Last Saturday’s Bantamweight title fight between Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz highlighted some of the UFC's bright new talent.
With the acquisition of Strikeforce and the addition of the featherweight and Bantamweight divisions, the UFC’s depth of talent is at an all-time high.
The organization features seven weight divisions with quality contenders in each. Finding criteria to separate some of the top in the sport is no easy task, but here are some things to consider:
- Current win streak
- Quality of competition
- Number of stoppages
- Overall fight resume
- How they might fare in other weight classes
Here is a list of the top 10 pound for pound fighters in the UFC.
Incidentally, fighters who are not under contract with the UFC or fight under the Strikeforce banner are not included in this list.
1. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson: After two straight lackluster decision victories over Lyoto Machida and Matt Hamill, “Rampage” looks to have lost a step. He can prove the doubters wrong with a victory over Jon Jones in September.
2. Carlos Condit: He’s won four in a row and has three straight stoppages. His last two have earned him “Knockout of the Night.” Condit will most likely need one or two more victories before he is given a title shot.
3. Phil Davis: He’s won all five of his UFC fights and is 9-0 in his career. He used his wrestling to control and defeat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in March. Davis has a chance to vault to the top of the UFC Light Heavyweight division with a victory over Rashad Evans at UFC 133.
4. Clay Guida: He’s won four straight and in June, he convincingly defeated the last WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis. Guida is among a handful of lightweights in contention for a shot at the title.
5. Michael Bisping: He’s won his last three and could see a boost in popularity as he makes his second appearance as a head coach on The Ultimate Fighter. After filming of the show is complete, Bisping is scheduled to face Jason “Mayhem” Miller in December.
6. Jim Miller: He’s won his last seven fights and nine of 10 in the UFC. Miller’s only two professional losses came to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Miller faces off with Ben Henderson at UFC Live next month. A victory there and he will be in the conversation for a shot at the UFC Lightweight title and redemption against either Edgar or Maynard.
7. Joseph Benavidez: Benavidez is one of the best Bantamweights in the world. His career record is 14-2, and he won his UFC debut over Ian Loveland in March. Unfortunately for Benavidez, he might be the second-best Bantamweight on his team, behind Urijah Faber. He’s already dropped two fights to current UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Benavidez’s next fight takes place at UFC Live against Eddie Wineland.
8. Rashad Evans: He won his last two fights over Thiago Silva and “Rampage” Jackson, but both those fights were over a year ago. When Evans steps into the cage at UFC 133 to face Phil Davis, he will have been away from action for over 14 months.
9. Forrest Griffin: After back-to-back losses, Griffin responded with back-to-back victories over Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin. Now a rematch almost four years in the making with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua awaits Griffin at UFC 134. Win that, and a “Rubber Match” with Ortiz is likely before year’s end.
10. Chad Mendes: He is a perfect 10-0 in his MMA career and won his UFC debut in February. Mendes will have to avoid a letdown against tough Brazilian Rani Yahya next month. With a victory, he should be next in line for a shot at Jose Aldo’s UFC Featherweight Title.
Titles: UFC Lightweight Champion (current)
Current win streak: 0
Next up: A Lightweight Title rematch with Gray Maynard
The Buzz: Edgar’s UFC record is a superb 8-1-1. Considering the competition he’s faced, the record is even more awe-inspiring. Edgar has been in the “Fight of the Night” four times and holds victories over Sean Sherk, Mark Bocek, Tyson Griffin, Hermes Franca and Matt Veach and two victories over BJ Penn.
Edgar’s lone setback in the UFC was a decision loss to Maynard back in 2008.
In a January rematch, the two fought to a draw. Edgar’s showed extreme heart and composure in the cage that night. After being dropped and badly hurt in the first round, Edgar would take three of the last four rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards to earn a draw with Maynard.
Both Edgar and Maynard are recovering from injuries and should fight again sometime before the end of the year.
Current win streak: 0
Next up: Rematch with Frankie Edgar
The Buzz: Gray Maynard’s UFC resume is an impressive one. “The Bully” uses his aggressive wrestling and striking style to control and punish opponents.
His list of victories includes: Dennis Siver, Jim Miller, Roger Huerta, Nate Diaz, Kenny Florian and current UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar.
Maynard’s last fight was on New Year’s 2011 against Edgar for the UFC Lightweight Championship. After five action-packed rounds, the judges ruled the fight a split draw and Edgar retained the title.
A rematch was scheduled for UFC 130 in May, but both fighters withdrew with injuries. Edgar is cleared to fight and as soon as Maynard gets the green light, they will finally get the chance to settle the score.
Titles: UFC Heavyweight Champion (current)
Current win streak: 9
Next up: First title defense against Junior dos Santos
The Buzz: Velasquez stopped six of his seven opponents on his way to winning the UFC Heavyweight title last October.
For the early part of his UFC career, Velasquez used his wrestling to overwhelm foes before finishing them using ground and pound. Many felt for Velasquez to compete at the elite level his standup would have to improve and has it ever.
Velasquez showed his striking ability when he knocked out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the first round of their February 2010 fight. Velasquez followed that performance up by winning the UFC Heavyweight title via first round TKO over Brock Lesnar in October.
Velasquez was injured in the fight and unable to defend his title right away. His first title defense will come against dos Santos sometime in the fall.
Current win streak: 8
Next up: UFC Heavyweight Title fight vs. Cain Velasquez
The Buzz: Junior dos Santos stormed onto the scene at UFC 90. He needed only 1:21 to dispose of Fabricio Werdum and earned “Knockout of the Night” for his performance.
