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)

    "Bigfoot" earned a title shot (Ryan Loco/Heavy MMA)

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

It was all planned out and ready to go. Alistair Overeem was going to exit the cage at UFC 156 after defeating Antonio Silva to earn his official UFC title shot against Cain Velasquez. But “Bigfoot” had other plans as he weathered the storm in the first two rounds and knocked out Overeem in the third. The victory was good enough for him to flip the script and earn the title shot for himself, in what will be a rematch of a fight that took place at UFC 146. The encounter will take place in May at UFC 160, and the co-main event of the evening will be another heavyweight tilt which is sure to produce fireworks, with Junior dos Santos taking on “The Reem.” These two fighters have been itching to get at each other. Sure, both would have preferred to fight for the title, but the winner of this fight could get the next title shot. The heavyweights will be fairly quiet in March, but a fight between Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 8 will be on display. Hunt has been out for over a year after his knockout of Cheick Kongo at UFC 144, while it appears that “The Skyscraper,” having won his last four fights, is finally starting to come into his own.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Antonio Silva at No. 5: “Silva’s big win over Overeem finds him just creeping into the top five.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    "King Mo", and the rest of the MMA world, was stunned by the spinning back fist that Emmanuel Newton landed at Bellator 90 (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

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

As far as delivering great action, the light heavyweights in the UFC didn’t exactly pull their weight in February. The two big 205-pound fights that took place inside the Octagon were Rashad Evans taking on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Dan Henderson going up against Lyoto Machida. Both fights had high expectations, and neither fight truly delivered on the entertainment scale. Walking into his fight against “Lil Nog,” there was a buzz around “Suga” that he would crush his opponent and then move down to middleweight to take on Anderson Silva. Considering now that the former light heavyweight champion has dropped two straight, there is no chance of that happening anytime in the near future. Additionally, another former champion, Machida, just edged out Henderson in a razor-close split decision. Usually, split decisions lead to exciting fights, but this fight was very slow as “The Dragon” waited out his opponent and looked to counterstrike, rather than press the action on his own. Dropping out of the top 10 was Bellator’s Muhammed Lawal, after he was knocked out by Emanuel Newton in the first round of their tournament semifinal fight. The former Strikeforce champion was fighting with his hands down and was hit by a crushing spinning backfist, which resulted in “King Mo” being knocked out cold. Lawal’s first Bellator fight was a glorified freebie, but this one wasn’t so much. He has a lot of work to do to return to the top 10.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Muhammad Lawal outside the top 10 at No. 15: “Timberrrrrr! Not only did he fall like a tree, he fell down the rankings with the loss to Newton.”
Middleweight
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    Alexander Schlemenko knocked out Maiquel Falcao to win the Bellator middleweight title (Bellator)

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

Most of the middleweight action in February came from the Bellator cage, where a new middleweight champion was crowned and the season-eight 185-pound tournament kicked off. After failing to defeat Hector Lombard at Bellator 34, Alexander Shlemenko got back on the horse and won another Bellator tournament. The Russian was gearing up for a rematch for the strap, but Lombard vacated the title to jump ship and sign with the UFC. Maiquel Falcao won the next middleweight tournament to earn the spot against Shlemenko for the vacant belt, and “Storm” stormed past the Brazilian by second-round knockout to finally earn the Bellator title. Despite the victory, Shlemenko is absent from the top 10 and will likely be on the outside looking in until he successfully defends his title. The UFC middleweight division is in fierce control of the rankings. That UFC division will showcase “Thunder” versus “Lightning” in March as Yushin Okami takes on Lombard at UFC on Fuel TV 8. Also, fresh off his victory against Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort is scheduled to headline UFC on FX 8 against Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold, while “The Count” will stay busy and take on Alan Belcher at UFC 156. But that isn’t all, as it looks as if Chris Weidman will get the next shot at Anderson Silva and his championship belt this summer.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Alexander Shlemenko outside of the top 10 at No. 11: “His title win puts him on the verge of cracking the top 10.”
Welterweight
  1. Georges St-Pierre (1)

    Jon Fitch's release from the UFC has left a lot of fighters looking over their back (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

