UFC on Fox 7 Results: Top 25 Pound-for-Pound Fighters in the UFC

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2013

UFC on Fox 7 Results: Top 25 Pound-for-Pound Fighters in the UFC

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    The top-to-bottom stacked UFC on Fox 7 event is officially over. A number of top-ranked fighters competed in the event, including folks like Nate Diaz, Daniel Cormier, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and, of course, the two men fighting for lightweight supremacy, Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez.

    It was a downright excellent card that delivered on all pre-fight hype.

    So, with the dust settled, what are the rankings looking like? Who moved up? Who moved down?

    Find out right here!

No. 25: Carlos Condit

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    The former WEC welterweight champion may be coming off two losses, sure. That said, there is no denying his accomplishments over the years in the 170-pound division.

    He owns decision victories over fellow ranked opponents Jake Ellenberger and Nick Diaz. He gave Rory MacDonald his only MMA loss to date. He also holds KOs of very dangerous opponents in Dong Hyun Kim and Dan Hardy.

    That, by the way, is only talking abut his time in the UFC. It doesn't even get into his fights in the WEC or Rumble on the Rock.

    Suffice it to say, Carlos Condit is one of the greatest welterweights of all time. That is not likely to change any time soon.

No. 24: Daniel Cormier

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    His future in the division remains unclear, with the constant talk of him dropping to light heavyweight and challenging Jon Jones in short order. Either way, right now, Daniel Cormier is one of the best heavyweights in the world.

    Even though he has just 12 career fights, he has still beaten three of the 10 best heavyweights in MMA in Antonio Silva, Josh Barnett and, now, Frank Mir with very little effort. All this as an undersized heavyweight in a division dominated by Incredible Hulk-like physiques.

    If he does indeed drop down to 205 pounds, he will end up with a clear path to the title, but there's a major question of how well he will be able to perform after cutting weight (he actually had to pass on the Olympics due to kidney failure from cutting weight).

    Regardless, he ranks among the best wrestlers in the sport, and should be able to compete with anybody, no matter which division he ends up in.

No. 23: Chris Weidman

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    While some might get upset by ranking the middleweight division's top contender this low, the facts are the facts. Chris Weidman has precisely one big win in his MMA career.

    Sure, making Tom Lawlor tap is impressive and taking a decision from Alessio Sakara is by no means easy. That said, putting him higher on this list is difficult to do one simply because he gave Mark Munoz the beating of his life (which, keep in mind, was preceded by an abominably bad fight where he took a split decision from now-welterweight Demian Maia).

    Weidman still makes the cut for this list, but he finds himself behind a few other middleweight title hopefuls. That, however, does not mean that Weidman isn't a legitimate top contender, or that he isn't the most likely fighter of the bunch to beat Anderson Silva.

No. 22: Jake Ellenberger

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    Jake Ellenberger fought former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit in his UFC debut. While he lost by split decision, the simple fact that he could survive against somebody as savvy as Condit is a testament to how great he was.

    That was in 2009, and “The Juggernaut” has only gotten better in the years since.

    Ellenberger is one of the few knockout artists in a division dominated largely by grapplers, and has shown that off against strong opponents like Mike Pyle, Jake Shields and most recently Nate Marquardt, who he knocked out in the first round at UFC 158.

    He is in the thick of the title hunt, and with a match against Rory MacDonald on tap for UFC on Fox 8, he could become the top contender with another big win. 

No. 21: Yushin Okami

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    Yushin Okami has been a top middleweight for many, many years now. Since entering the UFC in 2006, he has clearly been near the top of the pack.

    He currently owns a 13-4 UFC record (29-7 career) and has wins over Alan Belcher (twice), Mike Swick, Evan Tanner, Nate Marquardt, Mark Munoz and Hector Lombard. While most of his wins have come via powerful grappling and almost unavoidable ground and pound, he has been recently demonstrating more advanced striking.

    It's tough to tell whether he will ever end up fighting for the middleweight belt again, given his relative lack of popularity coupled with the lopsided beating he got from Anderson Silva (which was a PPV flop for the long-time middleweight champ).

    Whether or not it happens, watch for the eternal contender to keep beating top middleweights for the indefinite future.

No. 20: Urijah Faber

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    There are precisely three fighters that are legitimately good bantamweights in the UFC right now. Just two of them are actually fighting these days. Urijah Faber is among that lot, and keeps on racking up wins over the poor guys Zuffa trots in front of him.

