Rankings: Can dos Santos break heavyweight curse?

Yahoo Sports

When Junior dos Santos knocked out Cain Velasquez in 64 seconds to claim the UFC heavyweight title Nov. 12, he took over what has been the UFC's most jinxed title in recent years.

Five years ago this week, then-champion Tim Sylvia defeated Jeff Monson at UFC 65 to retain the title. Since then, there have been only seven heavyweight title fights (not including various interim belts), as litigation, injuries and illness have kept champions out of action for long periods of time.

First, Randy Couture electrified the MMA world by coming out of retirement at UFC 68 and winning the title at age 43. At UFC 74, he successfully defended the title against Gabriel Gonzaga.

But Couture then spent more than a year on the sidelines after he got some of the worst advice in the history of the mixed martial arts business and unsuccessfully sued to get out of an ironclad contract. By the time he returned, in November 2008, he lost his title to the younger and larger Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar, for his part, managed to successfully defend his title against Frank Mir and Shane Carwin. But those bouts were spread over the course of two years, as a life-threatening battle with diverticulitis set in just as Lesnar's career reached his peak.

The man who beat Lesnar, of course, was Velasquez, who appeared in position for a dominant title reign. But he also injured his shoulder in the fight, missed an entire year and sure seemed to show Octagon rust in his loss to dos Santos.

Where does this leave dos Santos? Like Velasquez before him, it's hard to see who in the UFC heavyweight division is going to have the tools to defeat him. No one has had an answer for his top-notch MMA boxing skills, and he's said to have fantastic jiu-jitsu, but we don't know yet because no one has gotten him down long enough for him to have to utilize it.

So can dos Santos avoid what seems to be turning into a heavyweight title curse? The jury's out: He fought with a torn meniscus last week and is expected to undergo surgery, according to MMAWeekly.com.

Dos Santos entered the top 10 this month at No. 7, the spot previously held by Velasquez. Also entering the rankings is Nick Diaz, who took No. 10 after his impressive victory over B.J. Penn. Penn nudged Rashad Evans down to No. 11.


Photo

Diaz

10. Nick Diaz
Points: 19
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Stockton, Calif.
Record: 26-7, 1 no-contest (won past 11)
Last month's ranking: Unranked
Most recent result: Def. B.J. Penn, unanimous decision, Oct. 29
Analysis:When he has his head on relatively straight, there are few finer fighters in the world than Diaz.

Photo

Fitch

9. Jon Fitch
Points: 39
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Record: 23-3-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month's ranking: T-8
Most recent result: Majority draw vs. B.J. Penn, Feb. 21
Analysis: Have to ask the obligatory question posed to every top fighter coming off an injury: Will he suffer from Octagon rust when he returns? Fitch meets Johny Hendricks on Dec. 30.

Photo

Melendez

8. Gilbert Melendez
Points: 41
Affiliation: Strikeforce (lightweight champion)
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 19-2 (won past five)
Last month's ranking: T-8
Most recent result: Def. Tatsuya Kawajiri, R1 TKO, April 9
Analysis:On the heels of Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson's stellar performances in back-to-back months, Melendez will need to put on a show against Jorge Masvidal to keep up heat for a potential UFC title shot.

Photo

Dos Santos

7. Junior dos Santos
Points: 63
Affiliation: UFC (heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Salvador, Brazil
Record: 14-1 (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: Unranked
Most recent result: Def. Cain Velasquez, R1 KO, Nov. 12
Analysis:Not much left to be said that hasn't been said already in the wake of his win over Velasquez.

Photo

Cruz

6. Dominick Cruz
Points: 117
Affiliation: UFC (bantamweight champion)
Weight class: Bantamweight
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 18-1 (won past eight)
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent result: Def. Demetrious Johnson, unanimous decision, Oct. 1
Analysis:Waiting on the winner of the UFC 139 bout between Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles.

Photo

Aldo

5. Jose Aldo
Points: 136
Affiliation: UFC (featherweight champion)
Weight class: Featherweight
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 20-1 (won past 13)
Last month's ranking: 5
Most recent result: Def. Kenny Florian, unanimous decision, Oct. 8
Analysis: Expected to meet unbeaten Chad Mendes in his next title defense, which gives him the chance to silence the slowly growing chorus of doubters.

Photo

Edgar

4. Frankie Edgar
Points: 140
Affiliation: UFC (lightweight champion)
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Record: 14-1-1 (won past one)
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: Def. Gray Maynard, R4 KO, Oct. 8
Analysis:His February title defense against Ben Henderson already is one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts of next year.

Photo

Jones

3. Jon Jones
Points: 152
Affiliation: UFC (light heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Endicott, N.Y.
Record: 14-1 (won previous five)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: Def. Quinton Jackson, R4 submission, Sept. 24
Analysis: Looks to make it three straight wins over men who have held the light heavyweight title when he meets Lyoto Machida on Dec. 10.

Photo

St. Pierre

2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 189
Affiliation: UFC (welterweight champion)
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 22-2 (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: Def. Jake Shields, unanimous decision, April 30
Analysis:Delayed bout with Diaz is sure to be worth the wait.

Photo

Silva

1. Anderson Silva
Points: 210 (21 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC (middleweight champion)
Weight class: Middleweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 29-4 (won past 14)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: Def. Yushin Okami, R2 TKO, Aug. 27
Analysis: Has the chance to show Chael Sonnen that Sonnen's near-win last year was a fluke.

• Votes for others: Rashad Evans, 13; Gray Maynard, 12; Mauricio Rua, 10; Dan Henderson, 6; Lyoto Machida, 4; Cain Velasquez, Chael Sonnen, Ben Henderson, 2.

This month's voting panel: Denny Burkholder, CBSSports.com; Elias Cepeda, Fight! Magazine; 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; CTV 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; Steven Marrocco, SportsIllustrated.com and MMAjunkie.com; Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports and The Wrestling Observer; John Morgan, MMAjunkie.com; Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com; Michael David Smith, MMAFighting.com; Mike Straka, Tapout TV; 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 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.

• Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No. 3 Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida, Dec. 10, Toronto; No. 8 Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal, Dec. 17.

MMAWeekly.com's divisional rankings

Check out last month's rankings

The official Yahoo! Sports mixed martial arts Twitter page is live. Follow @YahooSportsMMA