The MMA landscape is always in flux with promotions putting on fight cards more frequently than ever. Whether it’s the UFC, Bellator MMA or international promotions like ONE FC, 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 writing staff will rank each weight class from heavyweight to flyweight, as well as their pound-for-pound rankings. The staff’s individual rankings will then be compiled to determine each month’s overall rankings for the entire site. See below for this month’s edition of The MMA Corner’s Fighter Rankings.

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

Heavyweight
  1. Cain Velasquez (1)

    For the third time, Cain Velasquez will meet Junior dos Santos in a heavyweight championship fight at UFC 166 (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. Junior dos Santos (2)
  3. Daniel Cormier (3)
  4. Fabricio Werdum (4)
  5. Josh Barnett (5)
  6. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (6)
  7. Travis Browne (7)
  8. Mark Hunt (8)
  9. Stipe Miocic (9)
  10. Alistair Overeem (10)

Without any major heavyweight fights in the month of September, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that there is no change in the rankings. We will more than likely see a shakeup in October, however, as the top three fighters will see action at UFC 166. Champion Cain Velasquez meets Junior dos Santos in the rubber match of their trilogy, while the co-main event sees Daniel Cormier square off with Roy Nelson. There has been speculation that Cormier could make the move to light heavyweight, as the AKA fighter does not want to take on his teammate, Velasquez, but if both dos Santos and “DC” win, it could set up the next title fight. The one thing that is not really being brought up is the chance of “Big Country” knocking off Cormier, and how that could really shake things up. Nelson has been in and out of the rankings recently, and he would likely surface back into the top 10 with a victory at UFC 166. The first card in October for Bellator features the semifinals of the promotion’s heavyweight tournament. A pair of UFC veterans will be featured in the tournament, as Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson face Mark Godbeer and Vinicius Queiroz, respectively.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Alistair Overeem at No. 9: “To say it bluntly, Overeem needs to win his next fight to avoid being released by the UFC.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    Jones defeated Gustafsson by unanimous decision at UFC 165 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

In what may have been the best fight in this history of the UFC, Jon Jones defeated Alexander Gustafsson by unanimous decision in the main event at UFC 165. The Swede pushed Jones to the limit, but ultimately it was the Jackson’s MMA fighter who emerged victorious. A lot of fighters and fans alike thought that “The Mauler” should have had his hand raised and the belt around his waist. The justification is there for Gustafsson to stay ranked at No. 2 despite the defeat. After the fight, there was a chance of an immediate rematch due to the closely contested nature of the fight, but the nod for the next title shot goes to Glover Teixeira, who disposed of Ryan Bader earlier this month. After the victory, Teixeira was told he would get the next title shot. Fortunately for him, the promotion is keeping its word. Reports came out earlier this month that “Bones” vs. Teixeira will likely take place on Super Bowl weekend.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Alexander Gustafsson at No. 2: “Gustafsson proved that height and reach do matter as he frustrated the champion on the feet and could have easily left the cage as the new champion.”
Middleweight
  1. Chris Weidman (1)

    "Jacare" knocked out Okami, and could be closer to a title shot than we had previously believed (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

  2. Anderson Silva (2)
  3. Vitor Belfort (3)
  4. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (4)
  5. Michael Bisping (6)
  6. Luke Rockhold (7)
  7. Yushin Okami (5)
  8. Mark Munoz (8)
  9. Tim Kennedy (-)
  10. Hector Lombard (9)

* Dropped from rankings: Chael Sonnen (10)

It was something we all should have seen coming. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has taken the middleweight division by storm ever since Strikeforce was absorbed into the UFC. His most recent victory over Yushin Okami left the collective jaw of the MMA world on the floor. Entering the fight, Okami had gone 13-4 in the UFC and was stable inside the weight class, but Jacare made short work of the Japanese fighter, knocking him out in less than three minutes. The end result had the Brazilian shoot up the rankings. Meanwhile, Okami received his walking papers from the promotion. Wherever Okami lands, he will more than likely be successful. It will just be odd to see him fight in a cage that isn’t the Octagon. There have also been a couple of shakeups for the 185-pounders within the UFC based off of an injury to Michael Bisping. “The Count” was supposed to square off with Mark Munoz in late October, but an injured eye has taken him out of the fight. Divisional newcomer Lyoto Lyoto Machida has been removed from his fight with Tim Kennedy at UFC: Fight for the Troops 3 and inserted into the bout opposite Munoz. That leaves Kennedy without an opponent. Bellator’s ninth season started off with a bang with not just the first round of the middleweight tournament, but also a 185-pound title fight for the ages. Champion Alexander Shlemenko defeated Brett Cooper by unanimous decision in a back-and-forth slugfest that capped off a great first event of the season for the promotion. The victory was not good enough to allow the Russian to crack the top 10, but with another title defense, it will be hard to keep him on the outside.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at No. 3: “Jacare’s striking is continuing to improve, making him a true threat at the top of the division.”
Welterweight
  1. Georges St-Pierre (1)

