At some point during Jon Jones’ fifth UFC title defense (which nearly cost him a big toe) Saturday, a reader posted a great question to the ESPN.com live chat.
“Is it weird,” he wrote, “that I rank Anderson Silva pound-for-pound above Jon Jones, but think he would lose if they fought?”
In a word: yes. That’s weird. It basically goes against the definition of what a pound-for-pound list is.
The list exists because all fighters don’t weigh the same and thus can’t fight each other. A pound-for-pound list (to me anyway) is a way of saying, “OK, if they were all in the same division, this is how they would line up.”
Even weirder then, is that so many agree with the reader. In the latest installment of ESPN.com rankings, five of six staff members voted Silva ahead of Jones pound-for-pound -- yet five of the same six predicted Jones would win if they fought.
Rankings are a guilty pleasure in martial arts. Everyone -- media, fans and fighters -- downplays them as insignificant but is typically aware of who’s where. Even UFC welterweight Nick Diaz, the last person you would envision sitting at a computer looking up rankings, recently referenced Georges St-Pierre’s pound-for-pound mark before they fought.
The case for Silva as pound-for-pound champ looks like this: He’s 16-0 in the UFC. He has been perfect for years in a sport where perfection is seemingly unattainable. Skills-wise, regardless of weight class, he has no equal.
Case for Jones: Silva’s case sounds more like we’re talking greatest fighter of all time. In the here and now, Jones’ wins in the past three years stack up favorably to Silva’s and if the two fought, Jones would be the significant favorite.
Here’s what is great about this entire discussion: It exists. And it might be an important catalyst in making the Silva-Jones fight -- should Silva defeat Chris Weidman at UFC 162 this summer.
It was disappointing when both UFC champs initially scoffed at the idea of fighting each other in 2012. Both said they respected each other too much, didn’t want to get in the way of each other’s greatness. Jones didn’t want to be “the guy to beat him.”
Those comments stood directly against Jones’ dream of becoming the greatest ever. Silva, who once expressed interest in everything from the 170-pound title to a test at heavyweight, could arguably cement his legacy over Jones with a win against him.
In one short year, we’re made to believe circumstances have changed. UFC president Dana White said immediately after Jones’ win last weekend, Silva called him to talk about a future opponent. Most assumed he was referring to Jones.
If that’s true, it’s an interesting (and welcome) development in the super fight saga. As much interest as there has been and still is in a Silva-St-Pierre fight, it has always been clear St-Pierre doesn’t want to move up. The entire idea feels somewhat forced.
That’s not the case with Jones. Even though Jones hasn’t surpassed Silva on most pound-for-pound lists, the fact is he has gotten close despite having a fraction of the fights. Eventually, he will pass Silva.
Unless, of course, Silva seizes an opportunity to put this whole debate to rest and takes on Jones in the cage. Hopefully, that’s what that phone call was all about.