Robbie Lawler enjoyed quite a late-career ride as a pound-for-pound stalwart, long after his competitive prime was thought to have run its course. Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end.
Lawler on Dec. 16 had no answers for Rafael dos Anjos, as he lost a five-round decision to the resurgent Brazilian in the UFC on Fox 26 main event at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Dos Anjos pitched a shutout, carrying 50-45 scorecards from all three judges. To make matters worse for Lawler, he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus -- knee injuries that figure to sideline him for most of 2018. Where “Ruthless Robbie” goes from here remains to be seen, but he turns 36 on March 20 and has the mileage of a grueling 41-fight career with which to contender. For now, Lawler exits our pound-for-pound list to make room for the man who defeated him.
Dos Anjos was something of an afterthought a little more than a year ago, but a move to 170 pounds has breathed new life into the former lightweight champion’s career. Since throwing out his anchor in the welterweight division, RDA has gone 3-0 with wins over Lawler, Neil Magny and Tarec Saffiedine. He re-enters our rankings at No. 8.
Without further delay, the updated Sherdog.com Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:
1. Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1)If you plan to break one of former middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s records, you ought to do it in style. This certainly was not lost on Johnson at UFC 216 on Oct. 7. In a title defense the world was sure he would win, “Mighty Mouse” dominated challenger Ray Borg before hitting a breathtaking slam-into-armbar sequence that earned him Sherdog’s “Submission of the Year” for 2017. With the victory, Johnson notched his 11th straight UFC title defense, surpassing Silva’s all-time mark of 10. Where he goes next is anyone’s guess, but a superfight with reigning UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw appears to be on the table.
2. Max Holloway (19-3)Holloway has begun to build his case as the greatest featherweight of all-time. Blessed with otherworldly physical skills, the accompanying competitive drive and a charisma that drives his likability factor through the roof, the 26-year-old Hawaiian on Dec. 2 retained his 145-pound championship with another eye-popping stoppage of Jose Aldo in the UFC 218 headliner. Holloway has pieced together a 12-fight winning streak since he suffered back-to-back losses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor in 2013, making tremendous strides with each outing. He has subdued Aldo (twice), Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson during his current tear, with five of those victories resulting in finishes. Those six men have 137 career wins between them. Next up for Holloway: a rescheduled showdown with former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 on March 3.
3. Daniel Cormier (19-1, 1 NC)Cormier once again owns the UFC light heavyweight championship and ranks as the No. 1 fighter in the world at 205 pounds, though the path he took to get there was far from ideal for anyone involved. Cormier could not defeat archrival Jon Jones in their July 29 rematch and settled for a no-contest after Jones’ “B” sample came back positive for steroids. While the American Kickboxing Academy captain becomes a victim by proxy in the “Bones” saga, no one can overlook his stellar accomplishments in two weight classes. High-profile victories over Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson (twice), Anderson Silva and Alexander Gustafsson highlight his resume. No matter his future in the cage, “DC” remains inextricably linked to Jones. Cormier has been assigned to a UFC 220 clash with fast-rising Swiss contender Volkan Oezdemir on Jan. 20 in Boston.
4. Conor McGregor (21-3)The calendar may have flipped, but no one should expect McGregor’s self-promotional tactics to change much. Following the events of UFC 219, “The Notorious” one took to social media to denounce would-be challenger Khabib Nurmagomedov’s domination of Edson Barboza as “dogs---” and complain about the UFC needing to pay him what he is worth. Even with Nurmagomedov’s spectacular return and the ascent of interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, UFC President Dana White has publicly admitted that we may have seen the last of McGregor, given the financial windfall he reaped from his foray into professional boxing opposite Floyd Mayweather.
