The MMA Corner Fighter Rankings: May 2013 Brian McKenna June 1, 2013 Fighter Rankings 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 Cain Velasquez (1) "Cigano" knocked out Mark Hunt with his spinning back kick, earning another title shot along with it (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Junior dos Santos (3) Daniel Cormier (2) Fabricio Werdum (4) Josh Barnett (6) Antonio Silva (5) Alistair Overeem (7) Mark Hunt (8) Roy Nelson (10) Frank Mir (9) At UFC 160, for the second time, Cain Velasquez made short work of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The difference this time was that the heavyweight title was on the line. The first-round TKO by the champion marked the first time that he successfully defended his title, after dropping the first opportunity to do so against Junior dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1. The Brazilian ex-champ also fought on the card, taking down Mark Hunt with a spinning back kick in the final minute of their fight. The Australian fought well in the losing effort, but ultimately could not get it done against “Cigano.” The victory propelled dos Santos to the front of the line at 265 pounds, and a trilogy fight between the former champion and current champ will take place. Returning to the UFC will be Josh Barnett, who was cut from the promotion after testing positive for steroids after his fight at UFC 36. “The Warmaster” already has booked a fight with Frank Mir at UFC 164. In other booking news, Roy Nelson has taken another fight fresh off his victory at UFC 159. “Big Country” will take on Stipe Miocic when the UFC heads to Canada for UFC 161. UFC on Fox Sports 1 1 will host the heavyweight clash between Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne. Writer’s take – Eric Reinert, ranking Junior dos Santos at No. 2: “Dos Santos recaptures second place in my heavyweight rankings after his impressive knockout of Mark Hunt. I was not aware dos Santos knew how to throw kicks, let alone amazing spinning ones that knock out dudes that have developed the reputation of being un-knockout-able. The inevitable rubber match with Velasquez will be very difficult to predict, indeed.” Light Heavyweight Jon Jones (1) Forrest Griffin officially retired after UFC 160. The former champion held a professional record of 19-7 (Dave Mandel/Sherdog) Lyoto Machida (2) Alexander Gustafsson (3) Dan Henderson (4) Glover Teixeira (7) Mauricio Rua (5) Phil Davis (6) Gegard Mousasi (8) Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (9) Rashad Evans (10) For the UFC, May marked the end of an era. The Ultimate Fighter season one champion, former light heavyweight champion and icon for not only the promotion but the sport, Forrest Griffin, officially announced his retirement. Whether you loved him or hated him, you had to appreciate and respect what he was able to accomplish for the sport of mixed martial arts. His TUF finale fight against Stephan Bonnar has been called the most important fight in the history of the promotion, and without that season and that fight, the sport would likely not be as strong as it is today. Glover Teixeira continues to climb the ladder after manhandling James Te Huna at UFC 160. The win marks his fourth promotional victory and boosts his professional record to 21-2, but the problem is that he hasn’t fought anyone that was ranked in the top 10 at the time of the fight. Considering how he has fared in his time inside the Octagon, Teixeira has earned the chance to fight a contender. In June, there are two big light heavyweight fights atop the UFC 161 fight card. The co-main event is a rematch between two Brazilians—Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira—who first fought back in the Pride days. Shogun will look to try to stay relevant after alternating between wins and losses in his last eight fights, whereas “Little Nog” looks to link three victories in a row and make his way towards the top of the food chain. The main event that night is a battle between Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans. Both of these fighters dropped their last fight and put on underwhelming performances. They want to get the nasty taste out of their mouths and look to get back on track with a victory. Bellator’s “Summer Series” kicks off in June, and one of the featured tournaments is a four-man bracket that has Muhammed Lawal squaring off with Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe taking on Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Glover Teixeira at No. 5: “By extending his winning streak to 19, including four straight in the UFC, Teixeira is firmly in the 205-pound title picture.” Middleweight Anderson Silva (1) Vitor won his second straight fight after knocking out Rockhold, and his fourth straight that was fought at middleweight (Alan Oliveira/Sherdog) Vitor Belfort (2) Chris Weidman (3) Yushin Okami (5) Ronaldo Souza (7) Michael Bisping (6) Luke Rockhold (4) Hector Lombard (9) Costa Philippou (10) Mark Munoz (-) Looking to prove his place at the top of the middleweight rankings, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold fell short after getting knocked out by Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 8. The victory marked the second straight knockout for “The Phenom,” who solidified his position directly below champion Anderson Silva. