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)

    Stipe Miocic solidfied his place in the top 10 with his victory over Gabriel Gonzaga (Esther Linn/MMA Fighting)

    Stipe Miocic solidified his place in the top 10 with his victory over Gabriel Gonzaga (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)

After a big year in 2013 for mixed martial arts, the sport started out to a relatively slow 2014. Although the UFC held three events, none of them were pay-per-views. The pay-per-view events normally carry bigger star power and have a larger impact on the rankings. The lone ranked heavyweight fighter that saw action was Stipe Miocic, who defeated Gabriel Gonzaga by unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 10. The first round was competitive, but the second and third rounds easily went to Miocic, who solidified his position in the top 10. He is 6-1 in the UFC and 11-1 in his career, and he has done what he can to earn fights against top-10 opponents, rather than against fighters who linger outside the rankings. The UFC isn’t coming out and saying it, but the match-up this weekend between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem could be a “loser goes home” fight, where the loser gets cut from the promotion. Overeem hasn’t lived up to expectations since being signed, and Frank Mir has been a shell of his former self in recent fights. Bellator has announced its 10th season of action. Bellator 111 will host the opening round of the promotion’s heavyweight tournament. In the field of eight, the two most significant names are former champion Alexander Volkov and UFC and Strikeforce veteran Lavar Johnson. The 10th season of Bellator kicks off in late February.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Stipe Miocic at No. 8: “Another strong performance from Miocic, who is quietly moving his way into title talk.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    Daniel Cormier is set to make his light heavyweight debut at UFC 170 (Esther Linn/MMA Fighting)

    Daniel Cormier is set to make his light heavyweight debut at UFC 170 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

  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)

Like the heavyweight division, the light heavyweight division was mostly dormant in January. Fans seeking to see 205-pound action will have to wait until the end of February for UFC 170 and Bellator 110. At UFC 170, Daniel Cormier will make his divisional debut against former champion Rashad Evans. Cormier has been a dominant heavyweight, but he is leaving the division because his teammate, Cain Velasquez, is the champion. Rather than ease into the the 205-pound weight class, Cormier will jump right into the fire and take on one of the division’s best in Evans. “Suga” has won two straight after losing two straight, and he looks to continue the roll he has been on since he laid an egg against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira last February. On the last day of the month, Bellator kicks off its 10th season. The featured attraction on opening night is the start of the light heavyweight tournament. It is a four-man field, with Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal meeting Mikhail Zayats and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson squaring off against former champion Christian M’Pumbu. Ideally, the promotion would like to see Lawal and Rampage in the tournament finals later in the season. However, more often than not, the top projected fighters do not emerge victorious in these tournament formats.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Jimi Manuwa at No. 8: “Manuwa has been a beast, but faces a real test in Gustafsson soon. I hope it isn’t too much too soon.”
Middleweight
  1. Chris Weidman (1)

    After losing his UFC debut, Luke Rockhold recovered with a first round victory over Costa Philippou (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    After losing his UFC debut, Luke Rockhold recovered with a first-round victory over Costa Philippou (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  2. Vitor Belfort (2)
  3. Anderson Silva (3)
  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)

Luke Rockhold had a tough draw against Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut back in May. Belfort knocked out the former Strikeforce champion in under three minutes, which put Rockhold in a tough spot. Any doubt that anyone had in Rockhold’s skill level may have been vanquished when he dominated Costa Philippou at UFC Fight Night 35. In the end, it was a liver kick that crippled Philippou and gave Rockhold his first victory inside the Octagon. Brad Tavares also took home a victory on the same card. The Ultimate Fighter veteran won his fifth straight fight after taking the decision against Lorenz Larkin. Tavares improved his promotional record to 7-1. Although that record is great, the level of competition he has faced isn’t exactly elite. However, the victory has likely put him in a position to get a top-10 opponent for his next fight. When the Octagon returns to Brazil this February, it will be two of the top-10 185-ers on the docket. Lyoto Machida will square off against Gegard Mousasi, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will meet Francis Carmont. With Anderson Silva out of the title picture for now, it is time for guys like Machida and Jacare to show the UFC brass that they should get an upcoming title shot. The Bellator middleweight title will be on the line in the upcoming month as well. Alexander Shlemenko will defend the belt against Brennan Ward at Bellator 114.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Luke Rockhold at No. 7: “Rockhold is only one fight removed from a devastating loss. He’s going to need to do more to move up the rankings again.”
Welterweight
  1. Johny Hendricks (1)

