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 the 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)
    Browne has emerged as a top-5 heavyweight with his victory over the "Warmaster" (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Browne has emerged as a top-five heavyweight with his victory over the “Warmaster” (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

When the dust settled after December came to a close, there were ripple effects from two major bouts that took place in the heavyweight division.  Despite Mark Hunt fighting to a draw against Antonio Silva, the two switched places in the rankings.  The two behemoths went to war for five rounds and didn’t leave anything in the cage.  It was the type of fight that, when it was all said and done, the media would have labeled as one with no losers, whereas usually at the end of the day one of the two warriors gets their hands raised.  On this particular night, neither emerged victorious as the majority draw was announced to the crowd.  The only blip on the radar with this fight came afterwards, when “Bigfoot” tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.  That may have been the major reason behind the two switching places.  The other big fight in the division was a match-up between Travis Browne and Josh Barnett.  The fight didn’t last long, as a big knee followed up by elbows against the cage by the Hawaiian turned the lights out for his opponent in just one minute.  With the victory, Browne emerged into the top five and has earned himself a No. 1 contender fight against Fabricio Werdum in the near future.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Travis Browne at No. 5: “Browne’s awesome KO over Barnett moves him solidly in the top five of the division and puts him in line for a title shot.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)
    "Shogun" nearly decapitated Te Huna in their December bout (Alan Oliveira/Sherdog)

    “Shogun” nearly decapitated Te Huna in their December bout (Alan Oliveira/Sherdog)

  2. Alexander Gustafsson (2)
  3. Glover Teixeira (3)
  4. Phil Davis (4)
  5. Rashad Evans (5)
  6. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (6)
  7. Gegard Mousasi (7)
  8. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (8)
  9. Chael Sonnen (9)
  10. Ryan Bader (10)

After clinging onto their positions on the bottom end of the rankings, both Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Ryan Bader won their respective matches at the beginning of the month.  Bader dominated Anthony Perosh in all three rounds, winning the clear unanimous decision victory. Shogun didn’t take long to land a huge knockout against James Te Huna in the second minute of their fight.  Rua and Bader had been on the wrong end of recent fights that led into these, but the two show that they have a lot of fight left in them and stepped up to the plate in victory.  For anyone excited to see UFC champion Jon Jones battle Brazilian Glover Teixeira, you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.  The fight between the two was pushed back two times in the month of December.  In November, it was declared to be the main event at UFC 170, but then was pushed back to UFC 171, and then subsequently UFC 172.  Anyone interested in attending should consider holding off on buying tickets, because nobody would be surprised if the fight got pushed back once again.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Mauricio Rua at No. 8: “Rua returned to form with a brutal knockout of Te Huna and reminded everyone at 205 that he’s not done yet.”
Middleweight
  1. Chris Weidman (1)
    Weidman (top) checks on Silva after he broke his leg in their main event fight at UFC 168 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Weidman (top) checks on Silva after he broke his leg in their headlining fight at UFC 168 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

The unthinkable happened when former middleweight champion Anderson Silva lost for the second time in his UFC career, as Chris Weidman retained his belt in the main event at UFC 168 when “The Spider” broke his leg after attempting a leg kick in the second round.  The champion perfectly checked the kick, which caused the bone just beneath the Brazilian’s knee to snap, immediately bringing an end to the fight.  Many people have labeled the victory as a fluke, but the technique in how the champion lifted his own leg to defend the kick is what caused the leg to break, making it as meaningful of a victory as ever.  Weidman has knocked off one of the greatest of all time twice in two consecutive fights and now will likely take on Vitor Belfort in his next title defense.  Another middleweight great, Chris Leben, lost on the same night and likely will call it a career. He refused to continue into the second round after getting rattled repeatedly in the first round of his fight with Uriah Hall.  Leben is one of the few remaining cast members from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter that is still fighting in the Octagon.  With no official retirement statement made yet, it is expected now that he has lost in four straight fights.  The lone middleweight fight that involves a top-10 fighter in January will take place between Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Anderson Silva at No. 3: “Even before the injury, Silva was getting dominated. He may never fight again, who knows, but for now the two losses in a row have to bump him behind a surging Belfort.”
Welterweight
  1. Johny Hendricks (2)
    With "GSP" on hiatus, Hendricks has risen to the top of the 170-pound rankings (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    With “GSP” on hiatus, Hendricks has risen to the top of the 170-pound rankings (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. Georges St-Pierre (1)
  3. Carlos Condit (3)
  4. Ben Askren (4)
  5. Robbie Lawler (5)
  6. Rory MacDonald (6)
  7. Jake Ellenberger (7)
  8. Jake Shields (8)
  9. Demian Maia (9)
  10. Matt Brown (10)

