With MMA promotions putting on fight cards more frequently than ever, fighters are constantly jockeying for position on the ladder of title contention and in the eyes (and rankings) of the fans and media.

Every month, The MMA Corner’s Brian McKenna will compile the staff’s individual rankings from heavyweight to flyweight, plus pound-for-pound, into The MMA Corner’s Fighter Rankings.

See below for our top 10 fighters from each division.

Heavyweight
  1. Cain Velasquez (2)

    Cain Velasquez won the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 155 by defeating Junior dos Santos (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

  2. Alistair Overeem (3)
  3. Junior dos Santos (1)
  4. Daniel Cormier (4)
  5. Fabricio Werdum (5)
  6. Frank Mir (6)
  7. Josh Barnett (7)
  8. Stefan Struve (10)
  9. Mark Hunt (9)
  10. Antonio Silva (-)

The obvious headline coming out of December in regards to the heavyweight division is how Cain Velasquez regained the UFC heavyweight title by taking a unanimous decision victory over Junior dos Santos. In an absolutely amazing display of heart, dos Santos managed to avoid getting finished despite taking a brutal beating in the early rounds. As the fight wore on, it was very easy to see the punishment that Velasquez handed out on the face of the Brazilian. While often a champion losing a fight could result in him plummeting down the rankings, the fact that “Cigano” held on and showed the heart of a champion only saw him drop two places. With Velasquez winning the title, it could make for a potentially sticky situation for American Kickboxing Academy, as Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier is favored to win his final Strikeforce fight this month and would likely enter the UFC as the No. 1 contender for the title, but with both fighters calling AKA their home, it would be unlikely that they would fight one another. There have been small hints at “DC” moving down to light heavyweight, but it will be interesting to see how it will all play out. Also fighting this month will be Josh Barnett, and Alistair Overeem will make his return from his suspension when he takes on Antonio Silva in February. Alexander Volkov won the vacant Bellator heavyweight title in December, but still has a lot of work to do if he wants to find himself in the top ten.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Cain Velasquez at No. 1: “A healthy Velasquez is a very dangerous man, as Junior dos Santos learned at UFC 155.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    Alexander Gustafsson made the biggest leap in December with his victory over "Shogun" (Tracy Lee/Yahoo! Sports)

  2. Dan Henderson (2)
  3. Lyoto Machida (3)
  4. Alexander Gustafsson (7)
  5. Mauricio Rua (4)
  6. Rashad Evans (5)
  7. Phil Davis (6)
  8. Glover Teixeira (8)
  9. Gegard Mousasi (9)
  10. Muhammed Lawal (10)

There was not a lot going on at light heavyweight this past month, but what we did see very well could have been a changing of the guard. At UFC on Fox 5, Alexander Gustafsson took a unanimous decision from former champion Mauricio Rua. Despite the loss, “Shogun” fought his heart out and even came close on a few submission attempts. However, the Brazilian ultimately fell to the Swede. The victory was his sixth consecutive, and it was his first true victory over a top contender. The line that is forming behind Chael Sonnen is starting to get pretty congested as a result of “The Mauler” handling his business, because it appears that the winner of Dan Henderson versus Lyoto Machida could be next, and one would have to figure that if Rashad Evans defeats Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156, that he would be right there in the mix as well. Normally, having this many fighters ready for their shot at the title is great. However, the fact that Sonnen will take on Jones in April will really cause a logjam at the top. The forecast for January for the 205-pounders reads as pretty entertaining. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will finally take on Glover Teixeira in what is the final fight of Rampage’s UFC contract. Also in the Octagon, Ryan Bader looks to return to form against Vladimir Matyushenko. Meanwhile, Bellator will be making its debut on Spike TV with the first round of its light heavyweight tournament taking place in January over the course of two events. Seth Petruzelli, Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal are some of the fighters involved in the tournament.

Writer’s take – Corey Adams, ranking Alexander Gustafsson at No. 4: “Gustafsson is certainly on a roll and has made his case for being the No. 1 contender, but should fight one more time before getting his title shot.”
Middleweight
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    Yushin Okami's victory at UFC 155 boosted him from being unranked to the seventh spot (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

  2. Chael Sonnen (2)
  3. Vitor Belfort (3)
  4. Michael Bisping (4)
  5. Chris Weidman (5)
  6. Luke Rockhold (6)
  7. Yushin Okami (-)
  8. Hector Lombard (-)
  9. Ronaldo Souza (-)
  10. Brian Stann (8)