    Anyone who squares up against "Sponge" needs to beware the leg kick (James Goyder/Sherdog)

    Anyone who squares up against “Sponge” needs to beware the leg kick (James Goyder/Sherdog)

  2. Georges St-Pierre (2)
  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)

After defeating Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce welterweight title, Tarec Saffiedine came into the UFC with big expectations. It took an entire year for him to actually make his Octagon debut, but it paid off—he took out Hyun Gyu Lim by unanimous decision in the promotion’s first-ever trip to Singapore. The victory wasn’t good enough to land him inside the top 10, but he definitely grabbed the attention of those around him as he punished his opponent with leg kicks for the second straight fight. Some may think that leg kicks do not finish fights, but the kicks certainly slow fighters down and reduce their movement. The biggest 170-pound fight slated for February is a match-up been Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia. The two fighters had big winning streaks derailed in their last fights, and both are looking to get back on the winning track at UFC 170. Bellator 112 will serve up the first round of the promotion’s welterweight tournament, and Bellator 117 will crown a new champion. With Ben Askren vacating the title upon his release from the promotion, Douglas Lima and Rick Hawn will battle for the belt.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Tarec Saffiedine at No. 15: “Saffiedine is kicking his way into the top 15. Look for a step up in competition for his next bout.”
Lightweight
  1. Anthony Pettis (1)

    It was another close decision victory for Ben Henderson at UFC on Fox 10 (Esther Linn/Sherdog)

    It was another close decision victory for Ben Henderson at UFC on Fox 10 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

  2. Benson 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. Khabib Nurmagomedov (10)
  10. Rafael dos Anjos (9)

Benson Henderson defeated Josh Thomson in the main event at UFC on Fox 10 by yet another close decision. It was a split verdict, much like the ones Henderson earned against Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez. The former champion appears to be getting by from the skin of his teeth, but he is ultimately getting the victory, which is keeping him ranked as high as he is. It was a difficult loss for Thomson, who broke his right thumb sometime in the early rounds. Thomson was controlling the fight up to that point, having landed several takedowns and controlled his opponent on the ground. “The Punk” was still able to get takedowns after sustaining the broken thumb, but he wasn’t the same fighter. Based on how close he came to defeating the former champ, Thomson doesn’t drop in the rankings. Rafael dos Anjos, on the other hand, does drop a spot, but he has a chance to regain it when he sees action in February. Rustam Khabilov will be his opponent at UFC 170. Khabilov is 3-0 inside the UFC, and he could make a top-10 push with a victory against the Brazilian. Although news is still emerging, it appears as though Bellator will try once again to hold it’s first pay-per-view event. The headlining fight is expected to be the trilogy bout between Michael Chandler and champion Eddie Alvarez. Each fighter has a victory over the other, and the first two bouts were very exciting affairs. Look for Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to announce more information about the fight as the season rolls on.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Josh Thomson at No. 5: “Thomson proved that he is one of the best in the world with his controversial loss to Henderson. I believe he deserves to hold the No. 5 spot.”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    At UFC 169, Jose Aldo will put his title on the line against Ricardo Lamas (Esther Linn/MMA Fighting)

    At UFC 169, Jose Aldo will put his title on the line against Ricardo Lamas (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

On Saturday, it will be Jose Aldo putting his UFC featherweight championship on the line against Ricardo Lamas in the co-main event at UFC 169. The Super Bowl weekend card is normally headlined by some of the best fighters on the UFC’s roster, and Aldo is not only just the best featherweight on the planet, he is one of the best fighters on the planet. He has gone 5-0 in the Octagon and will look to add another notch to the win column against Lamas. Lamas isn’t going to just roll over, though. He has quietly earned his way up the rankings, as he, too, is perfect inside the Octagon through four fights. Lamas made his featherweight debut in his UFC debut, and the weight class appears to be working out just fine for him. Even with Aldo as dominant as he has been, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see Lamas succeed to the point where he emerges victorious on Saturday. In January, we saw the UFC debut of Tatsuya Kawajiri in the promotion’s first trip to Singapore. “Crusher” made short work of Sean Soriano, but it wasn’t as lopsided as many thought it would be. Regardless, Kawajiri looked great in victory and should look to take a fight against a higher-ranked fighter in his next bout. At Bellator 110, the season-ten featherweight tournament will kick off with UFC veteran Diego Nunes and Mike Richmond in the field. The Bellator featherweight title will be on the line when Pat Curran looks to regain his belt against Daniel Straus at Bellator 112.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Tatsuya Kawajiri at No. 3: “‘Crusher’ fought through Octagon jitters to put on a textbook performance in his UFC debut. He needs a top-10 test in his next outing.”
Bantamweight
  1. Renan Barao (1)

