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UFC President Dana White Flip-Flops on Pick for Pound-for-Pound Best Fighter; Is He Still Wrong?

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COMMENTARY | Hype alert.

During a media scrum prior to UFC on Fox 10, UFC President Dana White proclaimed that middleweight champion Chris Weidman should be tabbed the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world if he beats Vitor Belfort in their upcoming bout.

"[If Weidman beats Belfort] he's the best," White said. "He's No. 1. How is he not No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world if he beats Vitor Belfort? It's impossible not to call him the No. 1 pound-for-pound guy."

While it's not surprising that White, a master promoter, would support a prized property, the timing certainly is in this case.


Because less than two weeks earlier he made nearly the same claim about current bantamweight champ Renan Barão, who will fight Urijah Faber for a second time at UFC 169.

"If Barão goes out and stops Faber, he's probably the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world," White said after UFC Fight Night 35 on January 15.

So which is it?

Here are three reasons -- fighters -- why it's neither Barão nor Weidman.

1. Jon Jones, UFC light heavyweight champion

Jones is currently ranked No. 1 in the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings, a system that is proving to be increasingly insignificant given White's claims and the promotion's recent matchups. It should be noted that the rankings are generated using weekly votes from the media and not by the UFC itself. However, the ranking system remains integrated into ongoing promotions and discussions.

Regardless, it's hard to overlook Jones (19-1-0, nine KO/TKOs) as the pound-for-pound best. "Bones" has one loss on his record -- a controversial disqualification for an illegal elbow, has won 10 straight fights and has defended the light heavyweight belt a UFC-record six times. In fact, one such defense came against the aforementioned Belfort via fourth-round submission.

Jones has amassed a who's-who of victories and is coming off a controversial win over Alexander Gustafsson, but he remains as talented, dangerous and gifted as any fighter in the world.

2. Jose Aldo, UFC featherweight champion

Aldo is ranked No. 2 in the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings and hasn't lost since 2005. The lightning-quick Brazillian has won 16 fights in a row, including all five of his UFC bouts.

Aldo (23-1-0, 14 KO/TKOs) has notable wins over Faber, Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, Mark Hominick, Manny Gamburyan, and Cub Swanson. The Muay Thai specialist combines brutal striking and the ability to finish opponents with black belt-level jiu-jitsu.

3. Demetrious Johnson, UFC flyweight champion

Few fighters were as successful in 2013 as "Mighty Mouse," the UFC's No. 4-ranked pound-for-pound fighter. Johnson (19-2-1, seven submissions) recorded wins over Joseph Benevides, John Moraga and John Dodson last year and has victories over Ian McCall, Miguel Torres, and Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto. He is undefeated in his last five fights and continues to look better and better each time he steps into the Octagon.

Johnson's quickness, elite conditioning, and striking have helped him rise up the pound-for-pound rankings and make him a dangerous opponent for anyone in the 125-pound division.

In their credit, Weidman is ranked No. 5 in the UFC rankings and Barão is No. 6. Weidman is undefeated in his 11 professional fights and is coming off back-to-back wins over the previous pound-for-pound best, Anderson Silva. Aside from Silva, his signature victories include Demian Maia and Mark Munoz.

Meanwhile, Barão (31-1-0, 1 NC, 14 submissions) hasn't lost since his professional debut in 2005, topping Faber, Scott Jorgensen, Michael McDonald, Brad Pickett, Eddie Wineland and Cole Escovedo since joining the UFC in 2011. The Brazillian is fast like Aldo with vicious leg kicks and a versatile array of ground and striking skills.

However, the hype and speculations begs a question: Should White even make these claims?

The UFC fields the best collection of talent in the world. Given what Jones, Aldo, Johnson, and other champions such as the undefeated Ronda Rousey (UFC Rank No. 10) and the powerful Cain Velasquez (UFC Rank No. 3) have accomplished, White's assertions may be disrespectful to the other fighters garnering fans and Pay-Per-View buys.

Then again, White has never been afraid to speak his mind. And that's helped build the UFC into what it is today.

When asked about his change of opinion regarding the pound-for-pound best, White said, "If [Weidman] beats Vitor, Barão's [expletive] No. 2!"

Maybe. Maybe not.

Paul Putignano lives in Southern California, where he has covered mixed martial arts and a wide array of sports across the Greater Los Angeles area. His work has been published in a variety of newspapers and online publications.

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