    Lima earned another title shot after defeating Saunders for the second time (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

  2. Johny Hendricks (2)
  3. Carlos Condit (3)
  4. Demian Maia (4)
  5. Rory MacDonald (5)
  6. Ben Askren (6)
  7. Jake Ellenberger (7)
  8. Robbie Lawler (8)
  9. Martin Kampmann (9)
  10. Matt Brown (10)

With a quiet month for welterweights in the Octagon, Bellator saw the more significant action in the weight class. A Bellator welterweight tournament championship was awarded in September. For the second time in their careers, Douglas Lima took on Ben Saunders in a Bellator tournament championship. And, for the second time, Lima landed a second-round knockout blow. The win earns Lima the next title shot. The question, however, is who that show will come against. Current promotional champion Ben Askren is up for free agency and may be signing on the dotted line with the UFC. Lima will likely prepare for both Askren and for whoever emerges victorious in this season’s welterweight tournament, which kicked off on the same night that Lima defeated “Killa B.”

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Ben Askren at No. 6: “He may not be pretty to watch, but he is a top-10 fighter until somebody shows they can stop him.”
Lightweight
  1. Anthony Pettis (1)

    Nurmagomedov defeated Healy at UFC 165, and took his seat at the dinner table as well (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

  2. Ben Henderson (2)
  3. Gilbert Melendez (3)
  4. T.J. Grant (4)
  5. Michael Chandler (5)
  6. Josh Thomson (6)
  7. Gray Maynard (8)
  8. Rafael dos Anjos (10)
  9. Eddie Alvarez (9)
  10. Khabib Nurmagomedov (-)

*Dropped from rankings: Pat Healy (7)

With the UFC lightweight title changing hands on the last day of August, we learned in September who will challenge Anthony Pettis for the next title fight. With T.J. Grant still on the sidelines with concussion symptoms, it will be Josh Thomson fighting for the gold strap. After Strikeforce folded and its roster merged with the UFC, Thomson returned to the Octagon and became the first fighter to knock out Nate Diaz. Previously, Thomson had lost by split decision in his trilogy bout with Gilbert Melendez in a razor-close split decision. Considering that Melendez has a date with Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, Thomson was the next logical choice for the title nod. Khabib Nurmagomedov emerged in the top 10. The Russian is currently 5-0 inside the Octagon and holds an overall record of 21-0 as a professional. “The Eagle” was given the tall task of having to take out Pat Healy, and he came out victorious. With the win, he knocked Healy out of the top 10 and snatched up the available seat for himself. In the first round of the season-nine Bellator lightweight tournament, Alexander Sarnavskiy, Ricardo Tirloni, Saad Awad and Will Brooks advanced to the semifinals.

Writer’s take – Corey Adams, ranking Khabib Nurmagomedov at No. 9: “With a win over Healy, Nurmagomedov breaks into the top 10. I expect him to face Rafael dos Anjos next for a chance to move up even further.”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    "Pitbull" took down Nunes with relative ease, and is working his way towards another title shot (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

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

Whereas August was a busy month for the 145-pounders, September was a pretty relaxing one. Only one featherweight contest took place inside the Octagon, and it resided on the preliminary portion of the card. The more important featherweight action took place within the Bellator cage with the kickoff of the season-nine tournament. With champion Pat Curran defending his title at Bellator’s first pay-per-view in November against Daniel Straus, the current tournament fighters have their eyes set on winning the tournament and meeting the victor of that November championship tilt. The biggest splash in the tournament was made by Patricio Freire, who knocked out Diego Nunes in the second minute of their fight. A UFC veteran, Nunes had never been knocked out in his career until the fight with “Pitbull.” Fabricio Guerreiro, Justin Wilcox, Joe Taimanglo and Freire moved to the semifinals, one step closer to the title shot.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Chad Mendes at No. 2: “Please let him rematch Jose Aldo. Please!”
Bantamweight
  1. Renan Barao (1)

