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.

The number in parentheses represents the fighter’s ranking from last month

Heavyweight
  1. Cain Velasquez (1)

    Alistair Overeem will likely get the next shot at Cain Velasquez with a win at UFC 156 (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

Despite two of the top-10 heavyweights winning their respective fights this month, the outlook on the heavyweight division has not changed. Usually when a fighter wins a fight in impressive fashion, they move up in rank. This, however, was not the case for Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett. They took on Dion Staring and Nandor Guelmino, respectively, putting them both away before the fight could go to the scorecards. Had Staring and Guelmino been fighters that people had heard about prior to their Strikeforce debuts, both Cormier and Barnett would likely have been ranked higher. In February, top heavyweights Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva will fight at UFC 156. Should Overeem emerge victorious over “Bigfoot,” he will likely be the next fighter to get a crack at champion Cain Velasquez.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Josh Barnett at No. 6: “Barnett’s squash match at the Strikeforce finale doesn’t elevate him into the top five, but keeps him at No. 6. Along with Cormier, Barnett is a heavyweight who could make waves in the UFC.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    "King Mo" dominated in his Bellator debut and needs two more victories for a title shot (Bellator)

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

After not fighting since UFC 145, Rashad Evans is set to return to the Octagon at this weekend’s UFC 156. “Suga” last fought to a decision loss against champion Jon Jones and has been on the shelf ever since. He will take on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at the event. Evans has been making headlines lately by saying that, if he were to move down to middleweight, he would be able to defeat champion Anderson Silva. Other headlines were made by Glover Teixeira after his decision victory over Quinton Jackson last weekend. The fight was the last contractual obligation on “Rampage’s” deal, and the Brazilian spoiled the party for the former champion. The victory, however, only moved him up one spot in the rankings. Also, Muhammed Lawal made his return to the cage in January, defeating Przemyslaw Mysiala by first-round knockout. As was the case in the heavyweight division, “King Mo” likely would have moved up in rank had his opponent been a household name. The Bellator fighter will have plenty of opportunity to advance his position in the rankings though, as his next fight will take place in the second round of the tournament at Bellator 90 on Feb. 21.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Glover Teixeira at No. 7: “Teixeira did exactly what he needed to do in beating Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, but the performance wasn’t strong enough to make an argument for title shot…yet.”
Middleweight
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    With top middleweights losing in the recent months, Chris Weidman has never looked more appealing (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

There are two ways to climb up the rankings. First, by winning fights, and second, by having everyone in front of you lose theirs. Chris Weidman has benefited in both of these ways over the last couple of months. Back in July, Weidman landed a huge knockout against Mark Munoz, which skyrocketed him up the middleweight ladder. Now, with top middleweights like Michael Bisping, Tim Boetsch and Alan Belcher losing over the past two months, it has made Weidman climb that much higher. The Serra-Longo fighter took the seat from the man who had previously held the No. 2 position, Chael Sonnen, which ultimately makes sense due to the fact that Sonnen will be slipping as his campaign in the light heavyweight division begins in April. What may come as a big surprise is that Vitor Belfort didn’t budge from his seat at the party after the highlight-reel knockout against “The Count.” While he did find his way up some of our writers’ rankings after the knockout, the shuffling around of fighters changed the compiled numbers, vaulting Weidman over “The Phenom.” Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza also moved up a spot after handing UFC veteran Ed Herman a submission defeat on the final Strikeforce card.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Michael Bisping at No. 9: “At this rate, Michael Bisping will go down in history as the best fighter in UFC history to never get a title shot.”
Welterweight
  1. Georges St-Pierre (1)

    Ben Askren may have silenced his critics after his recent title defense (Bellator)

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

While the UFC is set to make a 170-pound splash at UFC 158, it was Bellator that jumped in that pool first in 2013. The main event at this past month’s Bellator 86 featured champion Ben Askren defending his title against Karl Amoussou. “Psycho” had done well in the tournament to earn his title shot, having submitted two of the three fighters he faced in quick and precise fashion. Many people thought that even if Askren used his dominant wrestling game the challenger would be able to slip the position into a submission, but “Funky” had other plans. He damaged the French fighter so badly from all the ground-and-pound that the doctors would not let Amoussou answer the bell to start the fourth round. Askren had a stigma on him that he was a boring fighter and a one-trick pony, but he let the world know that he has power behind his hands and isn’t afraid to use it. On the same card, Bellator kicked off its season-eight welterweight tournament with veterans Douglas Lima, Ben Saunders and Brent Weedman moving on to the next round. Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine did enough to take the title out of the hands of Nate Marquardt in the final fight ever to take place in the Strikeforce cage. “Sponge” leg-kicked his way to the championship, rendering Marquardt almost immobile by the end of the fight. In UFC action, Jon Fitch will look to win back-to-back fights as he takes on Demian Maia at UFC 156. Maia is currently undefeated at welterweight and looks to try to improve his divisional record to 3-0 this weekend.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Ben Askren at No. 6: “Askren put on the most dominant display of his career at Bellator 86. His ground-and-pound was devastating and the performance is bound to quiet his critics.”
Lightweight
  1. Benson Henderson (1)

    Anthony Pettis may have earned a title shot with his victory over Donald Cerrone (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

