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
Yes, you read the first part of the headline right, Khamzat Chimaev moved up in this week’s welterweight rankings. This is the only rankings change that I disagree with in this week’s column. Typically, I write largely about the rankings changes that I disagree with. Two out of the three changes that I highlight this week, I actually agree with, to a certain extent.
Khamzat Chimaev moves up to No. 14 in the rankings?
It was recently announced that Khamzat Chimaev is out of his fight in March with Leon Edwards because of COVID-19 related issues. Fresh off this news, Chimaev moved up one spot to No. 14 in the UFC welterweight rankings ahead of Robbie Lawler.
Lawler’s ranking is questionable being he is coming off four straight losses, albeit to top competition. Chimaev, on the other hand, has only one win in the welterweight division against a fighter, Phys McKee, who was making his UFC debut. After going 0-2 in the UFC, McKee was recently cut from the roster.
This movement is another example of a change in ranking without either fighter having recently fought. The only recent news related to either fighter is that Chimaev had to withdraw from his scheduled fight with Edwards.
In a previous article, I talked about 10 fighters who I thought should be ranked ahead of Chimaev. Since the previously mentioned article was written, there have been a few more welterweights who I feel should be ranked ahead of Chimaev.
Michel Pereira is coming off his second straight impressive win, a victory over Khaos Wiliams on the last UFC card of 2020.
Veteran Tim Means has won two straight including his most recent win in November over Mike Perry.
Santiago Ponzinibbio is coming off of a knockout loss to Li Jingliang last month. Jingliang is now ranked No. 12. Ponzinibbio was ranked in the top 10 before falling out of the rankings due to inactivity as a result of injury. Before injuries kept him out, he had won 7 in a row, including notable victories in his last three wins over Neil Magny, Mike Perry and Gunnar Nelson.
There are about a dozen fighters who I think clearly should be ranked ahead of Chimaev based on results. Two of them are fighting each other on March 6, as undefeated Sean Brady takes on Jake Matthews. Brady is 3-0 in the UFC and 13-0 overall. Matthews has won 6 out of his last 7, including his most notable victory over the current No. 12 ranked Li Jingliang.
Ryan Hall unranked at featherweight
This is a ranking change I agree with. In fact, I think it’s overdue. Ryan Hall is very popular amongst the hardcore fans, BJJ enthusiasts in particular. He has been very impressive winning his last four fights. The thing is, he has fought less than once a year over this stretch, which adds to his mystique, however, it hurts his ranking.
After coming off The Ultimate Fighter 22 show, Hall won his UFC debut with a unanimous decision over Artem Lobov in December of 2015. He won a unanimous decision a full year later in December of 2016 over former lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard. His next fight was not until two years later, when he defeated former lightweight and welterweight champ, then 40-year-old BJ Penn by heel hook in the first round in a lightweight match-up in December of 2018. Hall then fought for the first time at featherweight in nearly three years against Darren Elkins. This was Hall’s last fight and his only fight of 2019. He won a unanimous decision over the previously ranked Darren Elkins.
Hall had a fight against Ricardo Lamas scheduled twice in 2020, both of which were canceled. He recently had to pull out of a fight against Dan Ige that was scheduled in March, due to injury.
With Hall moving out of the rankings, Edson Barboza moved up one spot to take his place at No. 14. Moving in at No. 15 is Movsar Evloev, who defeated Nick Lentz at UFC 257 to go 4-0 in the UFC. The undefeated Russian now stands at 14-0 overall.
Below are five featherweights who I feel are one good win away from having a number next to their name.
Hakeem Dawodu has won five straight in the UFC featherweight division, including his most recent split-decision victory over top Russian prospect Zabaira Tukhugov in September.
Andre Fili has lost two out of his last three; however, those losses were decision losses against fighters who are now currently ranked in Sodiq Yusuff and Bryce Mitchell. “Touchy” Fili has looked very impressive in his last two victories over Charles Jourdain and Sheymon Moraes.
Giga Chikadze was one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster in 2020. The Georgian kickboxer won four fights in 2020 and is now 5-0 to start his UFC career. Chikadze should get a step up in competition in his next fight.
After fighting the previously mentioned Zabaira Tukhugov to a draw in his UFC debut, Lerone Murphy has won his last two UFC fights against more experienced Brazilian fighters in Ricardo Ramos and Douglas Silva de Andrade. The British fighter is undefeated in his young career at 9-0-1.
The winner of Cub Swanson and Gavin Tucker, who are slated to clash in May, should be ranked. After losing four straight to top competition, the former top 10 ranked Swanson has now won two in a row including his ‘Fight of the Night’ performance over Kron Gracia and a second-round knockout victory over Daniel Pineda in December.
Gavin Tucker has now won three in a row in the UFC featherweight division. The Canadian looked very impressive in his unanimous decision victory over Billy Quarantillo, who had won his first three fights in the UFC.
Marlon Vera moves in to bantamweight rankings at No. 15
A few weeks ago, I wrote a Rankings Review column about Marlon Vera dropping out of the rankings and Casey Kenney entering at No. 15, even though neither fighter had a recent fight to justify the change in ranking. In this week’s UFC rankings, Vera is back at No. 15 and Kenney is unranked.
Again, neither fighter had a recent fight. Could this be because of new voters? Or current voting panelists changing their mind? Might we see Kenney switch spots with Vera again before his next fight? As I previously wrote, I believe Vera should be ranked ahead of Kenney.
Kenney will undoubtedly enter the rankings if he can get a victory in his next fight at UFC 259 on Mach 6 against the man who many believe is the greatest UFC bantamweight champ of all time, Dominick Cruz.
I have written about Khamzat Chimaev’s ranking on more than one occasion. However, when I see a fighter who I don’t think belongs in the top 15 move up, I need to write about it in this column. Again, rankings should not be a popularity contest.
Do I think Chimaev would lose to the fighters I think should be ranked ahead of him? No. In fact, I think he would beat most of the ranked welterweight fighters. However, not only hasn’t he beat a ranked welterweight, he hasn’t beat a top 50 welterweight. For as impressive as he looked in his two wins at middleweight, he hasn’t beat a top 25 middleweight.
As a friend of mine said to me, “I think Chimaev will wreak havoc in the welterweight division, but let’s wait until he does it first.”
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.