    Barao stopped Wineland in the second round of their interim championship bout (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

UFC interim champion Renan Barao became the first fighter to defend an interim championship twice in the promotion’s history when he knocked out Eddie Wineland at UFC 165. The win solidified his spot at the top of the rankings, and has created storylines for what could be a title unification bout against champion Dominick Cruz. “The Dominator” is rapidly approaching the two-year anniversary of his last fight, and the rest of the division is fighting for the opportunity at capturing the outright title. UFC President Dana White has said that if Cruz is unable to defend his title early into 2014 that he would likely be stripped of the belt. With the recent announcement of Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald locking horns at UFC on Fox 9, one would have to figure that the winner of that fight will become the No. 1 contender for whomever has the unified title at the time. In the Bellator cage, the semifinals of the bantamweight tournament took place, and the finals are set. Former featherweight champion Joe Warren will meet Travis Marx at a yet-to-be-named event. The winner of that fight will meet Eduardo Dantas for the title.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Eddie Wineland at No. 6: “Wineland couldn’t match Barao’s athleticism, and he finds himself back in the middle of the pack.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    We will have a rematch of the inaugural flyweight championship when Benavidez gets another shot at Johnson (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

  2. Joseph Benavidez (2)
  3. John Dodson (3)
  4. Ian McCall (4)
  5. Darrell Montague (6)
  6. Jussier “Formiga” da Silva (5)
  7. John Moraga (7)
  8. John Lineker (8)
  9. Jose Maria Tome (10)
  10. Tim Elliott (9)

They say that one of the best characteristics in any leader is to be able to lead by example. Joseph Benavidez never asked anyone for another shot at the flyweight championship, but rather he went out there and proved to the world that he should get another title fight with his performances. Since the loss to Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural 125-pound title, Benavidez has gone a perfect 3-0, which was good enough for the promotion to name him the No. 1 contender. The title will be on the line in the main event at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in November. Making his UFC debut in October will be Darrell Montague. He was a highly sought-after free agent, and Zuffa made a strong move to go out and get him. His first fight in the Octagon will be difficult, as he will meet former title contender John Dodson. John Lineker meets Phil Harris in another major flyweight fight for October that will take place when the UFC returns to England.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Joseph Benavidez at No. 2: “With yet another dominating performance, Benavidez has locked up a chance at revenge against ‘Mighty Mouse.’”
Pound-For-Pound
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    Jones' victory at UFC 165 kept him atop the pound-for-pound rankings (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

  2. Georges St-Pierre (2)
  3. Anderson Silva (3)
  4. Jose Aldo (4)
  5. Demetrious Johnson (5)
  6. Renan Barao (7)
  7. Cain Velasquez (6)
  8. Ronda Rousey (8)
  9. Anthony Pettis (10)
  10. Junior dos Santos (9)

When Anderson Silva lost to Chris Weidman in July, there was a seismic shift in the pound-for-pound rankings. Anderson Silva fell from grace for the first time in what seemed like forever, and others moved up to take his spot. Just two months later, Jon Jones managed to prevent another earthquake from happening when he squeaked out the victory over Alexander Gustafsson. The door was almost open for welterweight Georges St-Pierre to walk through and take the seat at the top of the mountain, but it was slammed shut by “Bones,” who remains at the top. Renan Barao, the other champion who was in action, moved up the rankings by knocking out Eddie Wineland. The win moved Barao up a spot. He is now 8-0 fighting under a Zuffa banner and may finally get his chance to unify his title with champion Dominick Cruz in the near future. In October, No. 7-ranked Cain Velasquez will look to try to make up the ground he lost in the rankings when he hunts for a victory over Junior dos Santos at UFC 166.

Writer’s take – Corey Adams, ranking Jon Jones at No. 1: “Just because Jones was tested doesn’t mean he should move down in the pound-for-pound ranks. He’s still sitting at the top in my eyes.”

Top Photo: Jon Jones (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.