5. Tyron Woodley (18-3-1)Woodley has been on fire for over three years. He has gone undefeated in his last six bouts, taken the UFC welterweight title in devastating fashion from an entrenched champion like Robbie Lawler and then successfully defended that championship three times in less than 12 months. It is no wonder the man is a little miffed he did not get a date with Conor McGregor or Georges St. Pierre and the accompanying payday. Indignation aside, “The Chosen One” is just hitting his prizefighting prime in his mid-30s and now has a better handle on the identity of his next challenger. Rafael dos Anjos on Dec. 16 punished Lawler across five rounds and picked up a unanimous in their UFC on Fox 26 headliner, likely cementing himself as the No. 1 contender at 170 pounds. However, Woodley has since undergone a surgical procedure on his shoulder that could keep him shelved until the middle of 2018.
6. Stipe Miocic (17-2)Miocic has on his resume successful UFC title defenses against Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem, both via knockout. With just one more defense of his throne, Miocic will have the most heavyweight title defenses in Ultimate Fighting Championship history in a single reign. The question regarding the identity of his next challenger was answered on Dec. 2 in Detroit, where frightening contender Francis Ngannou nearly decapitated Overeem with a left uppercut in the first round of their UFC 218 co-main event. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Ngannou has rattled off 10 consecutive victories, all of them finishes, and holds a perfect 6-0 record in the UFC. Miocic will have his work cut out for him when the two meet in the UFC 220 main event on Jan. 20.
7. Tony Ferguson (23-3)Ferguson’s immediate fate rests in Conor McGregor’s hands. Despite claiming the UFC interim lightweight title by submitting Kevin Lee with a triangle choke at UFC 216, Ferguson has found the Irishman to be an elusive target in his pursuit of a blockbuster unification bout. McGregor has publicly stated he wants equity in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and co-promotional rights before agreeing to the match, leaving “El Cucuy” with an unclear future until the demands are resolved or refused. Nevertheless, Ferguson carries with him one of the best resumes in the sport at 155 pounds. “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner has won a divisional-record 10 consecutive fights, with victories over Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza and Josh Thomson, among others.
8. Rafael dos Anjos (28-9)After losing the UFC lightweight crown to Eddie Alvarez and dropping a five-round decision to Tony Ferguson in 2016, dos Anjos did not merely snap a two-fight losing skid. No, in the span of six months, dos Anjos went 3-0 as a revitalized welterweight, and on Dec. 16, he dominated former UFC champion Robbie Lawler for 25 minutes in the UFC on Fox 26 main event. Despite the Brazilian being promised a title shot against reigning welterweight titleholder Tyron Woodley with a win over Lawler, the UFC seems to be weighing its options. Regardless, dos Anjos has quickly inserted himself into the company’s 170-pound title picture.
9. T.J. Dillashaw (15-3)Dillashaw lost his UFC bantamweight title by the slimmest of margins in January 2016, dropping a split decision to two-time champion Dominick Cruz. It took him nearly two years, but “Killashaw” is back on top of the bantamweight world. At UFC 217 on Nov. 4, he finally got his showdown with former Team Alpha Male training partner Cody Garbrandt and overcame nearly being stopped in the opening round to knock out “No Love” and take back the UFC title at Madison Square Garden in New York. A Garbrandt rematch or a showdown with another top 135-pound contender seemed like the immediately sensible option for Dillashaw’s first title defense of his second reign, but instead, the champ called out flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson for what would be a monumental superfight.
10. Robert Whittaker (19-4)To absolutely no one’s surprise, in the wake of Georges St. Pierre’s throttling of Michael Bisping at UFC 217, Whittaker is not going to get a blockbuster bout with GSP. However, “The Reaper,” now healed from knee surgery, will get to headline UFC 221 in his Australian backyard as promised. With St. Pierre having vacated his slice of the title, the native Kiwi puts the undisputed middleweight crown on the line against former champion Luke Rockhold on Feb. 10 in Perth, Australia. There, Whittaker will attempt to build on an eight-fight winning streak that includes victories over Derek Brunson, Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero.
Sherdog’s pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Jordan Breen, Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Jesse Denis, Anthony Walker and Chris Nelson.