Even if he’d lost on March 4 when he fought Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 285 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Jon Jones almost certainly would have climbed back into the Yahoo Sports men’s MMA pound-for-pound rankings.
The only reason Jones wasn’t in prior to Saturday was because of inactivity. He’d been off for 37 months and unless a fighter has a bout scheduled, must fight once every 12 months to remain in the rankings.
The only question was where Jones would land in the Top 10. But after submitting Gane in just 2 minutes, 4 seconds and making it look easy, there is no doubt. Jones rejoined the Top 10 in his familiar No. 1 spot.
His only loss was a disqualification in a fight he was about to win by TKO, and it was an error by the referee at that. His 27 victories have come against elite competition and in extraordinarily dominant fashion.
His return to the rankings creates a unique situation: Each of the top four fighters has spent time at the No. 1 spot in the Yahoo Sports poll. Jones was formerly No. 1 and returns to the top after beating Gane.
Islam Makhachev, the UFC lightweight champion, drops to No. 2 to make way for Jones. Makhachev, though, became No. 1 after being featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski in a great fight in February.
Volkanovski had been No. 1 for six months before sliding down a spot after losing to Makhachev. Volkanovski had ascended to No. 1 after former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman lost to Leon Edwards in August.
On the women’s side, Alexa Grasso not only entered the rankings after stunning Valentina Shevchenko by submitting her with a rear naked choke in the fourth round of their co-main event bout on Saturday, but she enters at No. 3. Beating a dominant champion will do that.
Shevchenko drops from No. 2 to No. 4, with former bantamweight champion Julianna Peña moving up a spot to No. 2 from No. 3 behind double champion and No. 1-ranked Amanda Nunes.
The biggest challenge I had on either side was what to do with Shavkat Rakhmonov, who was unranked but ran his record to 17-0 on Saturday by submitting Geoff Neal with a rear naked choke to win a Fight of the Night battle.
Jones’ entrance into the Top 10 forced one fighter out of the Top 10, but it was difficult to drop two so as to include Rakhmonov. Light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill, who had been No. 10, fell out of the rankings to make way for Jones, and flyweight champion Brandon Moreno dropped from 9 to 10.
I seriously considered Rakhmonov at No. 10 instead of Moreno, but ultimately stuck with Moreno because to this point, he’s faced tougher competition.
Men’s MMA pound-for-pound rankings as of March 7
Jon Jones (27-1), UFC heavyweight champion. Previous Ranking: Unranked.
Islam Makhachev (24-1), UFC lightweight champion. Previous Ranking: 1.
Alexander Volkanovski (25-2), UFC featherweight champion. Previous Ranking: 2.
Kamaru Usman (20-2), former UFC welterweight champion. Previous Ranking: 3.
Leon Edwards (20-3), UFC welterweight champion. Previous Ranking: 4.
Khamzat Chimaev (12-0) UFC welterweight/middleweight contender. Previous Ranking: 5.
Charles Oliveira (33-9), former UFC lightweight champion. Previous Ranking: 6.
Israel Adesanya (23-2), former UFC middleweight champion. Previous Ranking: 7
Jiri Prochazka (29-3), former UFC light heavyweight champion. Previous Ranking: 9
Brandon Moreno (21-6-2), UFC flyweight champion. Previous Ranking: 9.
Women’s MMA pound-for-pound rankings as of March 7
Amanda Nunes (22-5), UFC bantamweight/featherweight champion. Previous Ranking: 1.
Julianna Peña (12-5), former UFC bantamweight champion. Previous Ranking: 3.
Alexa Grasso (16-3), UFC flyweight champion. Previous Ranking: Unranked.
Valentina Shevchenko (23-4), former UFC flyweight champion. Previous Ranking: 2.
Zhang Weili (23-3), UFC strawweight champion. Previous Ranking: 4.
Cris Cyborg (26-2), Bellator featherweight champion. Previous Ranking: 5.
Rose Namajunas (11-5), former UFC strawweight champion. Previous Ranking: 6.
Erin Blanchfield (11-1), UFC flyweight contender. Previous Ranking: 9.
Manon Fiorot (10-1), UFC flyweight contender. Previous Ranking: 8.
Taila Santos (19-2), UFC flyweight contender. Previous Ranking: 10.