    While Faber's inability to deliver in title fights has become almost a joking matter, it's impossible to name anybody that has a better shot at beating either UFC bantamweight champ, be it Renan Barao or Dominick Cruz, than Faber.

    Half of this is because the UFC just does not care to actually make the effort to build its bantamweight division through The Ultimate Fighter or free agency. More importantly, the other half is because Urijah Faber is really, really good.

    When you look at the rankings, Faber holds wins over Cruz, Ivan Menjivar, Brian Bowles, Eddie Wineland, Raphael Assuncao and, most recently, Scott Jorgensen. He would be heavily favored (and rightly so) against anybody else on the list.

    That, folks, means that Faber deserves his persistent place in the title picture, and his spot on this list.

No. 19: Lyoto Machida

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    Former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida is only two fights separated from being famously choked out by Jon Jones at UFC 140. Even so, it is hard to deny that he is the top contender in the division at this time.

    After punching Ryan Bader's skull clean out of his head, and out-pointing Dan Henderson with ease, Machida is en route to a title shot once again (but for real this time!) against the winner of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen.

    While he is not being given much of a shot by odds makers, the “karate guy” (as Sonnen has sarcastically labeled him), has elite striking skills and, arguably, the best takedown defense in MMA.

    This makes him a tough matchup for both Jones and Sonnen, as well as basically any other potential challenger in his future.

No. 18: Ricardo Lamas

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    The former fearsome WEC lightweight has been on an absolute tear since dropping to featherweight in 2011. During this time, he has beaten Matt Grice, Cub Swason, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch.

    All four of them are tough challenges for anybody, but Lamas finished three of them, and scored a unanimous 29-28 victory over Hioki.

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is no small feat.

    In a perfect world, that would have been more than enough to earn him a title shot against Jose Aldo. Alas, the UFC opted for the bigger-money fight and pitted the champ against divisional newcomer Anthony Pettis.

    Lamas will face off with fan favorite, and comparably scary featherweight, Chan Sung Jung at UFC 162. That matchup is downright critical to the title picture, and will likely determine the next top contender...unless Gray Maynard drops weight and gets the next title fight.

No. 17: Gilbert Melendez

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    Gilbert Melendez may not have gotten the win over Benson Henderson (or at least, didn't get the win from enough judges). That said, he made all the media that insisted that he was a top lightweight look a lot smarter than the crazed UFC fans that moaned contrarily.

    I, personally, scored the fight 48-47 in favor of the reigning UFC champ, but there is no denying that fans of “Smooth” were biting their nails from start to finish. That on its own is a testament to how solid a fighter Melendez is.

    For those unfamiliar with the Strikeforce champ, he is one of the few genuinely well-rounded fighters in the lightweight division. While he started wrestling at a young age, his MMA career started all the way back at WEC 5 in 2002.

    His 11 years in the sport has made him one of the strongest “MMA wrestlers” around, and it certainly doesn't hurt that he has relatively advanced boxing.

    While he lost to Henderson, he simply has to be regarded as one of the best lightweights in the UFC these days. We'll see where he goes from here, and who he ends up fighting next.

No. 16: Gray Maynard

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    Gray Maynard has been near the top of the heap of the lightweight division for years now. In a division as tightly-packed with talent as 155 pounds, that means that Maynard is a very, very good fighter and a stylistic nightmare for Benson Henderson.

    While Maynard is best known for his trilogy with Frankie Edgar, he still holds wins over a who's who of lightweights from 2006 through 2012. Jim Miller, Rich Clementi, Clay Guida, Roger Huerta, Kenny Florian, Evan Dunham and Nate Diaz are all names that appear on the resume of “The Bully.”

    Unfortunately for Maynard, though, a slew of injuries has kept him from fighting very much over the last two years, fighting just three times from 2011 to today. Even so, Maynard's brutal, blanketing, grounding-and-pounding style coupled with his larger-than-average frame makes him the favorite over almost any lightweight.

    He's slated to face fast-rising lightweight TJ Grant at UFC 160 in a fight that, at least for now, is being labeled a top contender's bout. Whether or not that shakes out, who knows?

    Either way, for now Gray Maynard gets to enjoy being on this list. That totally means something to him, right?

No. 15: Anthony Pettis

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    Frankie Edgar isn't the only division-straddling contender these days. Anthony Pettis is following in his footsteps and is getting, some would say “being gifted”, a shot at the featherweight belt. No matter which side of that debate you fall on, though, there is no denying the fact that Anthony Pettis is an absurdly good mixed martial artist.