It is hard to tell whether or not Anthony Pettis actually broke a sweat in his dominating performance against Donald Cerrone at UFC on Fox 6. “Showtime” needed less than three minutes to polish off the victory after throwing fierce kicks to the stomach of “Cowboy.” Pettis is most famous for his victory at the final WEC card, where he defeated Benson Henderson after landing the famous “Showtime kick” in the fifth round of their close decision. That victory was supposed to be the ticket to a title shot for the Roufusport fighter. However, the plan hit a snag as Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard fought to a draw and Pettis lost to Clay Guida. The victory over Cerrone, however, may be that very chance at a title shot that he had previously been promised. It appears as though “Smooth” will defend his title against Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez at the next UFC on Fox card, which would leave Pettis to wait around for the title shot. Bellator champion Michael Chandler defended his title against Rick Hawn in impressive fashion, but he did not climb up the rankings as a result. The problem with a lot of Bellator champions is the infrequency with which they actually fight. His previous victory came in May of last year, with the win before that coming in November 2011. As impressive as it was, the champion is going to have a difficult time keeping pace with the UFC lightweights, who do not rely on a tournament schedule for their fights.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Anthony Pettis at No. 5: “Anthony showed the world that he belongs with the elite in the division. I did not believe it, but after the beatdown he put on Cerrone, I am a believer.”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    If you didn't know who Ricardo Lamas was before UFC on Fox 6, you do now (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

It has been a while since we saw dominant UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo inside the Octagon. However, this weekend he is back. The Brazilian will take on former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in what will be his first go at 145 pounds. UFC President Dana White hasn’t been shy about saying that he feels as though “The Answer” should have been fighting at featherweight for a long time given that he really didn’t cut much weight to make it to the 155-pound mark for lightweight fights. We will see if White’s speculation is right on Saturday, as Edgar will now fight in his seventh straight UFC title fight. Ricardo Lamas made a big move in the rankings after his dominant performance against Erik Koch at UFC on Fox 6. Lamas bloodied “New Breed” badly, and, with the victory, has gone a perfect 4-0 inside the Octagon. While Chad Mendes appears to be hanging around the top of the food chain to get the next title shot, don’t sleep on Lamas sneaking into the spot. January also saw Bellator champion Pat Curran defend his title against Patricio Freire in the inaugural Bellator card on Spike TV. It was a close fight which resulted in a split decision, but ultimately the champion did enough to retain the title. Curran will now take on Daniel Straus in his next title defense.

Writer’s take – Eric Reinert, ranking Ricardo Lamas at No. 4: “Lamas, coming off an impressive victory over Erik Koch at UFC on Fox 6, should fight Chad Mendes for the No. 1 contendership if Mendes defeats Manny Gamburyan in February.”
Bantamweight
  1. Dominick Cruz (1)

    Barao will put his interim title on the line at UFC on Fuel TV 7 (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

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

The UFC will go across the pond in February and the interim bantamweight championship will be on the line. With Dominick Cruz still on the shelf and not ready to unify his championship with the interim strap, Renan Barao will defend his belt against Michael McDonald. After winning five straight fights between his time with the WEC and UFC, Barao earned his shot at the interim title against Urijah Faber and cruised to a five-round decision victory. Now, California native Michael McDonald will get his chance at UFC gold at UFC on Fuel TV 7. McDonald is also undefeated during his time with both promotions and would love to be able to get the chance to unify the title against Cruz when he returns to action, but getting past the Brazilian will be no easy task. Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas is set to take on Marco Galvao for his title on Valentine’s Day, as Bellator continues to roll out title fights on its new home of Spike TV.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Renan Barao at No. 2: “Barao will look to take over the top spot with Cruz out for another year. In my mind, a defense of his interim title just might do it.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    "Mighty Mouse" defended his flyweight title and now awaits a new contender (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

They say you’re not truly a champion until you defend your title. In January, Demetrious Johnson successfully defended his flyweight title by unanimous decision over John Dodson. The Ultimate Fighter winner put up a good fight, as two of the judges scored the bout 48-47, but ultimately it was the championship fight experience that lead “Mighty Mouse” to victory. It was clear that Dodson was fading in the fourth and fifth round, which only caused Johnson to step on the gas and keep the tempo of the fight moving at a pace which caused Dodson to tire even more. Still, “The Magician” proved a lot in defeat. There had been questions as to whether or not he could hang with the best in the world at flyweight, and this fight was a clear indicator that he can. The champion may not have to wait very long to find a new No. 1 contender for his belt, as Joseph Benavidez takes on Ian McCall at UFC 156 this weekend. Both fighters lost to “Mighty Mouse” during the course of the flyweight tournament last year, but they fought impressively against him. While it has not been officially announced, the winner of this fight very well could get the next shot at the title.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Demetrious Johnson at No. 1: “Mighty Mouse put up a convincing argument for being the dominant champ at 125.”
Pound-for-pound
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    Demetrious Johnson's victory was good enough to move him up two spots in the pound-for-pound rankings (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the top five spots in the pound-for-pound rankings did not change at all as a result of January. There was a little bit of change, however. With UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson moving up two spots, the rest of the fighter rankings were noticeably shaken up. “Mighty Mouse” has now proven that he is truly a great fighter, having been successful enough at bantamweight to earn a title shot and now has been able to defend his flyweight title, which holds weight in a pound-for-pound ranking. There could be more change on the horizon to follow in February. If Frankie Edgar can take the title from Jose Aldo, then he will be the third fighter in UFC history to be a champion of two different weight classes, which again holds a lot of weight in pound-for-pound rankings. However, if “Scarface” can keep the title around his waist, it will mark his seventh straight title defense and may vault him over welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Demetrious Johnson at No. 9: “The flyweight champion, who was the former bantamweight No. 1 contender, belongs in the pound-for-pound rankings.”

Top Photo: Demetrious Johnson (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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.