UFC Pound for Pound Fighter Rankings: Jon Jones could reclaim throne with heavyweight transition
If 'Bones' hopes to call himself the P4P best again in the near future, it's time time to leave 205 behind
For all of the knee-jerk reactions as to whether UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has lost a step following three straight decision wins -- including two of the disputed variety -- the answer depends more upon your perspective.
Jones (26-1, 1 NC) rallied to escape a determined Dominick Reyes on Saturday in the main event of UFC 247 in Houston by a unanimous decision that was anything but universally celebrated.
From the standpoint of whether Jones is washed up or no longer elite, the answer is a firm "no" for the fighter who carries the equal blessing and burden of being recognized by many as the sport's G.O.A.T. while still navigating his prime. Any conversation about Jones' performance needs to be quickly hedged by recognizing just how great the 30-year-old Reyes fought in a star-making effort that firmly announced him as elite.
Yet Jones, 32, is decidedly not the same fighter he was throughout a four-year run that created his legend -- spanning from a 2011 destruction of Mauricio Rua that saw him become the youngest champion UFC history to his 2015 win over Daniel Cormier that preceded his first of a record three times being stripped for disciplinary reasons.
While he still maintains championship levels of defense and unique intangibles like chin, fight I.Q. and reach, it's clear how much the elite of the division have caught up with Jones physically just as the mileage of a 12-year career and occasionally wild lifestyle has helped level the playing field. Even though Jones isn't currently facing the same string of legendary names he once did at 205 pounds to open the decade, he doesn't possess the same level of explosiveness -- in striking as well as wrestling -- that once set him apart.
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Jones certainly isn't in any fear of hurting himself or damaging his legacy by staying around longer at light heavyweight. In fact, he turned out to be the fresher fighter late against both Reyes and Thiago Santos in his two most recent fights, and any respected critic will agree that he's no worse than the second or third-best fighter in the world at the moment.
But with years of film on him to study, Jones' new crop of competitors have unquestionably caught up to him ever since he returned in late 2018 from a year-plus USADA suspension. Which brings into question the idea that Jones has never found a more perfect time than right now to execute a plan he has teased in such a passive-aggressive manner for so many years.
Considering Jones has already cleaned out the division at 205 pounds two times over, the time is now to move up to heavyweight on a full-time basis to make the conversation of him being MMA's G.O.A.T., as Jones said before the Reyes fight, "not much of a conversation at all." Jones has the kind of physical frame at 6-foot-4 with a freakish 84.5-inch reach to compete today. Even better, he'll be getting a head start in a division best suited among all in MMA to help ease the burden of aging.
The advantage in speed and athleticism that Jones should have against just about any elite heavyweight will likely be startling. The move should also see a return to the impact of his wrestling game given that most super heavyweights are head-hunting sluggers who lack five-round stamina. Jones also has a level of punch resistance that is quietly legendary, which should quiet fears of the heavier striking coming back at him.
A move to heavyweight could serve as a fountain of youth to Jones in the same way it has for his biggest rival Cormier, not to mention it provides access to much bigger names from the standpoint of making the biggest, most marketable fights possible.
One has to believe that UFC president Dana White would lick his chops at the idea of seeing Jones headline PPVs against the likes of Cormier, Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou, Anthony Johnson, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem and even Brock Lesnar, should opportunities for some or all arise in the near future.
While Jones is the current G.O.A.T. among experts who care about declaring such a designation, lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is right there with Jones in the race for active pound-for-pound king, which is a title Jones could also possibly reclaim by winning a title in a second division.
For CBS Sports' updated divisional rankings,.