    The rematch between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao is set for UFC 169 (Esther Linn/MMA Fighting)

    The rematch between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao is set for UFC 169 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

A fight between Renan Barao and Urijah Faber will again headline a UFC pay-per-view. The first time, it was a fight for the interim bantamweight championship. This time, it will be for Barao’s undisputed bantamweight crown. Dominick Cruz was originally scheduled to unify the title in a fight against Barao, but Cruz is on the shelf again due to injury. The UFC pulled the trigger and stripped him of his title and declaring the Brazilian as the official champion. Cruz’s injury also left a hole on the card, which was filled by “The California Kid.” Faber takes a lot of criticism over the fact that he continues to get title shots even though he has not won a title bout since 2008, but there is no denying him the spot in this fight. He won four fights in 2013, including one against top contender Michael McDonald. Faber’s Team Alpha Male teammate, T.J. Dillashaw, was successful in his January bout against Mike Easton, but failed to move up in the rankings. Eddie Wineland bounced back nicely from a defeat at the hands of Barao to knock out Yves Jabouin. The Bellator 135-pound title will be on the line in March when Eduardo Dantas takes on Rafael Silva at Bellator 111.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking T.J. Dillashaw at No. 10: “The No. 10 spot seems to be a revolving door in these rankings reserved for the fighter who pulls out a big win in that month. It was Dillashaw this month with his destruction of Mike Easton.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    Ali Bagautinov is clinging onto the No. 10 ranking, and is looking to improve it this month (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    Ali Bagautinov is clinging onto the No. 10 ranking and is looking to improve it this month (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

The lone flyweight bout in January to have an impact on the rankings was an UFC contest between John Moraga and Dustin Ortiz. Based on the fact that Moraga won the bout by split decision and still dropped in the rankings shows you that either the staff at The MMA Corner may have scored the fight in favor of Ortiz or they thought Moraga won in unimpressive fashion. Either way, getting the victory is definitely a good thing, but dropping down a spot is not. February isn’t exactly an exciting month for the 125-pounders either. There are only two bouts scheduled in the Octagon. Fortunately, one of them is between ranked fighters in John Lineker and Ali Bagautinov. The other is between Chris Cariaso and Danny Martinez. Both fights take place at UFC 169.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking John Moraga at No. 9: “Barely eking by with a split decision? Yeah, he stays put, rather than moving up in my rankings.”
Pound-For-Pound
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    She is undefeated and has finished all of her opponents, and she is looking to climb the pound-for-pound rankings with a victory over Sarah McMann (Esther Linn/MMA Fighting)

    Rousey is undefeated and has finished all of her opponents, and she is looking to climb the pound-for-pound rankings with a victory over Sara McMann (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

There were no shakeups in the pound-for-pound rankings in January, but with three title fights in the short month of February, we could be looking at a completely different picture come March. Jose Aldo, Renan Barao and Ronda Rousey will look to defend their belts, as well as their spots in the rankings. Ever since the back-to-back losses for Anderson Silva, Jon Jones has been fairly comfortable atop the mountain. However, considering he looked human in his title defense against Alexander Gustafsson, Jones could relinquish top honors should Aldo turn in a dominant performance on Saturday. Barao could move up as well with a victory. He has not lost a fight since 2005, which was when he made his professional debut. Rousey is one of two undefeated fighters on the list. A lot of pundits have labeled her as a one-trick pony, but her performance against Miesha Tate showed off a diverse range of skills. She could move up a slot or two with a victory over Olympic silver medalist wrestler Sara McMann at UFC 170.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Renan Barao at No. 5: “The kid is on a 21-fight winning streak and has not lost a fight in eight years. He deserves this spot.”

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.