    He has deceptively good grappling to complement his phenomenal striking, and has been absolutely stacking bodies of late with his powerful kicking. He is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, that includes knockouts of Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone. Not to mention the fact that he is one of just two people to hold a victory over current lightweight champ Benson Henderson.

    The only problem, though, is Pettis' wrestling defense. His first UFC fight, which derailed the title hopes he held after beating Benson Henderson in the final fight of the WEC, came at the hands of Clay Guida. Guida, though he was undersized and has good-but-not-great wrestling, dominated Anthony Pettis enough to plant a seed of doubt over his game as a whole.

    Even so, as stated, Pettis is slated to fight Jose Aldo this summer. Pettis insists the weight cut to featherweight will be very little trouble, and I'm inclined to believe him. He's a stylistic nightmare for Aldo, so there is actually a solid chance Pettis could walk away with the belt.

    If he does, look for him to enter the top 10 in the near future.

No. 14: Junior Dos Santos

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    Outside the bantamweight division, which presently has an interim champion, there is no clearer a second-best fighter than Junior dos Santos among heavyweights.

    The heavy-handed Brazilian has handily beaten many top 10 fighters, including Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum and even current champion Cain Velasquez. Unfortunately, in his most recent fight, he suffered a woefully lopsided beatdown from Velasquez, which he is hoping to recover from.

    While he was initially slated for a grudge match against newly-minted rival Alistair Overeem, he is now on course to face resurgent K-1 and Pride veteran Mark Hunt at UFC 160. If he beats Hunt, it's hard to imagine dos Santos is more than one more fight separated from a rubber match with the champ.

    Keep a close eye on how that shakes out.

No. 13: Chad Mendes

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    One of the many Team Alpha Male fighters on this list, Chad Mendes is one of the scariest fighters in the UFC's now-stacked featherweight division. That says a lot when we've actually seen some absolutely thrilling finishes in that weight class over the last year.

    Mendes has a near-perfect 13-1 record, and has beaten many top featherweights over the years, including Cub Swanson, Erik Koch and Rani Yahya. His one loss, though, was from a devastating knee delivered by current featherweight champ Jose Aldo.

    Since that fight, he has bounced back emphatically, with three devastating knockouts in a row, most recently his one-punch demolition of Darren Elkins.

    While Joe Rogan was quick to slap Mendes with the “top contender” label, not so fast. As was spelled out on the Ricardo Lamas slide, there is a massive logjam of contenders at featherweight right now.

    Mendes, nonetheless, is still a top featherweight and just generally one of the best fighters in MMA right now.

No. 12: Frankie Edgar

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    Frankie Edgar may find himself sitting in the UFC's official top 10, but this is more than a little perplexing, given the fact he is currently sitting fourth in his division, and has three losses in a row. Yes, I know. The last two fights were super-duper close (I actually scored Edgar the winner in both).

    That said, he was still clearly beaten by Ben Henderson in their first fight, and neither of his two most recent fights are in “robbery” territory. The result is that Edgar should be looked at the same way as any other contender who lost to a champion, rather than the wackiness that Dana White tends to throw around when it comes to “The Answer.”

    With that in mind, though, Edgar still has a knockout victory of Gray Maynard, and two wins over BJ Penn. That is nothing to shrug off.

    Edgar is currently in the middle of a very crowded featherweight title picture that includes Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Chan Sung Jung, Dennis Siver, Cub Swanson and Anthony Pettis.

    He is currently being given a fight that can only be labeled a “tune-up match” against Charles Oliveira (whose biggest wins to date comes over currently unemployed former-TUF winners Jonathan Brookins and Efrain Escudero).

    Assuming he wins that, and given Aldo's likely move to lightweight, Edgar could very easily find himself fighting for a belt yet again by the end of 2013.

No. 11: Joseph Benavidez

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    The Team Alpha Male product was a huge force at bantamweight in the WEC before the UFC rolled out its flyweight division. After knocking out Yasuhiro Urushitani in the UFC's first-ever 125-pound fight, though, he lost a competitive fight to now-champion Demetrious Johnson that he is not too far separated from.

    Nonetheless, Benavidez cemented himself as the second best fighter in the division by taking two rounds in a fight against Ian McCall at UFC 156. With that in mind, there are few potential opponents currently available for Benavidez, which is both a testament to how good Benavidez is, and how shallow the UFC's smallest division is (for now).

    This manifested itself in the form of an on-paper terribly lopsided fight in Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama, which would result in a decisive TKO.