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza won in impressive fashion directly before Belfort’s knockout, when he choked out Chris Camozzi in the first round. Camozzi went into the fight on short notice as an injury replacement for Costa Philippou. Souza has been linked to rumors of a fight against Yushin Okami, and Rockhold is rumored to take on Michael Bisping, who is fresh off his victory over Alan Belcher two months ago. Departing the middleweight rankings for the first time since their creation is Chael Sonnen. The Team Quest fighter had been dropping down the rankings since he announced his move to light heavyweight, and now with his status in somewhat of a limbo, he has officially dropped out. If he does pop up again, look for it to be at 205 pounds, rather than 185. Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Luke Rockhold at No. 8: “Rockhold drops behind Bisping after the knockout loss to Belfort.” Welterweight Georges St-Pierre (1) Mike Pyle (l) edged Rick Story by split decision at UFC 160, making it four victories in a row (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Johny Hendricks (2) Carlos Condit (3) Demian Maia (4) Jake Ellenberger (6) Rory MacDonald (5) Ben Askren (7) Martin Kampmann (8) Jon Fitch (9) Nick Diaz (10) May and June are dormant months for the welterweight division. Back in March, UFC 158 showcased big welterweight fights, which has led to an aftermath where the division is less active than normal. Both months fail to have a fighter that is ranked in the top 10 see action in their respective promotions, but it has been revealed that the Bellator welterweight title will be on the line on the last day in July, when Ben Askren defends his belt against season-seven champion Andrey Koreshkov. Former UFC title contender Nick Diaz has been making the news, but not as a fighter. He has been working as a fight promoter, starting his own MMA promotion, War MMA. Whether or not the Stockton native will ever grace the cage again is unknown, but we have all heard him say he is going to retire before, and it never stuck. Writer’s take – Josh Davis, ranking Nick Diaz outside the top 10 at No. 11: “I dropped Diaz out of the top 10 only because it looks like he truly is going to retire. If that is the case, then I will remove him from the list completely.” Lightweight Ben Henderson (1) Grant (r) knocked out Maynard at UFC 160 and earned a title shot against Henderson (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Gilbert Melendez (2) Anthony Pettis (4) T.J. Grant (10) Michael Chandler (5) Josh Thomson (8) Gray Maynard (3) Pat Healy (6) Eddie Alvarez (7) Donald Cerrone (-) Although there were not many lightweight fights in May, T.J. Grant knocked out Gray Maynard in the first round of their bout at UFC 160 to earn the next shot at champion Benson Henderson. After going just 3-3 at welterweight, Grant decided to shed the 15 pounds to make 155 and has been a perfect 5-0 at the new weight class. Early speculation leads towards the title fight taking place in Boston at UFC on Fox Sports 1 1, but nothing has been confirmed just yet. Also at UFC 160, Donald Cerrone fought his way back into the top 10 after cruising to a unanimous decision victory over K.J. Noons. When Bellator returns for its “Summer Series” this month, the lightweight title will be on the line when champion Michael Chandler goes up against Dave Jansen. Chandler will look to defend the title for the second time, while improving his record to a perfect 12-0. Speaking of Bellator, it is hard to determine the current status of former Bellator lightweight Eddie Alvarez. The more and more time he spends with his legal battles outside of the cage, the more he will continue to slip in the top 10. Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Eddie Alvarez outside the top ten at No. 11: “Alvarez needs to fight in order to regain a top-10 spot.” Featherweight Jose Aldo (1) UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will officialy defend his title at UFC 163, against Anthony Pettis (TJ De Santis/Sherdog) Chad Mendes (3) Frankie Edgar (4) Pat Curran (2) Tatsuya Kawajiri (5) Ricardo Lamas (6) Chan Sung Jung (7) Cub Swanson (8) Dustin Poirier (9) Daniel Straus (10) The UFC officially announced that the featherweight championship will be on the line at UFC 163, with Jose Aldo defending his title against Anthony Pettis. It will be the first time that “Showtime” has fought at featherweight and also the first time that he has fought in Brazil, where the card takes place. As the UFC 162 card comes together, it has been revealed that Frankie Edgar will take his second fight at featherweight when he battles Charles Oliveira. Two additional main card 145-pound fights take place at the event, with “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung squaring off against Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson battling Dennis Siver. As July creeps closer, these fights will start