Passing the Guard: MMA Power Rankings January 2016

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By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Music to listen to: Jam On It by NEWCLEUS

Here are my mixed martial arts power rankings for January 2016 along with other thoughts in the sport.

Heavyweight:

  1. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)
  2. Cain Velasquez (13-2)
  3. Alistair Overeem (40-14, 1 NC)
  4. Stipe Miocic (14-2)
  5. Andrei Arlovski (25-11, 1 NC)

Thoughts: Werdum’s dominant win over Velasquez in June 2015 in Mexico for the UFC title makes him the clear choice for the top spot. A strong argument can be made that Werdum has emerged as the best heavyweight in history and outside of Fedor, Big Nog and Bas Rutten (seriously, look up his resume especially in Pancrase), that’s not a ludicrous claim.

Werdum fights Velasquez again this February with the winner possibly facing free agent Overeem who was impressive in a win over Junior Dos Santos late in 2015. Miocic is moving up the ranks after beating Arlovski in the first round of their match earlier this month.

Light Heavyweight:

  1. Jon Jones (21-1)
  2. Daniel Cormier (17-1)
  3. Anthony Johnson (20-5)
  4. Alex Gustafsson (16-4)
  5. Ryan Bader (20-4)

Thoughts: Contemplated taking Jones off the list completely due to his suspension from the UFC, we haven’t seen him fight since January 2015 and he has no scheduled fights. However, I’m using a policy seen other places that won’t eliminate a fighter from the rankings until 16 months of inactivity so the clock is ticking. Jones is the best light heavyweight in the world, possibly the best in history in all weight classes.

Cormier has made his mark with wins over Johnson and Gustafsson in the past year. We’re assuming that Jones returns this year and we can finally see the rematch for the undisputed UFC champion. The rest of the division moves along with Johnson and Bader fighting later this month.

Middleweight:

  1. Luke Rockhold (15-2)
  2. Chris Weidman (13-1)
  3. Yoel Romero (11-1)
  4. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (22-4, 1 NC)
  5. Vitor Belfort (25-11)

Thoughts: For a division that used to lack intrigue and was dominated by Anderson Silva less than three years ago, the middleweights have become interesting as a unit. First, the man who took Silva’s UFC title in Weidman was soundly defeated by Rockhold by fourth-round TKO last month. The plan was probably for Romero, who defeated Souza in a close decision last year, to get first crack at Weidman but literally today news came out of a possible failed drug test for the Cuban wrestler.

We’ll probably have to run back Rockhold.Weidman for a second time or we can see the champ seek revenge on Belfort who holds a victory over Rockhold.

Welterweight:

  1. Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC)
  2. Rory MacDonald (18-3)
  3. Tyron Woodley (14-3)
  4. Carlos Condit (30-9)
  5. Johny Hendricks (17-3)

Thoughts: Tremendous effort earlier this month by Lawler to earn a decision win over Condit earlier this month to retain the UFC title. It was a close fight but I ultimately scored it for Lawler. Having Condit fourth is cruel but I think that Woodley and MacDonald are better fighters at the moment of writing this post. Check back in with me in a few days and I’ll probably have a different opinion. Woodley looks to be next in line to face Lawler which seems fair because its a fresh matchup. I wouldn’t mind seeing MacDonald get another crack at Lawler in a rematch of my 2015 Fight of the Year.

The biggest loser in the top-tier of the division looks to be Hendricks who went from former UFC champion to pulling out of his last scheduled bout against Woodley due to weight cutting issues that ended with a trip to the hospital. Hendricks is still a viable contender for a title shot but I’m reserved on ranking him ahead of the other fighters until I see him in action next month against Stephen Thompson.

Lightweight:

  1. Rafael dos Anjos (25-7)
  2. Anthony Pettis (18-3)
  3. Donald Cerrone (28-7, 1 NC)
  4. Eddie Alvarez (26-4)
  5. Will Brooks (16-1)

Thoughts: RDA was dominant in his UFC title defense against Cerrone last month cementing himself as the top lightweight in the world. He will now defend his title against featherweight champion Conor McGregor in March. There will be plenty of time to analyze the fight but I’m placing RDA as the favorite. He’ll be the bigger fighter and can match McGregor in many areas.

The rest of the division will shake itself out with Pettis and Alvarez fighting in a top-contender battle later this month, Cerrone moving up to welterweight to face Tim Means next month and Brooks, our first Bellator fighter in the rankings, doing work for that promotion.

Featherweight:

  1. Conor McGregor (19-2)
  2. Jose Aldo (25-2)
  3. Frankie Edgar (20-4-1)
  4. Chad Mendes (17-4)
  5. Max Holloway (15-3)

Thoughts: When you defeat Aldo in 14 seconds, that puts you at the top of the division. McGregor’s next step is a move up to lightweight which I don’t like. A division should be cleared out before someone makes a move up and Edgar is a viable contender. However, the UFC is most likely catering to the wishes of the Irishman. McGregor has struggles making featherweight so lightweight should be an easier weight cut. Edgar looks to be waiting in the wind.

Bantamweight:

  1. T.J. Dillashaw (12-2)
  2. Dominick Cruz (20-1)
  3. Renan Barao (33-3, 1 NC)
  4. Urijah Faber (33-8)
  5. Aljamain Sterling (12-0)

Thoughts: Dillashaw and Cruz finally fight this month for the UFC title. I think Cruz is the better fighter but the layoff is a concern and Dillashaw has been sharp lately especially in his wins over Barao. Faber looks at this fight with strong interest because he’s most likely in line for a fight with the winner and his extensive history with both fighters. Sterling is arguably the biggest MMA free agent that no one is talking about.

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