When it rains, it pours. That is how Jon Fitch must be seeing the world recently, with the news breaking in February that he had been released from his contract with the UFC. Earlier in the month, Fitch was dominated by Demian Maia at UFC 156 and lost the fight by unanimous decision. There has been a lot said about the American Kickboxing Academy product, including that he rarely puts on exciting fights, that he lay-and-prays, and that he is on the downswing of his career after going 1-2-1 in his last four fights. Regardless, Fitch will have to look for a new promotion in order to continue fighting. On the other hand, however, Maia skyrocketed from unranked to No. 4 with the victory. The former middleweight title contender is now 3-0 at welterweight and has looked outstanding in the process. Realistically, if Maia can garner a big name in his next fight and emerge victorious, he could very likely get a title shot in the aftermath. But as we turn the corner into March, big things are on the way. Georges St-Pierre will defend his championship against Nick Diaz, which is a fight that has been in the making for a long time. A lot of people don’t think that Diaz deserves the title fight, considering his loss to Carlos Condit for the interim title his last time out, but UFC President Dana White has said that St-Pierre wanted this fight, which is why it is happening. Condit was originally supposed to rematch Rory MacDonald at the event; however, with MacDonald pulling out due to injury, the resulting fallout has Condit taking on Johny Hendricks, while Hendricks’ former opponent, Jake Ellenberger, will now take on Nate Marquardt.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Jon Fitch at No. 8: “Fitch’s loss may have earned him a UFC release, but it doesn’t drop him from the top 10.”
Lightweight
  1. Ben Henderson (1)

    "Showtime" will drop to featherweight and challenge for Jose Aldo's title (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

It was said last month that Anthony Pettis had likely earned himself a title shot due to his outstanding performance against Donald Cerrone. Well, he got the title shot, but it will take place at featherweight rather than lightweight. The recent trend is for lightweight contenders to drop the additional 10 pounds and challenge Jose Aldo. However, depending on the result of the fight with pettis, Aldo could reverse that trend by adding 10 pounds and moving up to lightweight. With Frankie Edgar officially moving out of the division, it left space for a new fighter to enter the top 10, as T.J. Grant emerges into the No. 10 spot. It may come as a surprise that it is indeed Grant filling the void, but ever since he dropped to lightweight, the Canadian has gone a perfect 4-0 and recently dominated Matt Wiman. Look for Grant to get a fight against a top-tier fighter soon. Perhaps, it could be against another fighter who has a perfect record, as The Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Chiesa improved to 9-0 in his career with his victory over Anton Kuivanen at UFC 157.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Frankie Edgar at No. 3: “Edgar is going to sit near the top of my lightweight poll until he establishes the fact that he’s staying at featherweight.”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    Aldo (L) pushes off the fence to throw a punch (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

It was deemed a superfight, and it lived up to the hype. Jose Aldo defeated Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision in the main event at UFC 156, and it was a really exciting fight. In typical Edgar fashion, he went down on the cards early, but mounted his comeback halfway through the fight, which resulted in a close match. “Scarface” left the cage with the title, leaving behind one former lightweight, and now will have to enter the cage to take on another former lightweight. Anthony Pettis texted Dana White after the featherweight title fight saying that he wanted the next title shot, and White granted his wish. It took a little convincing, but Aldo accepted the fight, and if he emerges victorious, he will move up to 155 pounds and get the next lightweight title bid. Cub Swanson edged Dustin Poirier in the co-main event at UFC on Fuel TV 7, and the two flipped positions in the rankings in doing so. The victory puts Swanson in good position, as he now has won four straight fights. Things are up in the air with Bellator champion Pat Curran, who was scheduled to take on Daniel Straus at Bellator 95. A broken hand will keep Straus out of the fight, and he will be replaced by Shahbulat Shamhalaev, who is fresh off his tournament championship victory and will have a month to prepare for his title shot.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Frankie Edgar at No. 7: “New division, same results. Edgar is one of the toughest fighters on the planet, but unless he’s moving to bantamweight, his hopes of recapturing UFC gold are all but dead.”
Bantamweight
  1. Renan Barao (2)

