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)

    Overeem won, but he needs to be more impressive to climb the rankings (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Overeem won, but he needs to be more impressive to climb the rankings. (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

There was one heavyweight fight that involved a top 10-ranked fighter, and it was Alistair Overeem who hung onto his ranking at the bottom of the list. He easily handled former champion Frank Mir at UFC 169, and while the Dutch fighter dominated in the scorecards, it was clear that he started to coast. The former Strikeforce champion was in serious need of a victory, and one way or another, he left the Octagon victorious for only the second time. The other big action at heavyweight during February happened outside of the division, as Daniel Cormier officially made his move down to light heavyweight. “DC” was considered the consensus No. 2 heavyweight in the world for a while, but after making the move to light heavyweight due to his teammate holding the belt, he left a door wide open within his old home. In April, we could see either Fabricio Werdum or Travis Browne jump to that spot that is currently held by former champion Junior dos Santos. Werdum and Browne square off in the main event of UFC on Fox 11 to see who will get the next shot at Cain Velasquez.

Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Alistair Overeem at No. 9: “Okay, so he beat Frank Mir. Now, can we see him against a fighter who could possibly knock him out? The main thing he needs to prove is that he can overcome a striker, rather than choking. Mir was merely a rebound gift of a fight for him.”
Light Heavyweight
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    Cormier's biggest opponent at UFC 170 turned out to be the scale, and he dominated it (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Cormier’s biggest opponent at UFC 170 turned out to be the scale, and he dominated it. (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

Dropped out of the rankings: Gegard Mousasi (7)

As mentioned in the heavyweight section, Daniel Cormier officially became a 205-pound fighter during February with his debut in the weight class at UFC 170.  Originally, he was scheduled to take on Rashad Evans, but an injury suffered in training has sidelined the former champion for the near future, resulting in a last-minute scramble to find a replacement. Patrick Cummins emerged as the fighter chosen, and it took less than two minutes for Cormier to dispose of the formerly undefeated fighter. Some questioned whether or not the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion would be able to successfully make weight at light heavyweight, but he passed the test with flying colors. It shouldn’t be long before we learn who he fights next. The biggest fight at 205 pounds that will take place in March is between Alexander Gustafsson and Jimi Manuwa. It will be the first time that the Swede has stepped back into the Octagon after losing a close decision at the hands of champion Jon Jones.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Daniel Cormier at No. 4: “While I would’ve preferred to see how he fared against Rashad Evans, Cormier took care of business in his 205-pound debut. He’s likely one more win away from a title shot.”
Middleweight
  1. Chris Weidman (1)

    "The Dragon" will get the title shot at UFC 173 instead of Belfort (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    “The Dragon” will get the title shot at UFC 173 instead of Belfort. (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. Tim Kennedy (9)
  9. Yushin Okami (8)
  10. Alexander Shlemenko (-)

Dropped out of the rankings:  Mark Munoz (10)

There is a major shake-up to the main event at UFC 173. Rather than Vitor Belfort against Chris Weidman for the middleweight championship, it will be a different Brazilian going for the title. Lyoto Machida will take on “The All-American” for the title. Machida has looked nothing but impressive in his first two fights since dropping from light heavyweight, as he easily disposed of Mark Munoz and controlled almost the entire fight against Gegard Mousasi last month. On the other side, Jacare may currently be feeling snubbed. He won on the same night as “The Dragon,” but his competition has not been nearly as steep as Machida’s. What he has done is most likely earned himself a No. 1 contender’s match in the near future, as he has caught the attention of the entire UFC middleweight roster with his performances as of late. The feature fight of the month of March will take place in the Bellator cage, where Alexander Shlemenko will put his title on the line against Brennan Ward at Bellator 114. The Russian fighter successfully defended his title twice last season, defeating Brett Cooper and Doug Marshall.  Ward entered the season-nine tournament as a late replacement, after he was originally supposed to fight on an undercard bout at Bellator 98. When Andreas Spang was removed from the tournament at the last minute, Ward filled in and went on to win the tournament.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Lyoto Machida at No. 4: “With another impressive win, Machida should be next in line for a title shot and he holds the No. 4 spot on my list.”
Welterweight
  1. Johny Hendricks (1)

    MacDonald dug deep and came back to defeat Maia at UFC 170 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    MacDonald dug deep and came back to defeat Maia at UFC 170. (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

There was plenty of welterweight action in February, with more of it along the way in March.  Up-and-down fighter Erick Silva devastated Takenori Sato in their fight at UFC Fight Night 36, and Mike Pyle and Stephen Thompson each finished their opponents on the main card at UFC 170. The feature welterweight fight in February was the showdown between Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia.  In what was a “Fight of the Night” performance, the Brazilian controlled the first round, spending most of it in top position and smothering his Canadian counterpart.  MacDonald was able to turn the momentum in his favor in the second and third rounds, and he was able to take the close decision victory over Maia. The loss caused Maia to drop just a spot, however, based on the strong performance in defeat. On the other hand, because of the fact that MacDonald had yet another tough performance, the Tristar product didn’t move up the rankings any. With the turn of the calendar, we find ourselves closer and closer to having a new UFC welterweight champion, as Johny Hendricks will battle Robbie Lawler for the vacant title. It will be the first time since 2008 that there will be a new UFC champion, as the belt has been around the waist of Georges St-Pierre since then. The co-main event on the evening will see Carlos Condit taking on Tyron Woodley, and with a victory by Condit, he could emerge as the next No. 1 contender.

