Rankings: Aldo cleans up at featherweight

For much of the past year, the buzz on Jose Aldo Jr. has been largely about whether the UFC featherweight champion had been a bit overrated in his push to the top of the division.

The fighter who tore through all his opposition as World Extreme Cagefighting champion suddenly seemed mortal in 2011, when his title transferred over to the UFC. The native of Brazilian couldn't put away Mark Hominick at UFC 129 and put in a similar show against Kenny Florian in October.

As someone who made his name with killer standup and electrifying knockouts, Aldo had a tough time living up to his own reputation. He took easy unanimous decisions against both Hominick and Florian but fell from No. 3 in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10 to No. 5.

But all it took to turn the tables was one superb round against Chad Mendes on Jan. 14. Fighting in his homeland, Aldo took everything the No. 1 contender had to give and withstood it, stuffing the undefeated former collegiate wrestling champion's takedown attempts and finishing him with a running knee.

And just like that, it appears Aldo has cleaned out the 145-pound division. Who's left? He ran through Mike Brown to win the title; sent Urijah Faber down to bantamweight with a one-sided win in Faber's hometown; Hominick and Florian were both "name" fighters capable of carrying their end of the bargain on pay-per-view; and Mendes was considered the "next big thing" at featherweight.

But against whom can Aldo feasibly headline a fight card at featherweight now? Hatsu Hioki was a big name in Japan, but has yet to impress in the UFC; Dustin Poirier is a sold up-and-coming talent, but is a ways off from a title shot; and while Chan Sung-Jung is very popular, he's just as clearly not in Aldo's league.

That's for the UFC to figure out. Meanwhile, Aldo's win bumped him back up to the No. 4 spot in the poll, ahead of UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Edgar won't have to wait long to state his case, as he defends his title against No. 1 contender Benson Henderson next month in Japan. And if Edgar gets past Henderson, who knows? Maybe Aldo vs. Edgar is the UFC's next logical champion vs. champion fight



10. Dan Henderson
Points: 28
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Temecula, Calif.
Record: 29-8 (won past 4)
Last month's ranking: 10
Most recent result: Def. Mauricio Rua, unanimous decision, Nov. 19
Analysis: Was rumored for a potential bout against Jon Jones in Montreal before the March 24 card was canceled. Next bout is still up in the air.



9. Nick Diaz
Points: 38
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: For purely business purposes, a strong win by the UFC's trash-talking bad boy against Carlos Condit in the interim welterweight title bout on Feb. 4 is the best thing that could happen.



8. Gilbert Melendez
Points: 44
Affiliation: Strikeforce (lightweight champion)
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 20-2 (won past six)
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: Def. Jorge Masvidal, unanimous decision, Dec. 17
Analysis: One hot rumor that cropped up recently has B.J. Penn going over to Strikeforce to challenge Melendez. Melendez deserves at least as much if they're going to keep him this A-list talent on the B-team.


dos Santos

7. Junior dos Santos
Points: 69
Affiliation: UFC (heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Salvador, Brazil
Record: 14-1 (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: 7
Most recent result: Def. Cain Velasquez, R1 KO, Nov. 12
Analysis: The champ's shoulder injury is healing and he knows his next foe will be Alistair Overeem, so the UFC can bank on at least one major bout around mid-year.



6. Dominick Cruz
Points: 101
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: A season opposing Urijah Faber as an "Ultimate Fighter" coach is the talented Cruz's best chance to get his personality over to the masses.



5. Frankie Edgar
Points: 134
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: Has a chance to answer Aldo in their nip-and-tuck rankings battle when he meets Henderson on Feb. 25.



4. Jose Aldo
Points: 140
Affiliation: UFC (featherweight champion)
Weight class: Featherweight
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 21-1 (won past 14)
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: Def. Chad Mendes, R1 KO, Jan. 14.
Analysis: Aldo finally brought his WEC fire to the UFC in his memorable win over Mendes.


St. Pierre

3. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 166
Affiliation: UFC (welterweight champion)
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 22-2 (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: Def. Jake Shields, unanimous decision, April 30
Analysis: GSP recently posted an Internet update that said he hopes to return by November.



2. Jon Jones
Points: 200 (1 first-place vote)
Affiliation: UFC (light heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Endicott, N.Y.
Record: 15-1 (won previous six)
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: Def. Lyoto Machida, R2 submission, Dec. 10
Analysis: The only thing standing in the way of Jones' grudge match with Rashad Evans is Phil Davis, Evans' Jan. 28 foe.



1. Anderson Silva
Points: 219 (21 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC (middleweight champion)
Weight class: Middleweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 31-4 (won past 15)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: Def. Yushin Okami, R2 TKO, Aug. 27
Analysis: Will find out his next challenger when Chael Sonnen takes on Michael Bisping later this month.

• Votes for others: Rashad Evans 24; Gray Maynard 6; Mauricio Rua 3; Alistair Overeem 2; Joe Benavidez, Carlos Condit, Urijah Faber, Ben Henderson, Jon Fitch 1.

Dropped out this month: Fitch (ninth last month).

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, Sirius XM, Fight Now TV and MMAjunkie 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. 5 Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson, Feb. 25, Saitama, Japan; No. 9 Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit, Feb. 4, Las Vegas.

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