For the first time in the history of The MMA Corner’s fighter rankings, Georges St-Pierre has been ousted from his No. 1 ranking atop the welterweight division.  “GSP” came close to dropping out after he narrowly defeated Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, but the announcement of him taking time away from the sport and vacating the title in the process solidified his fall from the top spot.  The votes swayed in the favor of Hendricks, who has been named to take on Robbie Lawler for the vacant title at UFC 171.  Similar to UFC 158, the top three billed fights at UFC 171 will be 170-pound bouts, as the co-main event will feature Carlos Condit taking on Tyron Woodley, and Jake Shields will take on Hector Lombard.  Considering the title has been vacated, a lot of opportunities have emerged. On the same night that a new champion will be announced, there will likely be a No. 1 contendership awarded as well.  The four fighters that are not in the title bout want to win, and win impressively, in an effort to show the company that they deserve the next crack at the title.  The key 170-pound fight this month will take place in the first main event to be broadcast on the UFC’s new digital network. In that contest, the final Strikeforce welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine, will take on Hyun Gyu Lim as the promotion makes its first trip to Singapore.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Robbie Lawler at No. 5: “To think that Robbie Lawler would be this relevant in 2013 is crazy, but it’s great for the sport more than anything else.”
Lightweight
  1. Anthony Pettis (1)
    Miller (bottom) won his UFC 168 fight with this armbar (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Miller (bottom) won his UFC 168 fight with this armbar (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

December wasn’t the loudest month ever for the lightweights. There was not one fight with any of the top-10 ranked fighters.  Jim Miller made an effort to get back in with his first-round armbar victory over Fabricio Camoes at UFC 168, and Joe Lauzon returned to the win column with a dominant victory over Mac Danzig at UFC on Fox 9.  The belt was originally supposed to be on the line between Anthony Pettis and Josh Thomson in January at UFC on Fox 10, but an injury to the champ forced him out. Instead, former champion Ben Henderson will step in to take on “The Punk.”  It will be the first fight for “Smooth” since he lost his championship in August.  A second straight loss would be detrimental to his quest back towards earning a title shot, but it is Thomson with everything to lose.  He earned his title shot, but rather than waiting for the champion to heal, he kept active and took the fight against Henderson.  Expect the winner of this fight to get the next shot at the lightweight title or put themselves in great position within the division.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Eddie Alvarez at No. 7: “Alvarez looked good in his victory over Chandler and proved he is a top-10 lightweight, but can he compete with the big boys?”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)
    "The Diamond" took victory over Diego Brandao at UFC 168 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    “The Diamond” took victory over Diego Brandao at UFC 168 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

*Dropped out of the rankings: Nik Lentz (10)

Ever since Chad Mendes lost his fight against Jose Aldo at UFC 142, he has been doing what he can to earn another chance at the title.  In December, he won his fifth straight fight since losing to the Brazilian, this time disposing of Nik Lentz by way of unanimous decision.  Although nothing has been officially announced, one would have to figure that he is clearly the next in line for the belt and should take on the winner of the title fight between Aldo and Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169.  The big story for the month of January is the UFC debut of Tatsuya Kawajiri.  The Japanese fighter has been one of the top-ranked Asian fighters for what feels like forever, but, for whatever reason, he had never inked a contract with the UFC.  Kawajiri has fought in Pride, Dream, ONE FC and even Strikeforce, but he will make his debut trip into the Octagon this month when the UFC heads to Singapore for the first time in its history.  Because he has been in Asia for so long, not a lot of North American fans have had a chance to see him fight, and this is his chance to introduce himself to the world.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Chad Mendes at No. 2: “Mendes did what he had to against Lentz. He’s clearly the No. 2 featherweight on the planet and will have to bide his time until another title shot.”
Bantamweight
  1. Renan Barao (1)
    Will Faber be the next in line for the bantamweight title? (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    Will Faber be the next in line for the bantamweight title? (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