UFC commentator Jon Anik kept coming back to the fact that UFC 155 was “moving day” as far as the middleweight division. Anik’s statement was accurate, as two of the three middleweight main card fights directly impacted the rankings. Tim Boetsch dropped out of the rankings after his loss to Costa Philippou, who himself is on the fringe of making the top 10 after his fifth straight victory. Yushin Okami found himself back in the top 10 after his decision victory over Alan Belcher, and Hector Lombard was back to his old self as he crushed Rousimar Palhares and found himself back in the top 10 as well. But the biggest news that came out of the division was that UFC President Dana White announced that with a win over Vitor Belfort, Michael Bisping would get the next title shot at Anderson Silva. As it currently stands, there are no Bellator fighters in the top ten, but after February’s title fight between Alexander Shlemenko and Maiquel Falcao, the new Bellator champ may just squeak their way into the top ten.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Hector Lombard at No. 8: “Lombard looked more like himself in his second outing in the UFC where he defeated Palhares.”
Welterweight
  1. Georges St-Pierre (1)

    Rory MacDonald will try to avenge his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 158 (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. Johny Hendricks (2)
  3. Carlos Condit (3)
  4. Jon Fitch (4)
  5. Josh Koscheck (5)
  6. Rory MacDonald (8)
  7. Nick Diaz (6)
  8. Jake Ellenberger (9)
  9. Martin Kampmann (7)
  10. Ben Askren (10)

The welterweight division was pretty quiet this month, with the biggest fight in the division going to Rory MacDonald’s victory over B.J. Penn. If Penn had emerged victorious in the fight, he very well could have found his way into the rankings, but the victory by MacDonald boosted his standing instead. He only moved up two spaces, but very well could have moved higher up had he actually finished “The Prodigy.” The victory puts MacDonald in line to get a rematch with Carlos Condit, while in other divisional action Nick Diaz was awarded the next shot at champion Georges St-Pierre. According to our rankings, Johny Hendricks should have been the next in line, but instead “Big Rig” will take on Jake Ellenberger. Meanwhile, Bellator champion Ben Askren will defend his title against Karl Amoussou at Bellator 86 later this month.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Rory MacDonald at No. 3: “Rory just might be the best in the division, and he will get the chance to show it when he gets his rematch with Condit.”
Lightweight
  1. Ben Henderson (1)

    Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon fought a bloody battle that could have been the fight of the year at UFC 155 (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

  2. Gilbert Melendez (2)
  3. Gray Maynard (5)
  4. Frankie Edgar (4)
  5. Nate Diaz (3)
  6. Anthony Pettis (7)
  7. Donald Cerrone (6)
  8. Michael Chandler (8)
  9. Jim Miller (9)
  10. Eddie Alvarez (-)

It sticks out like a sore thumb, but sometimes that’s just the way it works out the way, however surprising. Despite Jim Miller winning the “Fight of the Night” at UFC 155, he somehow didn’t rise up the rankings. Some of it probably had to do with the shuffle from where Nate Diaz ended up on each writer’s rankings after his loss at the hands of champion Ben Henderson, and some of it also may be due to the fact that the writers thought Miller lost to Joe Lauzon or that not finishing Lauzon wasn’t good enough to bump him up in the rankings. One way or another, Miller remains at No. 9 despite getting back on the right track with the victory. With Strikeforce officially closing its doors after this month’s card, the biggest question has to do with Gilbert Melendez. Dana White has said that he could come in and get an immediate title shot, but at the same time White says a lot of things that don’t pan out. Melendez is for sure a consensus top lightweight in the world, but it will be interesting to see if he gets an immediate shot or has to win another fight first. Another big question has to do with free agent Eddie Alvarez. Speculation led one to believe that Alvarez was going to immediately be scooped up by the UFC, but nothing has come of that just yet. In January, Donald Cerrone will take on Anthony Pettis, while Michael Chandler will defend his Bellator title against Rick Hawn at the first promotional card to air on Spike TV.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Jim Miller at No. 8: “Miller did a great job against Lauzon and moves up as a result, but now can he overcome the hurdle of fighting one of the lightweight elite?”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    Pat Curran will return to action for the first time since Bellator 60 (Bellator)

  2. Chad Mendes (2)
  3. Pat Curran (4)
  4. Chan-Sung Jung (3)
  5. Erik Koch (5)
  6. Tatsuya Kawajiri (7)
  7. Ricardo Lamas (8)
  8. Dustin Poirier (6)
  9. Cub Swanson (9)
  10. Frankie Edgar (-)

