-fight win streak.
So until any of the Big Three stumble – which could come as soon as next month, given that both St. Pierre and Aldo defend their titles in the April 30 Toronto supershow – expect Jones to own the No. 4 spot.
For the record, Jones appeared on all 22 ballots and received one second-place vote, five third-place votes, five fourths, five fifths, three sixths, two sevenths and one tenth.
That wasn’t the only change in the poll. UFC 127 featured a bout between the fighters ranked Nos. 9 and 10 last month, Jon Fitch and B.J. Penn. The bout was ruled a majority draw, but the voters rendered their own conclusion: Fitch stayed at No. 9 while Penn dropped out of the Top 10. Penn was replaced by unbeaten lightweight contender Gray Maynard, who will rematch his Jan. 1 draw with current lightweight champ Frankie Edgar at UFC 130.
This month’s voting panel: Denny Burkholder, CBSSports.com; Elias Cepeda, Inside Fighting; Mike Chiappetta MMAFighting.com and Fight! Magazine; Steve Cofield, Cagewriter and ESPN Radio 1100 Las Vegas; Neil Davidson The Canadian Press; Dave Doyle Yahoo! Sports; Joe Ferraro, Rogers Sportsnet; Ben Fowlkes, SportsIllustrated.com and MMAFighting.com; Josh Gross, ESPN.com; Ariel Helwani, Versus.com and MMAFighting.com; Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports; Damon Martin, MMAWeekly.com; Todd Martin, freelance; Franklin McNeil, ESPN.com; Brad McCray, freelance; Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports and The Wrestling Observer; John Morgan, MMAjunkie.com; Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com; Michael David Smith, MMAFighting.com; Mike Straka, HDNet; Dann Stupp, MMAjunkie.com and The Dayton Daily News;Jeff Wagenheim, SI.com.
Scoring: Ten points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., down to one point for a 10th-place vote. Fighters who are under suspension for use of performance-enhancing substances or abuse of drugs are ineligible to be considered for the duration of their suspensions. Fighters who have been inactive for more than 12 months are ineligible for consideration until the completion of their next fight.
10. Gray Maynard
Weight class: lightweight
Hometown: Las Vegas
Record: 10-0-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: unranked
Most recent result: vs. Frankie Edgar, majority draw, Jan. 1
Analysis: An overdue ranking for a fighter who hasn’t lost in two fights with the current UFC lightweight champion.
9. Jon Fitch
Weight class: welterweight
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Record: 23-3-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 9
Most recent result: majority draw vs. B.J. Penn, Feb. 21
Analysis: Even Penn thought he lost his UFC 127 fight with Fitch. Two judges disagreed.
8. Jake Shields
Weight class: welterweight (never lost Strikeforce middleweight title)
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 26-4-1 (won past 15)
Last month’s ranking: 8
Most recent result: def. Martin Kampmann, split decision, Oct. 23
Analysis: Has his chance to play spoiler on MMA’s biggest stage.
7. Cain Velasquez
Weight class: heavyweight (UFC heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Salinas, Calif.
Record: 9-0 (won past nine)
Last month’s ranking: 7
Most recent result: def. Brock Lesnar, R1 TKO, Oct. 23
Analysis: No recent updates on the progress of his recovery from shoulder surgery.
6. Dominick Cruz
Weight class: bantamweight (UFC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 16-1 (won past seven)
Last month’s ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Scott Jorgensen, unanimous decision, Dec. 16
Analysis: With Urijah Faber’s UFC 128 win over Eddie Wineland, Cruz appears to have the rematch he wants against the man who handed him his only defeat.
5. Frank Edgar
Weight class: lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Record: 13-1-1 (draw in previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 5
Most recent result: split draw vs. Gray Maynard, Jan. 1
Analysis: Will soon begin hard training for his rematch with Maynard.
4. Jon Jones
Weight class: light heavyweight (UFC light heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Endicott, N.Y.
Record: 13-1 (won previous four)
Last month’s ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Mauricio Rua, R3 TKO, March 19
Analysis: There’s nothing left to add for now that hasn’t already been said.
3. Jose Aldo
Weight class: featherweight (UFC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 17-1 (won past 10)
Last month’s ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Manny Gamburyan, R2 TKO, Sept. 20
Analysis: Won’t have the hometown advantage when he meets Ontario native Mark Hominick in Toronto.
2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 205 (eight first-place votes)
Weight class: welterweight (UFC welterweight champion)
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 21-2 (won past seven)
Last month’s ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Josh Koscheck, unanimous decision, Dec. 11
Analysis: No pressure, Georges. You’re only carrying the expectations of an MMA-mad country in front of the UFC’s largest crowd on April 30. That’s all.
1. Anderson Silva
Points: 211 (14 first-place votes)
Weight class: middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 28-4 (won past 13)
Last month’s ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Vitor Belfort, R1 KO, Feb. 5
Analysis: You get the feeling we’ll have some sort of announcement about his next fight sometime shortly after UFC 129.
• Votes for others:Mauricio Rua 16; B.J. Penn 15; Gilbert Melendez 11; Rashad Evans 5; Fedor Emelianenko and Nick Diaz 4; Joe Benavidez 2; Hatsu Hioki, Lyoto Machida and Jim Miller 1.
• Upcoming matches for top fighters: No. 2 Georges St. Pierre vs. No. 8 Jake Shields, April 30; No. 3 Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick, April 30.