Rankings Review: Belal Muhammad takes Damian Maia’s No. 9 Welterweight Ranking

It might be an understatement to say the UFC has some questionable rankings.  You would expect rankings to be questionable as they are subjective; however, in this column, I will point out rankings that I think are glaring mistakes.

Editorial Commentary by Peter Parsons

There has been some interesting movement in the welterweight rankings in the last couple of weeks.  Two weeks ago, Santiago Ponzinibbio defeated Miguel Baeza in a fight of the year candidate.  On the same card, Muslim Salikhov won his fifth straight, defeating Brazilian veteran Francisco Trinaldo.

This past Saturday at UFC 263, Belal Muhammad won a unanimous decision over Damian Maia.

Belal Muhammad ranked No. 9 at welterweight

Belal Muhammad defeated the previous No. 9 ranked Damian Maia this past Saturday.  Often a fighter will take his opponents ranking after a victory as was the case with Muhammad and Maia.  Muhammad went up three spots to No. 9 and Maia dropped two to No. 11.  In this case, I do not feel Muhammad should have taken Maia’s place in the rankings, mainly because of his recent loss against No. 10 ranked Geoff Neal.  Also, Muhammad won a lackluster 29-28 decision using the blueprint that was laid out by wresters before him.  I feel a better case could be made if Muhammad had a dominant victory over Maia who is at the end of his career.  I would have Muhammad at No. 10 behind Geoff Neal at No. 9.

Santiago Ponzinibbio and Muslim Salikhov in, Robbie Lawler and Khamzat Chimaev out of the welterweight rankings

Here is some welterweight rankings movement that I definitely agree with.  I just think it was overdue for Chimaev and Lawler to leave the rankings.

Santiago Ponzinibbio defeated Miguel Baeza two weeks ago in a fight of the year candidate.  I felt Miguel Baeza, who was undefeated and 3-0 in the UFC with three stoppage victories going into the Ponzinibbio fight, should have been ranked ahead of Robbie Lawler and Khamzat Chimaev.

The former welterweight champ, Robbie Lawler has lost four straight fights and has not won a fight since beating Donald Cerrone in July of 2017.

Khamzat Chimaev, as I have mentioned numerous times in this column, has only won one fight at welterweight against a fighter who was making his UFC debut, who went 0-2 in the UFC and is no longer with the promotion.  Chimaev was rightfully out of the rankings at one point, but some now re-entered the top 15 when Anthony Pettis left the UFC.

Ponzinibbio was ranked No. 6 before he was pulled from the rankings because of inactivity due to injuries and health issues.  The Argentine returned in January after just over two years away from the sport and lost by first round KO to Li Jingliang.  The winner of the Ponzinibbio and Baeza fight needed to be ranked.

Muslim Salikhov is another fighter who I have written about in the past that should have been ranked ahead of Chimaev.  Salikhov was on a four-fight win streak going into his fight against Trinaldo.  This win streak included a win over Elizeu Dos Santos, who at the time had won eight out of his last nine in the UFC.  The Dos Santos win should have put the Russian ahead of Chimaev and Lawler.  There is no doubt “The King of Kung Fu” belongs in the rankings after winning his fifth straight, against Trinaldo.

This was the last fight on Damian Maia’s UFC contract and Dana White said that he does not want to see Maia fight again in the UFC.  One thing to watch for is, if Damian Maia retires, might we see Khamzat Chimaev return to the rankings?  Hopefully, we will only see Chimaev in the rankings if he returns with a win over a ranked opponent.

Boxing – MMA Crossover – Part 2

Alex Caceres ranked No. 15 at featherweight

This past Saturday, we saw No. 14 ranked featherweight Movsar Evloev fight No. 15 ranked Hakeem Dawodu.  Evloev won a unanimous decision to go 5-0 in the octagon and 15-0 overall.  This snapped Dawodu’s five fight winning streak in the UFC.

Dawodu lost his ranking as a result of this loss and Alex Caceres gained the No. 15 featherweight ranking.  Caceres is on a four-fight win streak since losing to Kron Gracie in February of 2019.  Cacares may have had the longest winning streak of any unranked featherweight in the UFC, however, he did not beat an opponent in the top 30 during this stretch.

So, who should be ranked at No. 15 ahead of Caceres?  Ilia Topuria (10-0) is 2-0 in the UFC and has faced some tough competition in his first two fights.  In his Octagon debut last October, the Georgian fighter defeated Youssef Zalal who was on a three-fight winning streak at the time.  The Georgian fighter followed up the Zalal win with a first round KO over Damon Jackson in December.  Jackson was coming off a big win over Mirsad Bektic.  Topuria is scheduled to fight Ryan Hall at UFC 264 on July 10.  Hall was ranked until coming out of the rankings a few months ago due to inactivity.  The winner of this fight should see a number next to their name.

Lerone Murphy (10-0-1) is 2-0-1 in the UFC.  The British fighter fought to a draw in his UFC debut in September of 2019 against a Zubaira Tukhugov who was 3-1 in the UFC.  Murphy scored a first round TKO over Ricardo Ramos in his next fight.  He defeated another tough Brazilian in Douglas Silva de Andrade in his last fight in January.  Murphy is scheduled to fight top Canadian prospect Charles Jourdain in September.

Hakeem Dawodu lost his ranking because of his recent loss to Evloev.  However, the Canadian was on a five-fight winning streak of his own including his most recent win against Zubaira Tukhugov.  I do not have a problem with the previous No. 15 ranked Dawodu losing his ranking after his loss this past Saturday, but I don’t think Caceres should be ranked higher than Dawodu.

My rankings would look different than any other writer or fan who follows the sport closely.  This is to be expected, as rankings are subjective.  However, the above examples are rankings I strongly disagree with.  Rankings should be based primarily on results and not perceived potential or popularity.

Some people think rankings do not matter.  Rankings do matter.  They matter when it comes to matchmaking.  They matter when it comes to contract negotiations.

Let’s keep the rankings conversation going.  Do you agree or disagree that the above examples are glaring ranking mistakes? Which UFC rankings do you strongly disagree with? Express your thoughts in the comments below.