Despite being out for an extended period of time, UFC champion Jose Aldo still sits atop the featherweight division. It has been a year since “Scarface” has fought, having to withdraw from a UFC 149 fight in July and a UFC 153 fight in October. Fortunately for fans of the sport, he is scheduled to come back and fight in February against Frankie Edgar, who recently found his way onto the rankings. No. 2-ranked Chad Mendes recently fought and won against Yaotzin Meza, who isn’t exactly a household name. Meza came in to replace Hacran Dias on very short notice, and Mendes handled him in less than two minutes. If it were up to “Money,” he likely would have fought a fighter that was more on his level, but he proved his status based on the quick knockout victory. In a somewhat similar head scratcher to that of Jim Miller in the lightweight rankings, Dustin Poirier somehow found a way to fall down the rankings despite sinking in a d’arce choke against Jonathan Brookins. In January action, Ricardo Lamas will take on Erik Koch at UFC on Fox 6, while Pat Curran will defend his Bellator title at Bellator 85.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Chad Mendes at No. 2: “Sure, Yaotzin Meza isn’t exactly someone that people have heard of, but you have to beat those guys too. Mendes’ next fight should be against a top opponent, or for the title.”
Bantamweight
  1. Dominick Cruz (1)

    Eddie Wineland defeated Brad Pickett and found himself ranked the highest he has ever been as a result (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

  2. Renan Barao (2)
  3. Michael McDonald (3)
  4. Bibiano Fernandes (6)
  5. Urijah Faber (4)
  6. Eddie Wineland (8)
  7. Brian Bowles (6)
  8. Brad Pickett (7)
  9. Scott Jorgensen (9)
  10. Eduardo Dantas (-)

The bantamweight division was shaken up a bit as a result of the action in December. Bibiano Fernandes jumped up a couple of spots after his stellar victory at Dream 18, while Eddie Wineland moved his way up too after defeating Brad Pickett. It was a close fight, which is likely why Pickett only dropped one position. Speaking of dropping positions, Brian Bowles is finally starting to move his way down after the period of long inactivity that he is currently on. His last fight was against Urijah Faber at UFC 139, all the way back in November 2011. Faber recently booked a fight to take on Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157. Both the UFC interim and Bellator titles will be on the line in February, as champion Eduardo Dantas will take on Marcos Galvao for the Bellator title and Michael McDonald will meet champ Renan Barao for the interim UFC title.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Bibiano Fernandes at No. 3: “Fernandes absolutely demolished Yoshiro Maeda at Dream 18 and reinforced the fact that he’s the best bantamweight outside the UFC.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    "TUF" winner John Dodson will look to win the flyweight title in January (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. John Dodson (4)
  3. Joseph Benavidez (3)
  4. Ian McCall (2)
  5. Jussier da Silva (5)
  6. Darrell Montague (7)
  7. Mamoru Yamaguchi (6)
  8. Yasuhiro Urushitani (8)
  9. John Moraga (-)
  10. Louis Gaudinot (9)

It was a fairly slow month for the little guys, with the biggest move coming from John Moraga’s emergence into the top ten. In his two UFC fights, Moraga has two submission victories, with the most recent coming as the “Submission of the Night.” The Arizona State product defeated Chris Cariaso, who was formerly ranked at No. 10, which may have helped in boosting him onto the rankings from being unranked. Darrell Montague and Mamoru Yamaguchi switched spots in the rankings, which makes sense considering Montague defeated the longtime Japanese standout this month. They fought at Vale Tudo Japan 2012 on Christmas Eve, and the American was able to edge out a split decision victory. There was also a shakeup in the top four, and it could get shaken up even more based on the fact that Demetrious Johnson defends the flyweight title against John Dodson at UFC on Fox 6 and Ian McCall takes on Joseph Benavidez at UFC 156.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking John Moraga at No. 10: “Moraga appears in the top 10 with his impressive win over Cariaso.”
Pound-for-pound
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    "Smooth" dominated Nate Diaz and will await his next opponent (Tracy Lee/Yahoo! Sports)

  2. Jon Jones (3)
  3. Georges St-Pierre (2)
  4. Jose Aldo (4)
  5. Ben Henderson (7)
  6. Dominick Cruz (6)
  7. Dan Henderson (8)
  8. Cain Velasquez (-)
  9. Demetrious Johnson (10)
  10. Gilbert Melendez (9)

With their victories in the last month, UFC champions Ben Henderson and Cain Velasquez climbed their way up the rankings. Henderson has tossed around the idea of moving up to welterweight, and it makes sense that he could eventually do so, based on the fact that he is a very big lightweight. Velasquez not only defeated Junior dos Santos, but he booted him from the No. 5 position to out of the rankings altogether. A case could be argued for “Cigano” to remain in the top 10 based on the heart and desire he showed by not allowing himself to be finished at UFC 155, but he fell out. With these two fights, the top 10 was shook up a little bit as points were distributed differently with dos Santos dropping out and Velasquez and “Smooth” moving up. For the most part though, there wasn’t any drastic movement from any fighters who did not see action in December. January will feature just one P4P-ranked fighter compete when “Mighty Mouse” puts his title on the line.

Writer’s take – Corey Adams, ranking Junior dos Santos at No. 10: “I’m not going to overreact with JDS losing his belt and take him out of the top 15 P4P. He still have proven he is worthy of being in the top 10.”

Photo: Cain Velasquez (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.