    With only a dozen fighters on the UFC's roster, the options are limited for Benavidez and, really, there are few opponents for him outside a title fight with the winner of Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga.

No. 10: Johny Hendricks

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    Since punching Jon Fitch's face off, Johny Hendricks has been a staple in the welterweight rankings. Now, Hendricks is on a winning streak that includes Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann and, most recently, Carlos Condit.

    Hendricks is the definite No. 2 fighter in, perhaps, the UFC's deepest division, where even guys like former WEC welterweight champion Mike Pyle, uber-prospects Gunnar Nelson and Tyron Woodley, and fearsome ground-and-pounder Dong Hyun Kim find themselves outside the division's top ten. Hendricks has just one guy that can reasonably be slotted ahead of him.

    That one guy, obviously, is welterweight king Georges St-Pierre, who he will face at some point later this year (God willing). St-Pierre is still a big favorite, but Hendricks certainly looks the part of St-Pierre's most dangerous opponent to date.

    Hendricks winds up landing in the top ten of this list thanks to the sheer number of top welterweights he has defeated. Rarely have we seen somebody beat so many top fighters one after another in the way Hendricks has.

No. 9: Demetrious Johnson

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    Demetrious Johnson, the inaugural, and still reigning, flyweight champion is the lowest-ranked fighter currently holding UFC gold on this list. Still, “Mighty Mouse” seems to have a pretty convincing hold on the division right now.

    Johnson has not been especially dominant in any of his fights at flyweight to this point. He fought to a draw against Ian McCall, then earned a close decision victory. He got the nod in a split decision victory over Joseph Benavidez to earn the belt. He was rocked twice by John Dodson.

    Still, he has found ways to win against, essentially, the only three fighters that could realistically beat him. That is enough to keep him ranked next to the other champions on this list.

    His next opponent is likely John Moraga. The two were initially scheduled for last week's TUF 17 Finale, but Johnson had to withdraw from the fight due to an injury, so keep an eye out for when his next fight is.

No. 8: Renan Barao

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    The second of just three bantamweights on this list, Renan Barao is a very good fighter, and he owns one of the lengthiest winning streaks among fighters in major promotions (he is 30-0 (1) in his last 31 fights). That said, he is going to stay definitively behind the other champions on this list for two reasons.

    Above all is the fact that he is not the “true” champion in the bantamweight division. That title belongs to Dominick Cruz. Right or wrong, he will probably be in Cruz's shadow until Cruz either returns and faces Barao, or gets stripped of the belt by the UFC brass.

    Secondly is the lack of legitimate contenders in the UFC's bantamweight division. He has beaten Urijah Faber, which is no small feat. He has beaten Michael McDonald, also an accomplishment. What's next, though?

    On tap is Eddie Wineland, who is good, but is just 2-2 in his last four, losing to Joseph Benavidez and Urijah Faber while beating Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett. Past that, there are very few noteworthy bantamweights with impressive winning streaks, while a huge portion of the greats in the division are fighting outside the UFC.

    That, though, is outside Barao's control. What Barao does have a handle on is being generally great at fighting. He deserves lots of credit for that.

No. 7: Dominick Cruz

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    Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz is already 18 months separated from his last fight, and will almost certainly be two full years removed from beating Demetrious Johnson on UFC on Versus 6. Still, you can't count out “The Dominator.”

    Cruz has beaten just about every fighter to have even a little bit of success under Zuffa at bantamweight over the last few years. This includes Johnson, Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez, Scott Jorgensen, Brian Bowles and Urijah Faber.

    Because of the UFC's staunch refusal to groom new bantamweight talent or sign free agents, very few fighters have surfaced to take the place of the guys on that list who have dropped to flyweight, leaving Cruz as, basically, the last man standing (with the exception, of course, of Barao and Faber).

    If the UFC actually made a legitimate effort to sign hotshot bantamweight free agents Tyson Nam or Bibiano Fernandes, this whole division would look different. Alas, though, Cruz is a shark in a very small, shallow pond. Assuming, of course, he comes back from that knee injury close to how we saw him when he left.

    When he returns, look for him to immediately be pitted against the interim bantamweight champion (as stated, Barao will face off with Eddie Wineland at UFC 161).

No. 6: Jose Aldo

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    The long-time champ Jose Aldo finds himself further down this list than most. That said, being the sixth-best fighter in MMA is still no small thing.

    Aldo has convincingly beaten many solid fighters, and has left very little doubt over the last four years when it comes to the top spot in the featherweight division. In that time, he has dominated former champions like Mike Brown and Urijah Faber, current ranked fighters like Chad Mendes and Cub Swanson and owns wins over elite lightweights Frankie Edgar and Kenny Florian.