Dos Santos would stop his next four opponents and earn another “Knockout of the Night” victory.
Last year, he pummeled Roy Nelson in a three-round slugfest. Dos Santos nearly stopped Nelson on more than one occasion.
In June, dos Santos was slated to fight Brock Lesnar in a bout to determine a No. 1 contender. Lesnar was forced to drop out of the fight with illness, and dos Santos instead fought Shane Carwin. Dos Santos battered Carwin for three rounds and was seconds from finishing him in the first round.
Known primarily for his outstanding boxing, dos Santos landed some kicks and even scored two takedowns late in his victory over Carwin.
Dos Santos' next fight will come in the fall. He will put his eight-fight win streak on the line as he tries to take the heavyweight title from undefeated Velasquez.
Current win streak: 0
Next up: TBD recovering from an injury but most likely a rematch with BJ Penn
The Buzz: At UFC 87, Fitch took a beating in a lopsided decision loss to current Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre. It was Fitch’s first loss in the UFC.
Following the defeat to St-Pierre, Fitch won five straight fights and was hoping to earn a rematch with St-Pierre. Instead, UFC matchmakers put him up against Penn. After dropping the first round, Fitch appeared to have stolen the second round and clearly won the third and the fight. However, the judges did not see it that way, and the fight was scored a majority draw.
Fitch is an impressive 13-1-1 in UFC fights, and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to convince the UFC Brass he deserves another title shot.
When Fitch does return from injury later this year, expect a rematch with Penn or a showdown with the red hot Carlos Condit.
Titles: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (current)
Current win streak: 4
Next up: UFC 135 vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
The Buzz: Jon Jones' only career defeat is a knee-slapper, and his run to the top is historic.
Jones became the youngest UFC champion at (23 years and 242 days old) when he stopped Mauricio Rua in their light heavyweight title fight in March.
After winning his first two UFC contests by decision, Jones stopped his next five opponents, three in the first round.
It seems the tougher the competition Jones faces, the better he performs. His creative mix of takedowns, throws, knees and kicks make him a dangerous opponent. His punishing elbows from the ground have maimed more than one of his fellow combatants.
Jones next challenge will be his toughest. He defends his title against Jackson. Jackson possesses the best mix of wrestling and striking Jones has seen thus far. Jones will be the betting favorite and will need to rely on all his strengths to earn the victory.
Titles: UFC Bantamweight Champion (Current)
Current win streak: 9
Next up: Possible Rubber Match with Faber
The Buzz: Dominick Cruz avenged his only career loss with a victory over Urijah Faber at UFC 132. Cruz used effective striking and wrestling to edge out Faber in what may be an early candidate for “Fight of The Year.”
Cruz has won his last nine fights, and at 25, he is one of the UFC’s fast-rising stars.
Cruz uses an unorthodox style to keep his opponents guessing. He is well-rounded and showed in his last fight that he can dish it out as well as take it.
How talented is Cruz? UFC top Bantamweight contenders, Joseph Benavidez and Brian Bowles, have a combined record of 24 victories and three losses (two for Benavidez and one for Bowles.) Cruz is responsible for all three losses.
If Cruz doesn’t fight Faber for a third time later this year, expect a rematch with Bowles, who was also victorious at UFC 132.
Titles: UFC Featherweight Champion (current)
Current win streak: 12
Next up: TBD; Most likely a fight with Kenny Florian in the late Fall
The Buzz: Jose Aldo showed both grit and an iron jaw in his UFC debut against Canadian Mark Hominick.
Despite dominating the early rounds, Aldo appeared to tire and Hominick landed some heavy shots on the champion late in the fight. Aldo survived and successfully defended his title. He and Hominick earned “Fight of The Night” honors for their battle.
Aldo holds the record for consecutive victories in the WEC (8) and his only career loss was six years ago. His striking and Jiu-Jitsu make him a threat anywhere in the cage.
In his two fights prior to entering the octagon, Aldo displayed how complete a fighter he is. He used leg and body kicks to nearly beat Urijah Faber into submission. He followed that up with a vicious second-round KO of Manvel Gamburyan.
Titles: Two-time UFC Welterweight Champion (current)
Current win streak: 9
Next up: UFC 137 vs. Nick Diaz
The Buzz: 16 of St-Pierre's 22 victories have come in the octagon. He is one of the most complete fighters in MMA. His mix of wrestling, striking and submissions keeps every fighter he faces guessing.
Since regaining the title in April of 2008, St-Pierre has been as dominant as ever. He’s earned two “Fight of The Night” awards and run off six-straight title defenses. Not one of them has been close.
St-Pierre cruised to victory over Jake Shields in April, despite badly damaging his eye early in the fight. The loss was Shields' first in his past 16 fights.
Next up, St-Pierre will fight Shields' teammate and current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz in October.
Titles: UFC Middleweight Champion (current)
Current win streak: 14
Next up: UFC 134 v. Yushin Okami
The Buzz: Anderson quickly lay to rest any questions about his downslide with one kick to the face of Vitor Belfort in February.
The Spider is scary good. He currently holds the UFC record for consecutive wins with 13, most consecutive title defenses with eight, and is the company’s longest reigning champion.
Silva’s earned stoppages over UFC veterans Belfort, Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson, Chris Leben and Nate Marquardt.
In fact, only two of Silva’s thirteen UFC opponents have made it to the final bell.
If Silva defeats Okami next month, he will avenge his last loss from more than five years ago.