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)

    Mark Hunt is one victory away from a shot at UFC gold (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

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

It was a dormant month in the heavyweight division. However, one volcano managed to explode when Mark Hunt knocked out Stefan Struve in the third round of the co-main event at UFC on Fuel TV 8. The two fighters battled in a great fight, but when it was all said and done, Hunt not only earned the TKO, but he broke “The Skyscraper’s” jaw along the way. Last year after a victory in Japan, fans wanted and pushed for Hunt to replace Alistair Overeem in the main event at UFC 146 against Junior dos Santos when “The Reem” was removed from the card, but it fell through. This year after a victory in Japan, the New Zealander found his way into a fight against “Cigano” at UFC 160. The former UFC heavyweight champion originally had a fight lined up against Overeem, but an injury forced Overeem out of the fight. There are a lot of interesting parallels here, but one way or another, the fans are getting what they wanted to see in the first place, only a year later. In April, Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier will step into the Octagon for the first time against Frank Mir.

Writer’s take – Corey Adams, ranking Mark Hunt at No. 7: “The ‘Super Samoan’ is becoming the master of the walkoff knockout. Now he’ll get a chance to earn a title shot when he battle Junior dos Santos at UFC 160.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    "The Mauler" has something to say about Lyoto Machida getting the next title shot and he'll show it to everyone in April (Ryan O'Leary/Sherdog)

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

The lone 205-pound fight that took place in the Octagon in March was between two fighters who have made a name for themselves at middleweight. Brian Stann was defeated by Wanderlei Silva via knockout in the second round of a brawl for the ages. A lot of people out there didn’t think that “The Axe Murderer” could only win unless the fight turned into a slugfest similar to that of his Pride days, and that is exactly the type of fight that it was. Both fighters clipped one another, but ultimately it was the Brazilian that emerged victorious. As we turn the page to April, the UFC is locked and loaded for light heavyweight action. Alexander Gustafsson welcomes Gegard Mousasi into the Octagon for the first time in the main event at UFC on Fuel TV 9, and Phil Davis fights Vinny Magalhaes on the same night that Jon Jones puts his championship on the line against Chael Sonnen later in the month at UFC 159. That isn’t the only title activity that we’ll see in the world of MMA, as Emanuel Newton defeated Mikhail Zayats in the finals of the Bellator season-eight light heavyweight tournament. The victory will earn Newton a rematch against champion Attila Vegh, this time with the Bellator strap on the line.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Alexander Gustafsson at No. 3: “With Henderson losing and Machida not looking impressive, Gustafsson has a great chance to move into a title fight with an impressive win over Mousasi.”
Middleweight
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    Chris Weidman will battle Anderson Silva for the middleweight title at UFC 162 (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

It had been speculated that Chris Weidman would be the next challenger for Anderson Silva and his UFC middleweight championship, and in March we learned that will indeed be the case this summer at UFC 162. The card is scheduled to take the annual Fourth of July slot, which is sure to fill the night with fireworks. In the meantime, however, Yushin Okami defeated Hector Lombard in what was the featured middleweight fight of March. It was a fight that lived up to the billing, with the two fighting to a close decision. Oddly enough, the two fighters didn’t gain or lose any ground after the fight. What helped Lombard is that the guy underneath him also lost, and what hurt Okami is that he ultimately didn’t get the finish. Bellator will host the finals of its middleweight tournament in April, with Doug Marshall taking on Brett Cooper for the next crack at Alexander Shlemenko. That isn’t the only tournament that will conclude in April, as the newest Ultimate Fighter winner will be crowned. The fights this season have been great, and a new production style for the series has revitalized the ratings. But that isn’t all, as former TUF champion Michael Bisping looks to bounce back from the loss to Vitor Belfort by taking on Alan Belcher in the co-main event at UFC 159.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Yushin Okami at No. 6: “Okami’s decision win over Lombard proves that he’s still a top contender.”
Welterweight
  1. Georges St-Pierre (1)

    GSP wasn't rattled by Nick Diaz as he cruised to a dominant victory over the former Strikeforce champion (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

It was being billed as a grudge match for the ages when Georges St-Pierre put his title on the line against Nick Diaz in March. Not a lot of people thought that Diaz deserved the title shot, but nobody questioned UFC President Dana White on his decision, especially after the champion asked for the fight. GSP welcomed Diaz to Montreal and once again successfully defended his title in a lopsided decision victory. The “Fight of the Night” on that card rightfully went to Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit, who battled in an extremely entertaining fight. Hendricks took home the unanimous decision victory, but Condit fought hard, continuously getting up off his back after he was taken down. The victory was good enough to give Hendricks the next shot at the title, one which he felt he deserved all along. But the fighter who truly put a stamp on the night was Jake Ellenberger, who knocked out Nate Marquardt at the three-minute mark of their fight. “The Juggernaut” has bounced back nicely from a knockout at the hands out Martin Kampmann and is back on the path towards the title. After a busy month for the welterweights, they will wind things down a notch in April.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Georges St-Pierre at No. 1: “GSP’s domination of Nick Diaz was exactly what was expected.”
Lightweight
  1. Ben Henderson (1)

    At UFC on Fox 7, Melendez has the chance to prove that he is the best 155-pounder in the world (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

When the UFC returns to Fox in April, it will be with a fight between the final Strikeforce lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez, and the current UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson, for Henderson’s title. Henderson has looked nearly unbeatable while fighting inside the Octagon, but many believe that “”El Nino” possesses the skill set that can get the job done against the champ. One thing going for Melendez is that his training partner, Nate Diaz, recently fought against “Smooth.” The information that Diaz captured inside the cage in their fight will likely be relayed to his training partner, which could be the edge in the fight that is needed for the challenger. Diaz has a fight on that card as well, against Josh Thomson. Melendez, in the same light, will be able to give information to Diaz about Thomson, as they have faced off in a trilogy. In the final days of Strikeforce, Pat Healy was supposed to take on Melendez, but now he has a fight with Jim Miller at UFC 159. UFC 160, the pay-per-view that follows, will feature two ranked fighters as Gray Maynard returns to face T.J. Grant. Bellator champion Michael Chandler has a new challenger in David Rickels, who defeated Saad Awad in the Bellator season-eight lightweight final late in March. It was a controversial ending to the tournament championship, but the move down to lightweight from welterweight proved to be a smart one for “The Caveman.”

