is now one of just a handful of MMA fighters who can say he has defeated every man he has ever stepped into the cage with: The 18-1 Cruz lost just once, to Urijah Faber
in 2007, and after beating Faber at UFC 132
, he has avenged his only defeat.
Very, very few fighters have a more impressive resume than Cruz: That 18-1 record is outstanding, avenging the only loss is crucial, and he's not just the bantamweight champion but widely considered to be head and shoulders above everyone else at 135 pounds.
But does that mean Cruz deserves to move up in the pound-for-pound rankings? Find out where I have him below. Top 10 Pound-for-Pound Fighters in MMA
(Number in parentheses is the fighter's rank in the last pound-for-pound list.)
1. Anderson Silva
(1): Like Cruz, Silva will get a chance to avenge a loss in his next fight: Silva takes on Yushin Okami
in August, and Silva's last loss was a disqualification against Okami in 2006. Unlike Cruz, however, Silva won't ever be able to avenge all of his losses: His other three losses came several years ago, and none of those three opponents (Luiz Azeredo
, Daiju Takase
and Ryo Chonan
) has much of a chance of even getting into the UFC
, let alone fight for a UFC title. Those three losses on Silva's record are a reminder that an early setback against a mid-level opponent shouldn't make us write off a young fighter.
2. Georges St. Pierre
(2): At 22-2, St. Pierre has avenged both of the losses in his career, to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. St. Pierre is much like Cruz in that respect, and in the sense that he has beaten the best of the best in his division and done it handily. The difference is that St. Pierre has been doing it longer.
3. Jon Jones
(3): Like Cruz, Jones has one loss on his record, but Jones's loss carries a rather large asterisk, as it came by disqualification when he got a little too carried away with his elbows after pounding Matt Hamill for four minutes. Jones doesn't want to avenge that loss because he doesn't really consider it a loss, and it's hard to blame him. I rank Jones as my No. 3 because he hasn't just been beating opponents, but destroying him: The dominance of Jones's recent fights has been breathtaking.
4. Jose Aldo
(4): The 19-1 Aldo suffered his only loss in 2005, when he was submitted by Luciano Azevedo. That loss has led to some speculation that Aldo might struggle on the ground against a good Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner. Kenny Florian may finally be the person to put that to the test in Aldo's next fight.
5. Dominick Cruz
(5): As impressive as avenging his loss to Faber was, I'm not moving Cruz up in my rankings just yet because we haven't seen Cruz completely destroy a high-level opponent like Silva, St. Pierre, Jones and Aldo have. Cruz has a style that no one seems to be able to figure out right now, but we used to say that about Lyoto Machida, too -- until Shogun Rua figured his style out. The question for Cruz is what kind of Plan B he'll have when someone figures his style out.
6. Frank Edgar
(6): The lightweight champ still has one black mark on his record, namely that he has had two cracks at Gray Maynard and has yet to beat him, with a loss in 2008 and a draw in January. He'll get a third chance some time this year.
7. Gray Maynard
(7): Maynard is officially unbeaten and has avenged his only "unofficial" loss, which came to Nate Diaz during taping of Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter
. He'll have to take the belt from Edgar to overtake him on the pound-for-pound list, though.
8. Cain Velasquez
(8): The heavyweight champion is the only fighter on the Top 10 pound-for-pound list with a perfect record: Velasquez has nine wins in nine pro fights. His toughest challenge to date comes in the fall when he faces ...
9. Junior dos Santos
(NR): I've moved dos Santos into the pound-for-pound Top 10 after his destruction of Shane Carwin. One of the impressive aspects of dos Santos's run through the UFC's heavyweight division is that he's been doing it against bigger opponents. The 239-pound dos Santos has been the smaller man in the Octagon in six of his seven UFC fights.
10. Shogun Rua
(9): The 19-5 Shogun has already avenged his losses to Mark Coleman and Lyoto Machida, and in August he'll get a chance to avenge his loss to Forrest Griffin. A win there would be a big statement from Shogun that he's working toward a shot at avenging his loss to Jones.