to receive more hype, but for now we have to stay patient as there are only two featherweight bouts in June, neither of which involve top-10 talent. Writer’s take – Rob Tatum, ranking Nik Lentz at No. 10: “Lentz’s win over Hacran Dias proves that he’s ready for a step up in competition.” Bantamweight Renan Barao (1) After a long layoff, Brian Bowles (l) was knocked out by George Roop at UFC 160 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Dominick Cruz (2) Urijah Faber (3) Michael McDonald (5) Bibiano Fernandes (4) Eddie Wineland (6) Brad Pickett (7) Scott Jorgensen (9) Brian Bowles (8) Eduardo Dantas (10) The original main event at UFC 161 fell through when interim champion Renan Barao had to withdraw from his fight with Eddie Wineland due to an injury. It would have been the second time that the interim title was defended by the Brazilian with Cruz still on the shelf, but now there are currently two injured UFC champions at 135 pounds. It was also announced recently that Wineland has been pulled from the card. Wineland may not even remain as the No. 1 contender, depending on how things fall. One interesting possibility would be for Wineland to fight Urijah Faber again. The two first met at UFC 128, where “The California Kid” defeated Wineland in a close match-up. The promotion could pit the two against each other again to determine a challenger for Barao’s belt. Bibiano Fernandes fought and defeated Koetsu Okazaki at ONE FC 9 on Friday for ONE FC’s interim bantamweight title, but the ranking tabulation deadline fell before the ONE FC event, so it is possible that Fernandes will see a slight uptick in the rankings next month. Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Iuri Alcantara at No. 10: “Alcantara posted a solid victory over an out-sized opponent, but now he needs some established top-10 names as opponents.” Flyweight Demetrious Johnson (1) "Formiga" (top) earned his first victory in the UFC at UFC on FX 8 (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog) Joseph Benavidez (2) John Dodson (3) Jussier da Silva (5) Ian McCall (4) Darrell Montague (6) Mamoru Yamaguchi (7) John Moraga (8) Louis Gaudinot (10) Yasuhiro Urushitani (9) There were only two flyweight match-ups in the UFC during the month of May, but they were both key fights, despite being on the preliminary portion of the event. Jussier “Formiga” da Silva earned his first UFC victory when he bested Chris Cariaso. Formiga had come into the promotion as a top prospect, but the hype train was quickly derailed after he was knocked out by John Dodson in his UFC debut. The victory puts him back on the right track. John Lineker knocked out Azamat Gashimov in the second round of their fight, earning him two straight victories. Considering how new the division still is to the UFC, these victories were key as far as placement within the division. Also in May, it was revealed that the scheduled fight between Demetrious Johnson and John Moraga has officially been rescheduled as the main event for UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle, which takes place in late July. Meanwhile, outside of the UFC there was one key fight on Friday’s ONE FC 9 card that fell after this month’s rankings tabulation deadline that could impact next month’s rankings. In that contest, Yasuhiro Urushitani eked out a controversial split decision victory over Rey Docyogen. Writer’s take – Brian McKenna, ranking Jussier da Silva at No. 6: “A win is a win, and it is a step in the right direction for Formiga.” Pound-For-Pound Anderson Silva (1) It will take more than Velasquez beating "Bigfoot" for a second time to shoot himself up the pound-for-pound rankings (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Jon Jones (2) Georges St-Pierre (3) Jose Aldo (4) Ben Henderson (5) Cain Velasquez (7) Demetrious Johnson (6) Renan Barao (8) Ronda Rousey (9) Dan Henderson (10) Although Cain Velasquez showed the world that he is the clear king of the heavyweight division due to his recent performances, he still has some work to do in the pound-for-pound rankings. The heavyweight champion sits outside of the top five, and considering the company of the top five, it is going to be a difficult nut to crack. All of the fighters above Velasquez have defended their championships at least four times, which leaves him behind the rest of the pack. At this rate, it would take one of the top-five fighters losing a fight to move him up higher, but that is out of his control. At the end of the day, though, Velasquez is in good company with the names that surround him. Writer’s take – Bryan Henderson, ranking Cain Velasquez at No. 7: “It’s hard to move up in the pound-for-pound rankings with those who rank above him. He’ll need to win a few more convincing fights to enter Silva, GSP, Jones and Aldo territory.” Top Photo: Cain Velasquez getting his hand raised after his victory at UFC 160 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Denny p4p baffles me. If it’s accomplishment (which it shouldn’t be) then why Benson so high when he hasn’t separated himself and if it’s “if they were the same size”, how are Aldo, Barao, and Mighty Mouse so low.