The beginning of February saw Jose Aldo knock Frankie Edgar from these rankings, and the month claimed another pound-for-pounder before it was through.
Perennial top 10 entrant Dan Henderson exits the list with this update after dropping a split decision to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157. “Hendo,” who has been the living embodiment of pound-for-pound late in his career, could not find a home for his thunderous right hand and appeared just a step too slow throughout his Feb. 23 encounter with the former UFC light heavyweight champion. The loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for the 42-year-old, who has since announced he has no plans to retire.
Henderson’s exit makes room for a new entrant in Renan Barao. The current UFC interim bantamweight titleholder slides in at No. 10 after a decisive defense of his belt against young prospect Michael McDonald on Feb. 16 in London. With seven straight wins under Zuffa employ -- including big victories over Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett -- Barao has proven that he’ll be a handful for long-sidelined champion Dominick Cruz when the two of them eventually meet.
1. Anderson Silva (33-4)
Nearly four months after his dismantling of an overmatched Stephan Bonnar, we are not much closer to knowing when the world’s top fighter will return to the cage. Silva was already expected to take a large part of 2013 off, a matter complicated further by the recent losses of potential opponents Michael Bisping and Rashad Evans. Still, there are a few possibilities remaining for the man who has all but cleaned out the UFC’s 185-pound division, and the top choice at present seems to be unbeaten wrestler Chris Weidman, who UFC President Dana White recently said could be next for “The Spider.”
2. Georges St. Pierre (23-2)
The welterweight division’s French Canadian king finally came off the shelf in November after a frustrating 18-month layoff. Showing no signs of the knee injury that had kept him from the cage, GSP got right back to his old ways, sweeping interim champion Carlos Condit in a five-round affair to unify the UFC’s 170-pound belts. For a moment, Zuffa seemed dead-set on getting St. Pierre and fellow pound-for-pound luminary Anderson Silva together for a mega-fight; instead, GSP’s next bout will be a long-anticipated fight against former Strikeforce titlist Nick Diaz at UFC 158.
3. Jon Jones (17-1)
The light heavyweight king has answered all challenges during a dominant title reign, most recently taking out Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in September. Once his coaching stint opposite Chael Sonnen on “The Ultimate Fighter 17” runs its course on FX, “Bones” will defend his strap against the outspoken wrestler in the UFC 159 main event on April 27. If Jones vanquishes Sonnen as expected, it figures to be an interesting second half of 2013 for the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts member, with a wide array of potential opponents looming, including lucrative cross-divisional bouts against the likes of Daniel Cormier or Anderson Silva.
4. Jose Aldo (22-1)
In his first title defense since January 2012, Aldo held off hard-charging former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in the UFC 156 headliner. Shortly thereafter, 155-pound contender Anthony Pettis informed UFC President Dana White that he would like to drop a weight class to face the Brazilian champion. After initially balking at the match, Aldo and his team have agreed to square off with Pettis at a currently unnamed event on Aug. 3. The deal comes with an added incentive: if he is victorious, Aldo will receive an immediate title shot at 155 pounds.
5. Benson Henderson (18-2)
After claiming and defending the UFC lightweight title in a pair of hotly contested wins over Frankie Edgar, Henderson left little doubt in his latest defense. Before an audience of millions on network TV, Henderson grounded, pounded and ultimately took a unanimous decision over top contender Nate Diaz. Henderson’s recent run at 155 pounds has given him one of the strongest records in all of MMA, but there is no time for “Smooth” to rest on his laurels. Next up: a long-anticipated showdown against Strikeforce lightweight champion -- and fellow pound-for-pound rankings resident -- Gilbert Melendez in the UFC on Fox 7 headliner.
6. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)
Melendez’s on-again, off-again Strikeforce lightweight title defense against Pat Healy was rescheduled for the company’s final show on Jan. 12. One problem: Melendez’s knee injury still was not healed, forcing him off the show. However, we now get what the world really craves: Melendez against top 10, elite lightweights on a fight-in, fight-out basis. The Cesar Gracie disciple makes his Octagon debut in April against reigning 155-pound champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 7. It has been a long time coming.
7. Cain Velasquez (11-1)
Velasquez has been awaiting his next opponent since he avenged his only defeat with a dominant five-round verdict over Junior dos Santos at UFC 155. The course of the heavyweight division took a dramatic detour on Feb. 2, however, when Antonio Silva knocked out No. 1-contender-in-waiting Alistair Overeem at UFC 156. With no obvious title challenger on the horizon, Velasquez will now face “Bigfoot” for the second time in a year on May 25. Their initial meeting was far from competitive, as the American Kickboxing Academy product used a ground-and-pound assault to decorate the Octagon floor with Silva’s blood at UFC 146.
8. Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1)
As we begin to wonder what various pound-for-pound greats might look like fighting a weight class above the one they dominate, Johnson is becoming one of the few truly successful fighters to actually fulfill the “drop a weight class and dominate” expectation. Johnson remained unbeaten at flyweight and established himself as a champion with staying power at UFC on Fox 6. In front of a national television audience, “Mighty Mouse” survived the knockout power of John Dodson early, then had plenty left in reserve for the championship rounds to close out a unanimous decision victory in his first 125-pound title defense. Unfortunately, injury has delayed his second defense, which would have come against John Moraga on April 13.
9. Joseph Benavidez (17-3)
For years, while he toiled and overachieved at 135 pounds, MMA fans and pundits said that Benavidez had the potential to be the best flyweight fighter in the world. With the 125-pound class now installed in the UFC, the 28-year-old Team Alpha Male representative is doing his best to prove them right. Despite falling to Demetrious Johnson in a close September five-rounder for the UFC flyweight belt, Benavidez is already back in title contention after outworking former divisional ruler Ian McCall in a unanimous decision at UFC 156.
10. Renan Barao (30-1)
Barao successfully defended the UFC interim bantamweight strap against 22-year-old prospect Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7 last month. With a resume that includes triumphs over Brad Pickett, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber and the aforementioned “Mayday,” Barao has earned his place atop the division, even if his title comes with a “temporary” label. The date for a desired showdown with Dominick Cruz remains unknown, as the reigning 135-pound king has yet to establish a timetable for his return from multiple knee surgeries.
With his Feb. 23 loss to Lyoto Machida, previously sixth-ranked Dan Henderson exits the top 10.