Aljamain Sterling hasn’t been on the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list despite holding the bantamweight title for more than two years. But after Sterling defeated Henry Cejudo on Saturday at UFC 288 via split decision, it’s high time to change that.
Sterling is on an amazing run, having won his last nine and 11 of his last 12. In that span, he’s had five wins over current or former UFC champions (Petr Yan twice, Cejudo, T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barão) and earned the praise of Cejudo.
“He’s better than I thought,” Cejudo said afterward.
Sterling had been in the 11-15 range on the Yahoo Sports rankings of the world’s best mixed martial artists for the last few years, but it’s time he enters the Top 10. He’s going to do that here, at No. 7.
The issue that I struggled with afterward was what to do with Cejudo and Demetrious Johnson, who each are among the Top 10 best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time.
Starting with Johnson, he was once No. 1 on this list. He dropped his UFC flyweight title to Cejudo by split decision on Aug. 4, 2018 but has since gone 5-1 and become ONE Championship’s flyweight champion (though ONE’s title is at 135 pounds). He was knocked out by Adriano Moraes on April 7, 2021, but came back to defeat Moraes twice, including on Friday in ONE’s U.S. debut.
Cejudo was one of the three best pound-for-pound fighters in the world when he retired in the Octagon after stopping Dominick Cruz on May 9, 2020, in Jacksonville, Florida.
He returned Saturday to fight Sterling at UFC 288 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and though he didn’t seem to be as explosive as he once was, he performed well enough after a three-year layoff that many believed he’d pulled out the victory.
He left open the possibility that he’d fight again, and so the question is, if he did, would he look better than he did against Sterling? The answer has to be a yes. Sitting on the sidelines for three years has to take something out of a fighter, and then coming back against an elite — and highly awkward — opponent like Sterling is difficult.
So I’ve decided that Cejudo belongs in the Top 10 as well despite the loss. That means I’ll have to move two fighters out. So I’m going to insert Sterling in front of former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and have Sterling enter that ranking at No. 7.
To accommodate Cejudo’s entrance, I have to drop two fighters. One is an easy choice. No. 9 Jiří Procházka hasn’t fought in 11 months and will be dropped from the rankings next month because of inactivity. He has nothing scheduled as he recovers from shoulder surgery, so it’s not hard to drop him now.
It’s difficult to drop No. 10 Brandon Moreno, but I think Cejudo is a better and more accomplished fighter at this stage. So Procházka and Moreno are out of the Top 10 and Cejudo enters at No. 10, a spot behind Oliveira.
On the women’s side, No. 6 Cris Cyborg and No. 7 Rose Namajunas are out because of inactivity. Cyborg, the Bellator featherweight champion, hasn’t fought since April 23, 2022. Namajunas hasn’t fought since May 2022 and has no bout scheduled. They’ll be replaced in the rankings by Amanda Lemos and Raquel Pennington.
With that, the complete rankings follow:
Men’s MMA pound-for-pound rankings as of May 8
Jon Jones (27-1), UFC heavyweight champion. Previous Ranking: 1.
Islam Makhachev (24-1), UFC lightweight champion. Previous Ranking: 2.
Alexander Volkanovski (25-2), UFC featherweight champion. Previous Ranking: 3.
Israel Adesanya (24-2), UFC middleweight champion. Previous Ranking: 4.
Leon Edwards (21-3), UFC welterweight champion. Previous Ranking: 5.
Khamzat Chimaev (12-0) UFC welterweight/middleweight contender. Previous Ranking: 6.
Aljamain Sterling (23-3) UFC bantamweight champion. Previous Ranking: NR.
Kamaru Usman (20-3), former UFC welterweight champion. Previous Ranking: 7.
Charles Oliveira (33-9), former UFC lightweight champion. Previous Ranking: 8.
Henry Cejudo (16-3), former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion. Previous Ranking: NR.
Women’s MMA pound-for-pound rankings as of May 8
Amanda Nunes (22-5), UFC bantamweight/featherweight champion. Previous Ranking: 1.
Julianna Peña (12-5), former UFC bantamweight champion. Previous Ranking: 2.
Alexa Grasso (16-3), UFC flyweight champion. Previous Ranking: 3.
Valentina Shevchenko (23-4), former UFC flyweight champion. Previous Ranking: 4.
Zhang Weili (23-3), UFC strawweight champion. Previous Ranking: 5.
Erin Blanchfield (11-1), UFC flyweight contender. Previous Ranking: 8.
Manon Fiorot (10-1), UFC flyweight contender. Previous Ranking: 9.
Taila Santos (19-2), UFC flyweight contender. Previous Ranking: 10.
Amanda Lemos (13-2-1), UFC strawweight contender. Previous Ranking: NR.
Raquel Pennington (15-8), UFC bantamweight contender. Previous Ranking: NR.