    Eduardo Dantas looked great in retaining the Bellator title (Bellator)

  2. Dominick Cruz (1)
  3. Urijah Faber (4)
  4. Michael McDonald (3)
  5. Bibiano Fernandes (5)
  6. Eddie Wineland (6)
  7. Brian Bowles (7)
  8. Brad Pickett (8)
  9. Scott Jorgensen (9)
  10. Eduardo Dantas (10)

With Dominick Cruz on the sidelines since October 2011, the inactivity that has come along with it has finally caught up with him. Well, that and the fact that interim champion Renan Barao has been on a tear, claiming the top bantamweight spot along the way. Barao won his 20th straight fight overall and his seventh straight Zuffa-branded fight, defending his interim title along the way. The way that “The Dominator” had a stranglehold on the division, it is hard to envision another fighter sitting atop the rankings; however, the way that these two fighters have been moving in opposite directions reveals the true story behind the way things are. With Urijah Faber defeating Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157 and taking the main event fight at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale against Scott Jorgensen, “The California Kid” could pass Cruz as well if he can get the win, which could likely result in a rematch for the interim title with Barao. With the loss to the Brazilian interim champ, Michael McDonald only dropped one position and is still in good standing as far as the outlook of the division is concerned. Where he goes from here is unknown, but he is likely looking to get back in the cage against a top competitor. Eduardo Dantas put his Bellator championship on the line against his mentor Marcos Galvao in February and showcased his speed by knocking out Galvao and successfully defending his title. Dantas had a black cloud hanging over his head as a result of a loss against Tyson Nam, but it appears as though he is back on the right track with the victory.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Urijah Faber at No. 5: “Impressive victory at UFC 157 puts Faber back in the top five.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    Benavidez (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. Joseph Benavidez (2)
  3. John Dodson (4)
  4. Ian McCall (3)
  5. Jussier da Silva (5)
  6. Darrel Montague (6)
  7. Mamoru Yamaguchi (7)
  8. Yashuhiro Urishitani (8)
  9. John Moraga (9)
  10. Louis Gaudinot (10)

As far as fighting inside the Octagon, Ian McCall has seen better days. Since signing with the UFC, the flyweight has gone 0-2-1. The saving grace for “Uncle Creepy” is that the losses were all by close decision, but simultaneously, he really needs to be able to get over the hump. Some found it shocking that he survived the big cuts that the promotion announced in February, and the chances of him actually being released following another loss greatly increased. McCall lost to Joseph Benavidez, who solidified his position at No. 2 with the victory; however, after the fight he said that getting the next title shot is something that doesn’t exactly interest him at the moment. That left an opportunity for John Moraga to get the next chance at “Mighty Mouse,” but that fight has been axed now due to an injury to the champion. This could possibly set up match between Benavidez and Moraga, with the winner then getting the next shot at Johnson’s title, but we will have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Joseph Benavidez at No. 2: “He won’t get another title shot this soon, but Benavidez is clearly the second best 125-pound fighter on the planet.”
Pound-For-Pound
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    Rousey armbared her way into the Pound-for-pound rankings after the first ever women's fight UFC history (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

You read the rankings correctly. Ronda Rousey has emerged into the top 10 in the pound-for-pound rankings after her win over Liz Carmouche at UFC 157. While some will say she defended her title, she will say that she earned her title after claiming victory by first-round armbar. Rousey carried the title with her from Strikeforce the way that Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo carried theirs from the WEC, but she didn’t want to hear that, acknowledging the fact that this is a new promotion and, therefore, a new title. The Olympic bronze medalist has proven that she is lethal inside the cage, as all seven victories of her professional career have come by first-round armbar. The difference in this last fight, however, is that Rousey had her back taken early in the fight and for the first time in her career really had to battle through adversity en route to victory. Naysayers of women’s MMA had to swallow their words after a great display of fighting in the first-ever women’s fight in UFC history.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Ronda Rousey at No. 9: “It’s time we recognize Rousey as a top pound-for-pound athlete in the sport, regardless of gender.”

Top Photo: Ronda Rousey (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.