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The debate for pound-for-pound king can typically feel like the hierarchy of a royal family. There's the one wearing the crown, and then there's everyone else. 

Jon Jones' prime run at 205 pounds certainly felt that way. As did Khabib Nurmagomedov's recent unbeaten streak at lightweight before abruptly announcing his retirement (despite UFC president Dana White refusing to accept this fact). 

Entering 2021, however, the winds of change are upon us. Jones, who is set to move up to heavyweight later this year, seems to be barely hanging on to his crown following a series of close decision wins which could have gone either way. Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has also benefitted from Nurmagomedov's departure as he sets to move up in weight and challenge for the light heavyweight title with a legitimate argument for best in the sport. 

So, too, does welterweight king Kamaru Usman, who turned in possibly his best performance to date last Saturday in stopping former teammate and red-hot challenger Gilbert Burns for his 17th consecutive win. 

Usman (18-1), who stands at No. 3 on CBS Sports' rankings, wouldn't be out of place at No. 1 on any other top-10 list in the world. A longtime dominant grappler, it's Usman's recent evolution as a striker that has helped him only raise his level of dominance at age 33. 

Not only has Usman never lost inside the Octagon, he has barely been challenged save for a thrilling five-round war against Colby Covington in 2019 which ended via TKO. But the Covington fight, at the time, felt like a bit of an aberration considering the negative reputation Usman started to receive as a somewhat boring fighter who either couldn't finish fights or chose not to take the risk in doing so. 

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Entering UFC 258, Usman had gone the distance in nine of his previous 11 fights. Yet it was the Burns fight which showcased a distinct change in Usman's approach and went a long way in helping him secure just his fourth finish in 13 UFC fights. 

The effect new coach Trevor Wittman had on Usman in just their second camp together was obvious. After Usman showed flashes of new wrinkles when he switched stances and focused on punching to the body in a decision win over Jorge Masvidal last July, UFC 258 marked a full step forward into a new level of striking confidence. 

After Usman bit down on his mouthguard to survive an early barrage of punches from Burns, he reset himself and began to break his former training partner down with stiff jabs that looked more like a weapon than a rangefinder. The punches perfectly set up the improved right hand, which followed as Usman never needed to rely on his dominant wrestling in breaking down such a dangerous foe with strikes. 

It took Usman a long time to gain a title shot back in 2019 after nine straight victories to open his UFC career, and it took him even longer to gain the level of respect that his fighting pedigree deserved. The good news for the "Nigerian Nightmare" is that it's here as he has proven since becoming champion to be one of the mentally strongest fighters in the game today and in the conversation as possibly the best. 

How might Usman officially secure that spot? Continue doing what he has done unceasingly since joining the UFC: just win, and do so dominantly. 

For CBS Sports' updated divisional rankings, click here.

Men's pound-for-pound rankings

Dropped out: None

Just missed: Charles Oliveira, Jan Blachowicz, Robert Whittaker, Brian Ortega, Aljamain Sterling, Francis Ngannou

Women's pound-for-pound rankings

Dropped out: None

Just missed: Jessica Andrade, Germaine de Randamie, Holly Holm, Aspen Ladd, Yan Xiaonan