    What makes him fall further on this list than usual is the fact that he has looked human in the UFC, compared with the Brazilian-made killing machine we saw in the WEC. He eked out a competitive (some would say controversial) decision over Frankie Edgar, and gassed out against Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick.

    Either way, it is almost a certainty that his upcoming fight with Anthony “Showtime” Pettis will be his last at 145 lbs. If he wins, he will move up to lightweight to challenge for the lightweight belt (as stated early, it will likely be in the possession of either Ben Henderson, TJ Grant or Gray Maynard by then). If he loses, well, there's no real reason for him to stick around in the division he has wanted to leave for years.

No. 5: Benson Henderson

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    While you might be tired of holding your breath every time Bruce Buffer adds a lengthy pause between the words "and" and "still," there's no denying the results of Ben Henderson's fights. He just keeps getting wins over elite talent.

    Some might say that “Smooth” should be labeled as “beatable.” That's the pessimistic way to look at it. Henderson, really, is a guy who plain-and-simple finds ways to win.

    Since joining the UFC, Henderson has absolutely dominated ranked opponents in Jim Miller, Clay Guida, Frankie Edgar (in their first fight) and Nate Diaz. Even before he joined the UFC, he twice beat Donald Cerrone and choked out former WEC champion (and currently resurgent lightweight) Jamie Varner.

    While he is long separated from his last stoppage (when he made Cerrone tap at WEC 48 in 2010), there is no arguing with how he has manhandled legitimately elite fighters. His fight with Gilbert Melendez was quite close, and some are still complaining about his razor-thin victory over Frankie Edgar at UFC 150.

    Even so, there's no denying that Henderson keeps getting wins over some of the best fighters in the world. He is more than deserving of this spot.

No. 4: Cain Velasquez

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    It is very hard to remember the last time a UFC champion was beaten as badly as Junior dos Santos was by Cain Velasquez. That said, not everyone was especially surprised by the way that fight went down.

    Velasquez has heavy hands. We know this from his fights with Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He has fearsome wrestling. We know this from his fights with Cheick Kongo and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.

    His greatest weapon, though, is the downright freakish gas tank he displayed against Junior dos Santos, dominating the champ for five full rounds, and looking like he could go for three more when the bell sounded.

    The champ is set for a not-especially-exciting rematch with “Bigfoot,” who is fresh off his electrifying knockout victory over Alistair Overeem, but not very far removed from getting his skull split by Velasquez's elbow.

    It's hard to imagine the fight being especially competitive, but even looking past that, there seem to be very few heavyweights that provide a legitimate challenge for Velasquez.

    While Velasquez himself lost to dos Santos not all that long ago, he is clearly the odds-on favorite to become the UFC's first-ever dominant heavyweight champion. There seem to be very few legitimate threats to his throne.

No. 3: Jon Jones

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    Coming in at the No. 3 spot is light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. His wild success is something never seen before in the UFC, running through former UFC champions Rashad Evans, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort like they were rank amateurs.

    In a painfully shallow division, Jon Jones has already demolished almost every potential contender, which pressed the UFC into matching him against former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen. While Sonnen's odds are deceptively not horrible, Jones is still a huge favorite.

    Because of Jones' dominance, he could reasonably have been slotted into the second spot. He comes in third just because he is yet to match the lengthy streaks of our top two guys.

No. 2: Georges St-Pierre

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    Georges St-Pierre found himself behind Jon Jones on a lot of these lists after a year and a half out of the cage. He returned to action by besting Carlos Condit in convincing fashion, and he demolished Nick Diaz last month.

    St-Pierre seems as strong as ever and because of that, he finds himself securely cemented into the No. 2 spot on this list.

    The only way he could move down from this spot would be losing to his next opponent, No. 12 Johny Hendricks. The only way he could move up would be if the much-hyped superfight with Anderson Silva came and went with the Canadian being the victor.

    Either way, GSP is in a spot almost any other fighter would love to be in.

No. 1: Anderson Silva

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    This really needs very little explanation.

    Anderson Silva has almost effortlessly dispatched every middleweight contender in his path en route to breaking essentially every record in UFC history. He has the longest winning streak, longest championship reign, most title defenses, and is tied with Joe Lauzon for most Fight Night Bonuses in a UFC career.

    The result of that unprecedented dominance is unanimous placement atop every MMA pound for pound list. This one is no different, and I'm sure that surprises very few.