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Gray Maynard at No. 2: “People forget how good Maynard actually is. He still only has one loss on his record, and that was to the former champion.”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    Chad Mendes has been able to stay healthy, his opponents however, have not (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

Probably the biggest story that came out of March in the 145-pound division came in the form of a Facebook post from Chan-Sung Jung. In it, he wrote a letter to welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in reference to his walkout attire at UFC 158. St-Pierre dawned a gi with the Rising Sun logo, which was the catalyst for “The Korean Zombie’s” post. He wrote about how that logo is actually an offensive symbol to many Asian nations, comparing it to that of the Nazi flag that dawns the swastika. Hayabusa, the manufacturer of the gi, released a statement apologizing, not realizing the mistake that had been made. Jung has right to be upset about the situation, but he needs to start focusing for his upcoming fight against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 162. Both fighters bring impressive winning streaks into the cage with them for that fight, where positioning within the division will be on the line. Meanwhile, it is hard for Chad Mendes to keep his position at No. 2 when his opponents keep disappearing (his third straight opponent has suffered an injury). This time, it was Clay Guida that had to step aside, leaving the door open for Darren Elkins. Surprisingly, Pat Curran jumped up two spots to the No. 2 position, just in time for him to defend his Bellator featherweight title for the second time this season, when he takes on Shahbulat Shamhalaev in the final fight of the promotion’s first season on Spike TV.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Frankie Edgar at No. 4: “Even though he lost in February in his 145-pound debut, Edgar proved he is a solid featherweight. He debuts in the top five in my rankings.”
Bantamweight
  1. Renan Barao (1)

    "The California Kid" fought in late February, and will fight again in April (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

After recently defending his interim title, Renan Barao will defend it again in June at UFC 161 against Eddie Wineland. The fact that Barao is scheduled to defend his belt for a second time tells you just how serious the injury to champion Dominick Cruz has been. To put it in perspective, the last time that “The Dominator” fought was when the UFC was broadcasting fights on Versus. Someone who would like to get his hands on “The Dominator” again would be Urijah Faber, who battles Scott Jorgensen in April at The Ultimate Fighter Finale. A victory for “The California Kid” could qualify him for the next interim title shot, provided Cruz doesn’t return to action in the meantime. Two fighters who are looking to put a defeat behind them will meet at UFC on Fuel TV 9 when Brad Pickett takes on Mike Easton. Both fighters would like to avoid the dreaded and dangerous two-fight losing streak within the promotion.

Writer’s take – Eric Reinert, ranking Renan Barao at No. 1: “I’m joining some of my other MMA Corner teammates and ranking Barao ahead of Cruz. Barao has fought (and won) four times since Cruz last entered the Octagon. I say, give him the real belt.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    Joseph Benavidez has the chance to prove that he is clearly the worlds second best flyweight in April (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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

In March, there were no flyweight competitions in the major MMA promotions. In April, there is one scheduled so far. Darren Uyenoyama will take on Joseph Benavidez on the undercard of UFC on Fox 7. Originally, the week prior was scheduled to featured Demetrious Johnson defending his title against John Moraga, but an injury to “Mighty Mouse” has put that fight on hold. Moraga was pulled from the event as well, causing speculation that he will still receive the title shot once the champion finds himself healthy. However, the UFC works in mysterious ways sometimes, and if Benavidez wins his fight, he could take on Moraga for the title shot if Johnson is not healed, or the Team Alpha Male fighter could jump over Moraga and earn a rematch with the champion. Either way, the lone 125-pound fight in April creates a lot of buzz within the division.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Ian McCall at No. 6: “He’s 0-2-1 in his UFC career. Honestly, it is a little surprising that he survived the cuts that were recently made by the promotion.”
Pound-For-Pound
  1. Anderson Silva (1)

    Renan Barao to fill the empy seat that was left behind by Nick Diaz (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

With Nick Diaz losing to Georges St-Pierre, he exited the scene in the pound-for-pound rankings. While “Rush” booted Diaz from the top 10, he didn’t improve on his own ranking. The biggest criticism of the welterweight champion is that he is incapable of winning fights by stoppage, and he didn’t help his cause at UFC 158 when he tallied his sixth straight decision victory. Sure, he was dominant, but the way to climb up the pound-for-pound rankings is based on stoppages. Diaz’s departure opened the door for interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao, which is understandable. Barao has lost just once in his career, and that was in his MMA debut. Since then, he has gone 30-0 with one no-contest, including a 7-0 record with Zuffa-based promotions. Expect the top 10 to be shaken up a bit when April closes its doors, as Jon Jones, Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez will be fighting.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Georges St-Pierre at No. 2: “Whereas Anderson Silva can toy with his opponents and finish them at any moment, GSP still has to grind out wins on the scorecards. Until he can achieve the ability to decide when a fight ends, GSP won’t pass Silva (unless Silva loses, obviously) in my pound-for-pound rankings.”

Top Photo: Georges St-Pierre (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.