New faces in MMA pound-for-pound rankings to open 2012

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Dan Henderson, top, punches Mauricio Rua during the Dan Henderson, top, punches Mauricio Rua during the second round of a light heavyweight bout at UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif. Henderson won by unanimous decision. (Nov. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Mark La Monica Mark La Monica

Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross media at Newsday and writes about mixed martial

Jon Jones won every fighter-of-the-year award imaginable in 2011, but how far did his meteoric year move him up our semiannual pound-for-pound MMA rankings?

Our P4P rankings are done every six months rather than monthly so as to be more comprehensive in assessing fighters' bodies of work since most of them only compete two or three times per year.

Here's the list, in true countdown order, which includes three new fighters and plenty of movement.

10. DAN HENDERSON (UFC, light heavyweight, 29-8)

Based on his epic five-round win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, considered by many as the greatest fight in MMA history, Henderson deserves to crack this edition of the P4P list. His earlier Strikeforce bouts -- including knockouts of Rafael Cavalcante and Fedor Emelianenko -- give even more fuel to Hendo's resurgent profile.

Previous ranking: NR
Next fight: TBD.

9. JUNIOR DOS SANTOS (UFC, heavyweight, 14-1)

If you blinked more than twice, you might have missed Dos Santos' last fight. That's because he knocked out Cain Velasquez in the opening minute of the much-hyped UFC debut on Fox last November. The heavyweight champion has concrete hands and a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu, which we haven't really seen used much by him.

Previous ranking: NR
Next fight: TBA vs. Alistair Overeem

8. NICK DIAZ (UFC, welterweight, 27-7-1)

Diaz proved once more that he has the most devastating boxing skills in MMA when he picked apart BJ Penn with ease. And he's every bit mercurial as he is talented.

Previous ranking: 9
Next fight: UFC 143 vs. Carlos Condit on Feb. 4.

7. GILBERT MELENDEZ (Strikeforce, lightweight, 20-2)

The campaign to move him into the UFC continues after Melendez defended his title against Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision in December. Will it happen in 2012?

Previous ranking: NR
Next fight: TBD

6. DOMINICK CRUZ (UFC, bantamweight, 19-1)

Cruz decisioned Urijah Faber in July then did the same to Demetrious Johnson in October. He's fast and conditioned and strikes from unique angles, but eight of his last 10 fights in the UFC have gone the distance. Cruz's profile will grow when he coaches against Faber on the new season of "The Ultimate Fighter" beginning in March on FX.

Previous ranking: 4
Next fight: vs. Urijah Faber in mid-2012.

5. JOSE ALDO (UFC, featherweight, 20-1)

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The champion exploded onto the MMA scene with lightning fast kicks and fast knockouts. But his last two title defenses have gone the distance, and he hasn't looked as dominating in the past. That combined with what Frankie Edgar and Jon Jones did in 2011 dropped Aldo two spots on this list.

Previous ranking: 3
Next fight: UFC 142 vs. Chad Mendes, Jan. 14.

4. FRANKIE EDGAR (UFC, lightweight, 14-1-1)

Edgar finally beat Gray Maynard in a dramatic comeback after a first-round knockdown. With his fourth-round TKO, Edgar strengthened his reputation and his inclusion on this list.

Previous ranking: 7
Next fight: UFC 144 Japan vs. Ben Henderson, Feb. 25

3. JON JONES (UFC, light heavyweight, 15-1)

Jones is coming off what was perhaps the greatest year for any mixed martial artist. A quick look at the numbers: 4 fights, 4 finishes, 1 title won, 2 title defenses, 2 TKOs, 2 submissions. A quick look at the opponents: Ryan Bader, Rua, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida. Combined record at start of 2011: Jones: 80-14. Combined record to start 2012: 82-20.

Previous ranking: 5
Next fight: TBD.

2. GEORGES ST-PIERRE (UFC, welterweight, 22-2)

GSP was supposed to fight Diaz (then Carlos Condit) last October but had to pull out late with a knee injury. He was then supposed to fight Diaz on Super Bowl weekend, but torn knee ligaments will keep GSP shelved for most of 2012. For now, though, he's still the No. 2 fighter in the world.

Previous ranking: 2
Next fight: TBD.

1. ANDERSON SILVA (UFC, middleweight, 29-4)

Silva dismantled Yushin Okami, and it's hard to see him surrendering the No. 1 spot anytime soon, no matter how much Chael Sonnen talks.

Previous ranking: 1
Next fight: TBD

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