Writer’s take – Richard Wilcoxon, ranking Johny Hendricks at No. 2: “Hendricks has the chance to move to the No. 1 spot with an impressive win over Lawler in March.”
Lightweight
  1. Anthony Pettis (1)

    Your No. 1 contender for "Showtime's" championship belt: Gilbert Melendez (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    Your No. 1 contender for “Showtime’s” championship belt: Gilbert Melendez. (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  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. Khabib Nurmagomedov (9)
  9. Nate Diaz (8)
  10. Rafael dos Anjos (10)

There was a lot of buzz around the fact that former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez was close to officially becoming a fighter for Bellator, but the UFC was able to come to terms with Melendez, giving him the next title shot at Anthony Pettis. The two will coach opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter 20, which will feature women’s strawweight fighters. Melendez failed at his first attempt to capture UFC gold, losing to then-champion Benson Henderson by split decision. “El Nino” most recently defeated Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in what was the “Fight of the Night.”  Recently, Melendez’s training partner, Nate Diaz, tweeted to UFC President Dana White that he wanted to be released from the promotion.  While the Diaz brothers have always done things their own way, this move came out of nowhere. All things considered, we may have seen the last of The Ultimate Fighter season-five winner and the Diaz brothers inside the Octagon.

Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Gilbert Melendez at No. 2: “Squeeky wheel gets the oil, and Melendez will now get the next shot at Anthony Pettis.”
Featherweight
  1. Jose Aldo (1)

    Aldo's reign of dominance at 145-pounds after he handled Lamas at UFC 169 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Aldo’s reign of dominance continues after he handled Lamas at UFC 169. (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

Jose Aldo successfully defended his UFC featherweight title for the sixth time at UFC 169. His dominant performance improved his promotional record to 6-0, and moved his mark to 14-0 in fights that took place under the Zuffa banner. Ricardo Lamas had been impressive in his run to the title shot, ultimately to get shut down like everyone else by the Brazilian. There were talks of Aldo jumping up to lightweight or Anthony Pettis dropping to featherweight so that the two could battle, but with Melendez getting the title shot at lightweight, it looks like that talk has been squashed for now. In order for Aldo to get his next opponent, it looks like the promotion is either going to have to go back to the well and send a fighter to him that he has already defeated or get promotional newcomer Tatsuya Kawajiri a bigger fight than his upcoming one with Clay Guida. But the loss by Lamas resulted in a clear ripple effect, as our writers ranked him lower as a result of the defeat, changing all but three of the fighters’ rankings in the process. At Bellator 112 in March, there will be a rematch between champion Daniel Straus and former champ Pat Curran. “Paddy Mike” had been rated as high as No. 2 in the rankings prior to his loss to Straus, and he is looking to climb the rankings once again and get his title back.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Ricardo Lamas at No. 6: “Lamas is tough as nails, but he doesn’t have the skill set to dethrone Aldo. He’ll serve as an excellent gatekeeper for the division.”
Bantamweight
  1. Renan Barão (1)

    Barão defeated Faber for the second time, and holds the outright 135-pound championship (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    Barao defeated Faber for the second time and holds the outright 135-pound championship. (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

It was déjà vu all over again when Renan Barão defeated Urijah Faber for a second time. The first time they fought, it was for the interim bantamweight title. This time, it was for Barão’s outright championship, which he was awarded after Dominick Cruz was put on the shelf yet again. That opened up the opportunity for “The California Kid” to get another shot at the Brazilian, but this time around, Barão only needed one round to defeat Faber by TKO. Looking forward to March, Eduardo Dantas will seek to defend his Bellator title at Bellator 111 against Anthony Leone, who gets the fight after an injury to 2013 Summer Series tournament winner Rafael Silva.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Dominick Cruz at No. 2: “When healthy, he was one of the best in the world, but who knows if we will ever see him compete again. For now, though, I will still give him the No. 2 spot.”
Flyweight
  1. Demetrious Johnson (1)

    Makovsky has gone from Bellator bantamweight champion to UFC flyweight contender (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

    Makovsky has gone from Bellator bantamweight champion to UFC flyweight contender. (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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

There were two 125-pound fighters that made a big jump in February. Zach Makovsky and Ali Bagautinov each rose several spots in the flyweight rankings. Makovsky has exploded onto the UFC scene, winning two fights inside the Octagon in three months. He already had a strong reputation when he came into the promotion after he previously held the Bellator bantamweight title. Since dropping to flyweight, Makovsky has gone 4-0 overall. Bagautinov has also caught many eyes, as he, too, is perfect at 3-0 while fighting for the UFC. The Russian took a unanimous decision victory over formerly No. 6-ranked John Lineker, therefore boosting Bagautinov in the rankings. In March, Jussier “Formiga” da Silva will meet Scott Jorgensen in a fight between two fighters who have struggled lately. “Young Guns” has gone a dismal 1-4 over his last five fights, and “Formiga” has gone 1-2 over his last three. Simply put, this could be a loser-goes-home match when the Octagon returns to Brazil at UFC Fight Night 37.

Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Zach Makovsky at No. 5: “Another dominant performance from the former RFA and Bellator champion. He’s likely one more win away from a title shot.”
Pound-For-Pound
  1. Jon Jones (1)

    While Rousey will never officially go up against a male, she has proved that she can definitely hang with the boys (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

    While Rousey will never officially go up against a male, she has proved that she can definitely hang with the boys. (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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

While there was a shake-up in the pound-for-pound rankings, the only fighter that moved up as a result of a victory is also the only female fighter on the list. Ronda Rousey made very short work of undefeated Sara McMann, as a strong knee to the liver against the cage was enough to stop McMann. The fighter taking the biggest hit in the rankings was former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. In what is a results-driven sport, knowing that GSP isn’t going to have a fight anytime soon results in his pound-for-pound decline. It may not be long until we see the Canadian on the outside looking in.

Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Renan Barão at No. 5: “The kid is on a 22-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.