‘The Last Stylebender’ may be well on his way to the top of these rankings sooner than we thought
It’s Israel Adesanya’s world and we are all just living in it.
At least that’s the feeling that “The Last Stylebender” gave off following a destructive finish of Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in Australia to unify middleweight titles.
It would be difficult to discount everything the brash native of Nigeria has accomplished after such an impressive win, which came just six months after Adesanya walked through hell to outlast Kelvin Gastelum in their interim title bout.
At 30, the former kickboxing phenom has come stepped foot into his absolute prime in a way that suggests we still don’t know what his ceiling is in terms of greatness. And the dynamic style in which Adesanya showed in shifting out of danger and countering clean was reminiscent of former 185-pound champion Anderson Silva.
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Adesanya has the creative gift of gab to become a true worldwide star who has taken the Oceanic region and his adopted home of New Zealand by storm. Now he has the kind of victories to back up the lofty words he has spoken about himself since making his UFC debut only 22 months ago.
With seven UFC wins under his belt in such a short time, Adesanya has taken the promotion by storm in ways very few other fighters have ever done. The path won’t get any easier, of course, with unbeaten slugger Paulo Costa likely up next yet.
Should Adesanya continue winning by striking in such a captivating style while avoiding being taken down in the process, he just might get to the level of stardom where a showdown against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones for potential pound-for-pound supremacy actually would make a ton of sense.
For CBS Sports’ updated divisional rankings, click here.
Men’s pound-for-pound rankings
UFC Power Rankings
|1. Khabib Nurmagomedov||Lightweight champion||28-0||—|
The mauling grappler from Dagestan, Russia, continues to evolve fresh off a shellacking of Dustin Poirier. The challenges will likely only get stiffer from here atop such a historically deep division, but Nurmagomedov’s mental toughness has separated him from the pack just as much as his dominant wrestling.
|2. Jon Jones||Light heavyweight champion||25-1 (1 NC)||—|
|Jones fought for the third time in seven months when he outpointed Thiago Santos in a split decision. From a legacy standpoint, the only thing remaining for Jones to accomplish is a seemingly inevitable move to heavyweight.|
|3. Henry Cejudo||Flyweight/bantamweight champion||15-2||—|
|The cringemaster and two-division champion continues to make more headlines outside the cage by calling out fighters of all genders and weights while recovering from injury. He will eventually return to a deep pool of bantamweights (not to mention Joseph Benavidez at flyweight) who are waiting impatiently for the champ-champ to return.|
|4. Stipe Miocic||Heavyweight champion||19-3||—|
|Miocic’s never-say-die toughness was on full display in rallying to finish Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 to regain his heavyweight championship. Miocic very well may be the greatest heavyweight to ever step foot in the Octagon. DC’s interest in a trilogy fight sets the stage for quite possibly the most important fight in terms of legacies in UFC history.|
|5. Israel Adesanya||Middleweight champion||18-0|
“The Last Stylebender” took a monster step forward in the direction of crossover superstar with his dismantling of Robert Whittaker to unify middleweight titles at UFC 243. The sky is the limit for Adesanya as to whether he can truly become a transcendent figure and appears to have rising star Paulo Costa in his crosshairs next.
|6. Tony Ferguson||Lightweight||19-3-1|
|Ferguson’s dominant stoppage of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 238 was just another reminder as to how dangerous and talented he can be. Riding an insane 12-fight win streak in the sport’s deepest division, it’s time for “El Cucuy” to finally touch gloves with Nurmagomedov for true lightweight supremacy.|
|7. Max Holloway||Featherweight champion||21-4||—|
|Holloway bounced back beautifully from his thrilling loss to Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight crown by returning to featherweight and convincingly outpointing veteran Frankie Edgar at UFC 240. Holloway continues to prove he’s one of the sport’s toughest and most skilled fighters.|
|8. Daniel Cormier||Heavyweight||22-2 (1 NC)||—|
|At 40, Cormier has made the decision to come back for one more fight and wants it to be in a heavyweight title trilogy against Miocic. A victory would help DC cement his legacy as the greatest UFC fighter the division has ever known and one of the best overall in history.|
|9. Kamaru Usman||Welterweight champion||15-1||—|
|Usman backed up every word he spoke by humbling Tyron Woodley over five rounds to commandeer the 170-pound title. A reloaded division won’t make defending the crown an easy task with former interim titleholder Colby Covington getting the first call on Dec. 14.|
|10. Robert Whittaker||Middleweight||20-5|
|Whether it was years of chronic injuries finally catching up with him or simply the fact that he ran into a better fighter, Whittaker was separated from his 185-pound title by the hands of Adesanya. At just 28, it’s a fair bet to assume this won’t be the last time “Bobby Knuckles” competes for the title.|
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Colby Covington, Dustin Poirier, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Tyron Woodley, Conor McGregor
Women’s pound-for-pound rankings
|1. Amanda Nunes||Bantamweight/Featherweight champion||18-4||—|
|If Nunes wasn’t already the greatest female fighter in UFC history, she cemented G.O.A.T. status by knocking out Holly Holm so viciously at UFC 239 in July. Next up is a rematch against former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie at UFC 245.|
|2. Valentina Shevchenko||Flyweight champion||18-3||—|
The best female 125-pound fighter in the world made a quick turnaround following her highlight-reel knockout of Jessica Eye by whitewashing Liz Carmouche in Uruguay. Don’t be surprised if UFC has trouble finding anyone to truly challenge her at this weight class.
|3. Weili Zhang||Strawweight champion||20-1|
Talk about a homecoming. Zhang steamrolled Jessica Andrade at UFC Shenzhen in less than one minute to become the first Chinese-born champion in the promotion’s history. Zhang’s 20-fight win streak is impressive, as is her blend of striking and intensity. If you didn’t know the name before, you sure do now.
|4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk||Strawweight||16-3|
|Boogie Woman is back! Jedrzejczyk’s convincing decision win over Michelle Waterson in October was a forceful reminder that she isn’t done yet as a strawweight title contender. A showdown against current champion Zhang for the former 115-pound queen would be a can’t-miss affair.|
|5. Germaine de Randamie||Bantamweight||9-3||—|
|The former 145-pound champion secured a shot at the bantamweight crown by needing just 16 seconds to dispatch rising prospect Aspen Ladd in July. De Randamie will get a second chance at Nunes in a rematch of their 2013 bout which “The Iron Lady” lost by first-round TKO.|
Dropped out: Cris Cyborg
Just missed: Rose Namajunas, Tatiana Suarez, Jessica Andrade, Ketlen Viera