Men's pound-for-pound rankings
| 1. Khabib Nurmagomedov||Lightweight champion||28-0||--|
|The mauling grappler from Dagestan, Russia, continues to evolve fresh off a shellacking of Dustin Poirier. The challenges only get stiffer from here atop such a historically-deep division as "The Eagle" prepares for an April showdown with Tony Ferguson that's among the most anticipated in all of combat sports. |
|2. Jon Jones||Light heavyweight champion||26-1 (1 NC)||--|
|Jones survived a massive scare against Dominick Reyes in a February bout at UFC 247 that left critics wondering if the judges had gotten it wrong. The victory helped "Bones" set a new UFC record for most wins in title fights with 14.|
|3. Henry Cejudo||Flyweight/bantamweight champion||15-2||--|
|The cringemaster recently vacated his flyweight title, and will look to start fresh in 2020 after missing the last six months following shoulder surgery. A bevy of 135-pound contenders have piled up in his absence, led by Petr Yan. |
|4. Stipe Miocic||Heavyweight champion||19-3||--|
|Miocic's never-say-die toughness was on full display in rallying to finish Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 to regain his title. Miocic very well may be the greatest heavyweight to ever step foot in the Octagon. DC's interest in a trilogy sets the stage for quite possibly the most important fight in terms of legacies in UFC history.|
|5. Israel Adesanya||Middleweight champion||18-0||--|
|"The Last Stylebender" took a monster step forward in the direction of crossover superstar with his dismantling of Robert Whittaker to unify middleweight titles at UFC 243. The sky is the limit for Adesanya as to whether he can truly become a transcendent figure. Up next is a March title defense against the dangerous Yoel Romero.|
|6. Kamaru Usman||Welterweight champion||16-1||--|
|Usman capped off an impressive year by out-slugging Colby Covington over five brutal rounds to defend his 170-pound title at UFC 245. Up next could be his most marketable opportunity to date should UFC match him with red-hot Jorge Masvidal for all the marbles. |
|7. Alexander Volkanovski||Featherweight champion||21-1||--|
|There's a new sheriff in town at 145 pounds, and he won the title with brilliant efficiency in outpointing Max Holloway in December. Volkanovski's game plan and control of distance was nearly flawless as his victory opens up a new set of fun pairings atop the division. |
|8. Tony Ferguson||Lightweight||19-3-1||--|
|It looks like the fifth time will be the charm for Ferguson in an April fight against lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov. No one is more deserving than "El Cucuy" for a title shot after running off 12 straight wins in the sport's deepest division. |
|9. Daniel Cormier||Heavyweight||22-2 (1 NC)||--|
|Although he'll turn 41 in March, it appears DC has made the decision to come back for one more fight and a possible trilogy against Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight crown. A victory would help DC cement his legacy as the greatest UFC fighter the division has ever known and one of the best overall in history. |
|10. Max Holloway||Featherweight||21-5||--|
|Holloway saw his incredible 14-fight win streak at 145 pounds come to an end at UFC 245 against Alexander Volkanovski. Given his age at 28, it's very likely "Blessed" works his way back into the title picture in due time as he continues to build one of the better resumes of this era.|
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Jorge Masvidal, Conor McGregor, Dominick Reyes, Robert Whittaker, Colby Covington, Dustin Poirier, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero
Women's pound-for-pound rankings
|1. Amanda Nunes||Bantamweight/Featherweight champion||19-4||--|
|The greatest female fighter in UFC history continued to cement her legacy by adding a second win over former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie. What will be difficult moving forward is matching Nunes with quality opponents considering she has cleaned out two divisions.|
|2. Valentina Shevchenko||Flyweight champion||19-3||--|
|The best 125-pound fighter in the world looked unbeatable at UFC 247 in her flyweight title defense against Katllyn Chookagian. The gap between Shevchenko and the rest of the division is so wide, it's very likely her next defining fight comes against a champion below or above her, including a coveted trilogy bout with Nunes. |
|3. Weili Zhang||Strawweight champion||20-1||--|
|Talk about a homecoming. Zhang steamrolled Jessica Andrade at UFC Shenzhen in less than one minute to become the first Chinese-born champion in the promotion's history. Zhang's 20-fight win streak is impressive, as is her blend of striking and intensity. Up next is former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248. |
|4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk||Strawweight||16-3||--|
|Boogie Woman is back! Jedrzejczyk's convincing decision win over Michelle Waterson in October was a forceful reminder that she isn't done yet as a strawweight title contender. A showdown against current champion Zhang for the former 115-pound queen is a can't-miss affair on March 7. |
|5. Germaine de Randamie||Bantamweight||9-3||--|
|As far as moral victories go, "The Iron Lady" scored a resounding one in her decision loss to Amanda Nunes in their UFC 245 rematch. De Randamie earned the respect of Nunes after rocking her twice and nearly submitting her, which forced the women's G.O.A.T. to play it safe by wrestling. |
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Rose Namajunas, Tatiana Suarez, Jessica Andrade, Claudia Gadelha, Aspen Ladd, Marina Rodriguez
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