Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event shouldn’t be short on action. Justin Gaethje will take on Donald Cerrone in Vancouver, with a stoppage very likely. Gaethje hasn’t had a fight decided by the judges in five years, while 12 of Cerrone’s last 15 fights didn’t go the distance.
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This was the question ESPN’s panel of voters wrestled with, and in the end you might say it came down to a split decision. Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim voted to elevate Nurmagomedov, previously ranked second, to the top spot. Ariel Helwani and Marc Raimondi opted to stick with Jones. So “Bones” and Khabib are tied for No. 1.
Here is the thinking of ESPN’s panelists:
Okamoto: Pound-for-pound rankings are about splitting hairs. You can make a strong case for Nurmagomedov or Jones as No. 1. Both are undefeated — Nurmagomedov officially, Jones unofficially. Nurmagomedov is clearly dominant in one specific area; Jones is the complete package, and actually seems to enjoy beating his opponents in their areas of strength. I have Nurmagomedov at No. 1 because he has a skill set that no one seems to have any idea what to do with, let alone defeat. Jones is coming off a razor-thin decision against Thiago Santos. Both are great, but I feel Nurmagomedov has a slight edge in consistency right now. I know exactly what I’m getting with Nurmagomedov and I know that something has proved, thus far, impossible to beat or even slow down.
Raimondi: Jones is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world for me until he loses. In 21 UFC fights, Jones has never been beaten. The only loss on his record is that ridiculous disqualification against Matt Hamill in 2009. Nurmagomedov is absolutely amazing. But he has two title defenses. Jones has 10.
Helwani: Honestly, I don’t have a great reason why I went with Jones, other than he was No. 1 last month and didn’t lose, so I don’t think it’s right to bump him. There’s no wrong answer here. Nurmagomedov is most certainly deserving, but Jones has been at the top longer, so he gets the nod.
Wagenheim: For me, pound-for-pound rankings come down to who’s most dominant within his or her domain. That’s the only way I can fathom stacking up, say, 125-pound Henry Cejudo alongside Stipe Miocic, a heavyweight champ nearly twice his size. And by that measure, I see Nurmagomedov totally in command every time out, while Jones squeaked by in his last fight and didn’t exactly blow the doors off his previous opponent, either. “Jonny Bones” is an all-time great, but right now my No. 1 is Khabib.
On the women’s side, there also is some movement in the pound-for-pound top 10. In winning the UFC strawweight championship on Aug.31, Zhang Weili knocked off previously No. 4 Jessica Andrade and takes her spot, bumping the Brazilian down the rankings.
(You can find Okamoto’s division-by-division rankings
Note: Rankings were updated Sept. 11. Men’s pound-for-pound rankings
T-1. Jon Jones
Record: 25-1, 1 NC Weight class: Light heavyweight Last: W (SD) Thiago Santos, July 6 Next: TBD
T-1. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Record: 28-0 Weight class: Lightweight Last: W (SUB3) Dustin Poirier, Sept. 7 Next: TBD
3. Henry Cejudo
Record: 15-2 Weight class: Flyweight/bantamweight Last: W (TKO3) Marlon Moraes, June 8 Next: TBD
4. Stipe Miocic
Record: 19-3 Weight class: Heavyweight Last: W (TKO4) Daniel Cormier, Aug. 17 Next: TBD
5. Daniel Cormier
Record: 22-2, 1 NC Weight class: Heavyweight Last: L (TKO4) Stipe Miocic, Aug. 17 Next: TBD
6. Tony Ferguson
Record: 25-3 Weight class: Lightweight Last: W (TKO2) Donald Cerrone, June 8 Next: TBD
7. Demetrious Johnson
Record: 29-3-1 Weight class: Flyweight Last: W (UD) Tatsumitsu Wada, Aug. 2 Next: Oct. 12 vs. Danny Kingad
T-8. Max Holloway
Record: 21-4 Weight class: Featherweight Last: W (UD) Frankie Edgar, July 27 Next: TBD
T-8. Robert Whittaker
Record: 20-4 Weight class: Middleweight Last: W (SD) Yoel Romero, June 9, 2018 Next: Oct. 6 vs. Israel Adesanya
10. Kamaru Usman
Record: 15-1 Weight class: Welterweight Last: W (UD) Tyron Woodley, March 2 Next: TBD
Other fighters receiving votes:
Dustin Poirier and Israel Adesanya.
