Even after relinquishing his stranglehold on the middleweight division, Anderson Silva still has a spot among the sport’s current pound-for-pound greats.
The Brazilian striker, who for years sat atop this list alongside welterweight ace Georges St. Pierre, went down in the second round at UFC 162 courtesy of a Chris Weidman left hook, ending a reign the likes of which the UFC may not see again. In this update, Silva’s stellar résumé over the past seven years -- which included an Octagon record 16 consecutive wins -- keeps him ranked just above the man who knocked him out. That seems almost certain to change, however, as the constantly improving Weidman will take on top contenders to defend his shiny new belt, while Silva declared after the loss that he is done fighting for the title.
Replacing “The Spider” as ruler of these rankings is 25-year-old UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Since claiming the belt from Mauricio Rua just over two years ago, Jones has looked nearly untouchable, defending his title five times and finishing four of those challengers. While his April victory over Chael Sonnen was widely derided as a mismatch, Jones’ next defense is unquestionably legit and figures to be far tougher, as the Greg Jackson pupil will face once-beaten Swede Alexander Gustafsson.
1. Jon Jones (18-1)
Facing an undersized opponent he was expected to handle with ease, Jones still impressed with his April 27 demolition of Chael Sonnen. The first-round TKO tied “Bones” with Tito Ortiz for a record fifth defense of the UFC light heavyweight title and, more importantly, paved the way for even bigger and more competitive bouts. When the 25-year-old mends from a nasty toe injury, he will face Swedish “Mauler” Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of UFC 165 on Sept. 21.
2. Georges St. Pierre (24-2)
St. Pierre kept his chokehold on the 170-pound class by dominating Nick Diaz in a five-round rout at UFC 158, adding the brash Californian to a list of victims which includes Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes. Still only four months removed from an 18-month hiatus due to ACL reconstruction, GSP said after the bout that he was looking to take a break. When he returns at November’s UFC 167, St. Pierre will have to deal with another tough challenger in Johny Hendricks.
3. 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 agreed to square off with Pettis at UFC 163 on Aug. 3, only to see Pettis sidelined by a knee injury. Instead, Aldo will put his bout on the line against the popular “Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung.
4. Anderson Silva (33-5)
For the first time in 17 UFC appearances, Silva’s night ended without his hand being raised at UFC 162. After taunting, baiting and clowning Chris Weidman for little more than a round, the Brazilian met his demise when the challenger connected with a left hook and follow-up punches to put a shocking and abrupt end to Silva’s championship reign 1:18 into round two. Until he steps into the Octagon again, the debate will rage on as to why “The Spider” suffered the first loss of his UFC career. Was it his apparent disregard for Weidman’s skills or was it something deeper, such as a waning motivation to compete? Silva has been promised an immediate rematch; it remains to be seen if he is willing to take it.
5. Benson Henderson (19-2)
After a dominant victory over Nate Diaz in December, “Smooth” returned to his habit of winning closely contested decisions at UFC on Fox 7. Paired with former Strikeforce titlist Gilbert Melendez, Henderson held off his foe to earn a razor-thin split verdict. There will be no immediate rematch for “El Nino,” however, as Henderson will next defend his crown against surging Canadian T.J. Grant. While Henderson has yet to finish an opponent in seven Octagon appearances, his resume -- which also includes wins over Frankie Edgar (twice), Jim Miller and Clay Guida -- remains one of the strongest in the sport today.
6. Cain Velasquez (12-1)
Velasquez celebrated Memorial Day in Las Vegas with his first successful defense of the UFC heavyweight strap. The sport’s top big man steamrolled Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 160, setting up an October rubber match with Junior dos Santos, whom Velasquez dominated across five rounds in December to take back the belt. Dos Santos remains the only blemish on Velasquez’s record, which includes first-round finishes of Silva (twice), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brock Lesnar.
7. Chris Weidman (10-0)
For months, Weidman claimed that he was the man to dethrone reigning middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva. In the UFC 162 main event, he backed up his talk, knocking out the Brazilian a little more than a minute into the second frame. The Serra-Longo Fight Team member has demonstrated rapid progression in each fight, and his blend of wrestling, jiu-jitsu and constantly improving standup makes him a formidable obstacle for any potential challenger. While Weidman is game for a return meeting with Silva, other interesting opponents -- such as the surging Vitor Belfort -- could await if “The Spider” elects to end his championship aspirations.
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. Johnson’s second title defense will also take place on network television, as he takes on surging contender John Moraga at UFC on Fox 8.
9. Gilbert Melendez (21-3)
At UFC on Fox 7, Melendez proved he belonged among the divisional and pound-for-pound elite by giving reigning UFC 155-pound champion Benson Henderson all he could handle in the headliner. It was not enough to get the nod from two of the three cageside judges, however, as the Skrap Pack member’s pace slowed slightly down the stretch en route to losing a controversial split decision. The narrow nature of the defeat means that “El Nino” will not be too far removed from title consideration. A bout against Diego Sanchez appears to be in the cards for the fall.
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 in February. 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. A second title defense against Eddie Wineland at UFC 161 fell through when the Brazilian suffered a foot injury; the bout has been rebooked for UFC 165 on Sept. 21.
With the entry of Chris Weidman, previously ninth-ranked Joseph Benavidez falls outside the pound-for-pound top 10.