*Dropping out of the rankings: Scott Jorgensen (10)

As each month goes by, we get closer and closer to the title unification bout between Renan Barao and Dominick Cruz on Super Bowl weekend.  But, in December, it was Urijah Faber making a bid to fight the winner of the newly unified title. Faber submitted Michael McDonald at UFC on Fox 9.  He has often been criticized for his inability to win a title in the UFC in two attempts, but since losing to Barao at UFC 149, he has wiped out the competition en route to winning four straight fights.  Some may say that they don’t want him to get another chance at the title, but he has earned his way back to the top with the victory over the game McDonald.  Two key 135-pound fights to keep an eye on in January are Faber’s teammate T.J. Dillashaw taking on Mike Easton and Alex Caceres squaring off with Sergio Pettis.  Dillashaw emerged back into the rankings with Scott Jorgensen falling out after a move to flyweight. Considering how good the Team Alpha Male fighters have been since Duane Ludwig has taken over, the sky is the limit for Dillashaw.  The undefeated Pettis, meanwhile, won his UFC debut at UFC 167 and will jump back into the action at UFC on Fox 10.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Urijah Faber at No. 2: “Faber edges past Fernandes in my rankings due to strength of competition. Faber certainly is making the case to be next in line for a title shot.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)
    Johnson retained his title for the third straight time (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    Johnson retained his title for the third straight time (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. Joseph Benavidez (2)
  3. John Dodson (3)
  4. Ian McCall (4)
  5. Darrell Montague (5)
  6. John Lineker (7)
  7. Jussier da Silva (6)
  8. John Moraga (8)
  9. Zach Makovsky (-)
  10. Ali Bagautinov (9)

*Dropped out of the rankings: Yasuhiro Urushitani (10)

Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson officially declared his dominance when he knocked out Joseph Benavidez in the first round of their title fight at UFC on Fox 9.  “Mighty Mouse” has often been criticized for his inability to finish fights, but he has closed the door in his last two outings before the fight could be put in the hands of the judges.  In this particular fight, he showed the world that the 125-pounders do have power.  It was the second time that the two fighters battled for the flyweight title, and Johnson walked away from the fight with the belt around his waist both times.  With there being no clear No. 1 contender for the championship, Johnson will be able to rest for now. However, this is where fighters will look to impress and get their name out there.  One fighter who did just that was Zach Makovsky. He defeated Scott Jorgensen by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 9.  The former Bellator bantamweight champion has returned to relevance with his drop to flyweight, and he came up big in his first opportunity inside the Octagon.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Zach Makovsky at No. 5: “Call me crazy, but with a win over a perennial top-10 bantamweight and the state of the flyweight division’s landscape outside the top four, Makovsky immediately jumps to No. 5 in my flyweight rankings.”
Pound-For-Pound
  1. Jon Jones (1)
    With Silva out of the picture, Jones has emerged as the clear pound-for-pound king (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    With Silva out of the picture, Jones has emerged as the clear pound-for-pound king (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

With Georges St-Pierre vacating the welterweight championship while he is on a hiatus from the sport and Anderson Silva losing for the second straight time to Chris Weidman, the pound-for-pound rankings are as fresh as they have ever been.  Jon Jones and Jose Aldo have been longtime champions and at the top of the rankings for quite some time, but now names like Demetrious Johnson and Renan Barao have really emerged.  Johnson has been dominant as the flyweight champion, but don’t forget about his time in the bantamweight division.  His only loss in the UFC came at the hands of Dominick Cruz, where it was clear that “Mighty Mouse” was undersized as a bantamweight.  Barao’s only loss came in the first fight of his career, and he has won 21 straight fights, including being the only fighter to ever defend a UFC interim championship twice.  In February, Barao has a chance to become the outright champion and could potentially climb even higher.  With Weidman defending his title again, he still has not surpassed Silva in the pound-for-pound rankings.  Considering how the Brazilian was the king of the sport from 2006 to 2012, it is understandable for him to remain where he is ranked out of respect to one of the greatest of all time.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Demetrious Johnson at No. 3: “After back-to-back finishes, it’s hard to argue that Johnson isn’t one of the most dominant fighters in the sport.”

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.

  • Jason Schielke

    Am I the only one who thinks Michael Johnson is inching his way into the top 10 in the lightweight division? He’s getting more and more impressive every time I see him fight