Rankings: Cruz gains ground

UFC 132 was Dominick Cruz’s coming-out party. While hardcore fans knew all about the WEC-turned-UFC bantamweight champion, the San Diego-based fighter was all but unknown to the mainstream.

That all changed on July 2, when Cruz engaged in an epic showdown with his rival, Urijah Faber. The 135-pound duo marked the first time lighter-weight fighters headlined a UFC pay-per-view event, and delivered with a bout sure to rate on most “Fight of the Year” lists.

Cruz scored a victory that was paradoxically as thorough as it was close, which reflects the essence of the bantamweight champ’s style. The lanky Cruz likes to move in and out of range and attack from odd angles, making it hard for opponents to mount sustained office. So while each of the five rounds were close, Cruz still took 12 of the combined 15 rounds on the three judges’ scorecards en route to a unanimous decision.

The victory avenged the only loss of Cruz’s career, as he improved to 17-1. It also likely set up a trilogy fight down the road with Faber, which is still by far the biggest marquee fight which can be made in the weight class.

But it wasn’t quite enough to move “The Dominator” up in the rankings. Last month, UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar was in fifth place with 122 points to Cruz’s 99. Cruz picked up more ground than anyone else in the poll with the victory. But his 115 points placed him one behind Edgar, who maintains his No. 5 spot for now.

And that, kids, is about all that’s going on with the Top 10 at the moment. We’ve hit one of those stretches in which there is very little going on among ranked fighters, as a combination of fighter injuries and scheduling quirks keep the world’s best out of action. The only Top-10 fight currently on the books between now and the end of the summer is that between No. 1 Anderson Silva and the man who holds the most recent victory over him (albeit via disqualification), Yushin Okami.

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; 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; 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, 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 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. This currently applies to Rashad Evans, who next fights on Aug. 6 against Phil Davis.



10. Gray Maynard
Points: 34
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: lightweight
Hometown: Las Vegas
Record: 10-0-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month's ranking: 10
Most recent result: vs. Frankie Edgar, majority draw, Jan. 1
Analysis:Maynard has yet to be medically cleared to begin training for his delayed trilogy fight against Frank Edgar.



9. Gilbert Melendez
Points: 36
Affiliation: Strikeforce (lightweight champion)
Weight class: lightweight
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 19-2 (won past five)
Last month's ranking: 9
Most recent result: def. Tatsuya Kawajiri, R1 TKO, April 9
Analysis:Melendez has made it clear he wants a shot at Edgar’s title, but a Strikeforce defense against Jorge Masvidal appears next on his agenda.



8. Jon Fitch
Points: 38
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: welterweight
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Record: 23-3-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: majority draw vs. B.J. Penn, Feb. 21
Analysis: Nothing new on Fitch’s radar as he continues rehabbing his shoulder injury.



7. Cain Velasquez
Points: 83
Affiliation: UFC (heavyweight champion)
Weight class: heavyweight
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:A November date against Junior dos Santos in his camp’s hometown of San Jose looks to be on his docket.



6. Dominick Cruz
Points: 115
Affiliation: UFC (bantamweight champion)
Weight class: bantamweight
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 17-1 (won past seven)
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Urijah Faber, unanimous decision, July 2
Analysis:From both a business and a competitive standpoint, a trilogy fight with Faber makes a ton of sense.



5. Frankie Edgar
Points: 116
Affiliation: UFC (lightweight champion)
Weight class: lightweight
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:Has been cleared to train and is waiting on Maynard’s clearance before a rematch date is set.



4. Jon Jones
Points: 148
Affiliation: UFC (light heavyweight champion)
Weight class: light heavyweight
Hometown: Endicott, N.Y.
Record: 13-1 (won previous four)
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Mauricio Rua, R3 TKO, March 19
Analysis: A Sept. 24 bout with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson promises fireworks in and out of the cage.



3. Jose Aldo
Points: 166
Affiliation: UFC (featherweight champion)
Weight class: featherweight
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 18-1 (won past 11)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Mark Hominick, unanimous decision, April 30
Analysis:Still no firm word on when the injured Aldo will return, though he’s expected to fight again sometime during the autumn.


St. Pierre

2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 200 (2 first-place votes)
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:GSP is staying out of the spotlight at the moment, but his October bout against Nick Diaz promises to be a big one.



1. Anderson Silva
Points: 217 (20 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC (middleweight champion)
Weight class: middleweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 28-4 (won past 13)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Vitor Belfort, R1 KO, Feb. 5
Analysis:The MMA world is turning its gaze toward the No. 1 fighter as he returns home to Brazil to meet Yushin Okami on Aug. 27.


• Votes for others: Jake Shields 19; Mauricio Rua 15; Nick Diaz 10; B.J. Penn 7; Junior dos Santos, Fedor Emelianenko, Lyoto Machida 3; Hatsu Hioki 1.

• Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No 1. Anderson Silva vs. Yuhsin Okami, Aug. 27, Rio de Janeiro.

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