Rankings Review: Does Conor McGregor deserve his UFC ranking?

January 17, 2021

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

I wrote a previous editorial in November about Khamzat Chimaev being a ranked UFC welterweight despite the fact that he is 1-0 in the 170-pound weight division with his only win at 170 coming against a fighter making his UFC debut.  You can read this article here.

Below are recent rankings that I strongly disagree with.

Conor McGregor: Ranked No. 15 at Welterweight

With Anthony Pettis recently taken out of the rankings after signing with the PFL, Conor McGregor was inserted in the No. 15 spot.  With Chimaev at No. 14 and McGregor at No. 15 at welterweight, this makes one think that the rankings are a popularity contest.

Chimaev was the talk of the MMA world in 2020. There is also no doubt that McGregor is the most popular MMA fighter in the world and a legit top ranked lightweight contender.  However, in January of last year, McGregor’s win over Donald Cerrone, who at the time was a ranked lightweight, was the only welterweight win for “The Notorious” since evening the score with Nate Diaz back in August of 2016.

Who should be ranked ahead of McGregor?  You can see the previously mentioned Khamzat Chimaev article, where I list 11 fighters who I thought could be ranked ahead of Chimaev.  When making that list, McGregor did not come to mind. To highlight a few fighters from that list, I would point toward undefeated fighters Sean Brady and Miguel Baeza, who are both 3-0 in the UFC and who have been quite active at welterweight.  How about James Krause who has won five in a row at welterweight, including his recent win over Claudio Silva, who was previously 5-0 at welterweight in the UFC.

When the updated rankings come out this week, I fully expect to see Li Jingliang ranked at welterweight after his knockout victory over Santiago Ponzinibbio at the UFC’s first event on ABC on Saturday.  Ponzinibbio was on a seven-fight winning streak and was a Top 10 welterweight before losing his spot in the rankings due to inactivity with his last fight being a TKO victory over Neil Magny in 2018.  Magny, currently ranked No. 9 at welterweight, was also the last opponent of Jingliang.  Prior to his unanimous decision loss against Magny, Jingliang had won three in a row and seven of his last eight.

Marcin Tybura: Ranked No. 15 at Heavyweight

Tybura recently entered the rankings at No. 15 with his win over Greg Hardy at the Dec. 19 UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal card.  I feel he should have entered the rankings higher.  An argument could be made that he could be ranked as high as 12th, but here I will make the argument that he should be ranked higher than the 14th ranked Sergei Pavlovich.

Tybura has won four straight with notable stoppage victories over Greg Hardy and Ben Rothwell in his last two.  He also has notable decision victories over Sergey Spivak, Stefan Struve, and Andrei Arlovski in the last few years.  Tybura’s losses have come against fighters who are currently ranked in Augusto Sakai, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Derrick Lewis, and previously ranked and former champion Fabricio Werdum, who like Pettis, recently signed with the PFL.

After suffering his first professional defeat at the hands of Alistair Overeem in his UFC debut, Pavlovich has won two in a row against Marcelo Golm and Maurice Greene.  This was Golm’s third straight loss, which ended his UFC tenure.  Greene was on an impressive three-fight winning streak; however, he has since lost three out of four, including his last loss to previously mentioned Hardy.

Tybura’s last two wins over Rothwell and Hardy are clearly more impressive than Pavlovich’s two wins over Gohm and Greene. Tybura also has previously mentioned notable victories over Spivak, Struve, and Arlovski in recent years.

Jimmy Flick: Unranked at Flyweight

I know Jimmy Flick is only 1-0 in the UFC, but this is not a case of recency bias on my part after seeing him land a Submission of the Year candidate with his flying triangle over Cody Durden in the last card of 2020 on Dec. 19.  Let me explain.  The UFC Flyweight division is still thin as it is rebuilding, and the No. 15 ranked Amir Albazi is also 1-0 in the UFC.

In July, Albazzi scored a first-round triangle choke submission of his own over Malcolm Gordon, who was also making his UFC debut.  Gordon has since lost his second UFC fight in the first round.

With all else being equal, it comes down to most impressive finish and quality of opponent.  Flick’s opponent, Durden, fought to a draw at bantamweight in his only previous UFC fight against Chris Gutierrez, which snapped Gutierrez’ three-fight winning streak at 135 pounds.  Durden is clearly a stronger opponent than Albazzi’s opponent, Gordon, and Flick’s flying triangle was the more impressive finish, as it was on the short list for Submission of the Year in 2020.

Albazzi has a chance to solidify and perhaps move up the rankings with a win over Zhalgus Zhumalgulov on the UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor prelims.

Conclusion: Rankings Matter

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.

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