Robert Whittaker defends his UFC middleweight championship for the first time in 16 months at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne on Oct. 6. Darrian Traynor for Zuffa LLC/Getty Images How our writers voted
Brett Okamoto 1. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2. Jon Jones 3. Henry Cejudo 4. Tony Ferguson 5. Robert Whittaker 6. Stipe Miocic 7. Daniel Cormier 8. Demetrious Johnson 9. Max Holloway 10. Kamaru Usman
Marc Raimondi 1. Jon Jones 2. Khabib Nurmagomedov 3. Daniel Cormier 4. Henry Cejudo 5. Tony Ferguson 6. Stipe Miocic 7. Demetrious Johnson 8. Robert Whittaker 9. Kamaru Usman 10. Max Holloway
Ariel Helwani 1. Jon Jones 2. Khabib Nurmagomedov 3. Henry Cejudo 4. Stipe Miocic 5. Daniel Cormier 6. Tony Ferguson 7. Kamaru Usman 8. Dustin Poirier 9. Max Holloway 10. Israel Adesanya
Jeff Wagenheim 1. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2. Jon Jones 3. Henry Cejudo 4. Stipe Miocic 5. Demetrious Johnson 6. Daniel Cormier 7. Max Holloway 8. Tony Ferguson 9. Dustin Poirier 10. Kamaru Usman
1. Amanda Nunes
Record: 18-4 Weight class: Bantamweight/featherweight Last: W (TKO1) Holly Holm, July 6 Next: Dec. 14 vs. Germaine de Randamie
2. Valentina Shevchenko
Record: 18-3 Weight class: Flyweight Last: W (UD) Liz Carmouche, Aug. 10 Next: TBD
3. Cris Cyborg
Record: 21-2, 1 NC Weight class: Featherweight Last: W (UD) Felicia Spencer, July 27 Next: TBD
4. Zhang Weili
Record: 20-1 Weight class: Strawweight Last: W (TKO1) Jessica Andrade, Aug. 31 Next: TBD
5. Rose Namajunas
Record: 9-4 Weight class: Strawweight Last: L (TKO2) Jessica Andrade, May 11 Next: TBD
6. Jessica Andrade
Record: 20-7 Weight class: Strawweight Last: L (TKO1) Zhang Weili, Aug. 31 Next: TBD
7. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Record: 15-3 Weight class: Flyweight Last: L (UD) Valentina Shevchenko, Dec. 8 Next: Oct. 12 vs. Michelle Waterson
T-8. Germaine de Randamie
Record: 9-3 Weight class: Bantamweight Last: W (TKO1) Aspen Ladd, July 13 Next: Dec. 14 vs. Amanda Nunes
T-8. Tatiana Suarez
Record: 8-0 Weight class: Strawweight Last: W (UD) Nina Ansaroff, June 8 Next: TBD
10. Holly Holm
Record: 12-5 Weight class: Bantamweight Last: L (TKO1) Amanda Nunes, July 6 Next: TBD
Other fighter receiving a vote:
By grabbing the UFC strawweight belt on Aug. 31, Zhang Weili earned a spot in the women’s top 10. Zhe Ji/Getty Images
How our writers voted
Brett Okamoto 1. Amanda Nunes 2. Valentina Shevchenko 3. Cris Cyborg 4. Zhang Weili 5. Jessica Andrade 6. Rose Namajunas 7. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 8. Germaine de Randamie 9. Tatiana Suarez 10. Ketlen Vieira
Marc Raimondi 1. Amanda Nunes 2. Valentina Shevchenko 3. Cris Cyborg 4. Zhang Weili 5. Rose Namajunas 6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 7. Jessica Andrade 8. Tatiana Suarez 9. Germaine de Randamie 10. Holly Holm
Ariel Helwani 1. Amanda Nunes 2. Valentina Shevchenko 3. Cris Cyborg 4. Zhang Weili 5. Jessica Andrade 6. Rose Namajunas 7. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 8. Tatiana Suarez 9. Germaine de Randamie 10. Holly Holm
Jeff Wagenheim 1. Amanda Nunes 2. Cris Cyborg 3. Valentina Shevchenko 4. Zhang Weili 5. Rose Namajunas 6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 7. Jessica Andrade 8. Germaine de Randamie 9. Tatiana Suarez 10. Holly Holm
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