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
In this week’s rankings review, we look at the familiar scenario of a fighter being ranked ahead of another fighter who he has a recent loss against. We also look at a not so familiar scenario of a fighter still in the rankings after officially retiring.
Cody Garbrandt ranked No. 5 at bantamweight
After his unanimous decision loss to No. 3 ranked Rob Font in the main event this past Saturday, Cody Garbrandt dropped one spot in the rankings to No. 5. It stands out to me that he is ranked ahead of No. 8 ranked Pedro Munhoz who knocked out Garbrandt in the first round in their 2019 fight. This was just three fights ago for Garbrandt.
Due to other factors, it can easily happen where Fighter A is ranked ahead of Fighter B even if Fighter A has a recent loss to Fighter B. In this case however, I do not feel like Garbrandt should be ranked ahead of Munhoz, based on other relevant results.
Garbrandt has only won one fight since 2016. “No Love” had one of the best knockouts of 2020 when he KO’d Raphael Assuncao with one second left in the second round at UFC 250 last June. Garbrandt was coming off a first-round knockout loss to Pedro Munhoz in 2019 which was his third straight knockout loss. His previous two losses were title fights against former champ TJ Dillashaw. Garbrandt won the title over Dominick Cruz in 2016.
Munhoz has been much more active over the past few years, having fought nine times since 2016. He holds a 2017 submission victory over Rob Font. In 2018, after losing a split decision to John Dodson, the Brazilian had a pair of notable victories over Brett Johns and Bryan Carraway which set up the Garbrandt fight. After knocking out Garbrandt, Munhoz lost a unanimous decision to current champ Aljamain Sterling. He then lost a controversial five round split decision to former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar in a fight of the night. Munhoz rebounded in his last fight with a unanimous decision win over perennial ranked bantamweight Jimmie Rivera, in another fight of the night performance this past February.
Considering Munhoz’ knockout win over Garbrandt only two years ago and their recent bodies of work, I feel No. 8 Munhoz should be ranked ahead of No. 5 Garbrandt. Here’s where rankings can get tricky. In this case, what about the number 6 and 7 fighters? Marlon Moraes is ranked No. 6 and Frankie Edgar is ranked No. 7.
Moraes lost his last two fights to top three fighters in current No. 2 Cory Sandhagen and current No. 3 Rob Font. Before that he defeated current No. 4 Jose Aldo after Moraes’ title fight loss to Henry Cejudo in 2019. Moraes earned that title fight with three consecutive first round stoppage victories over current champ Aljamain Sterling, and top ranked contenders Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao. I think Moraes should be ranked ahead of Garbrandt at this point.
Frankie Edgar was on the wrong end of the early candidate for the knockout of the year against current No. 2 ranked Cory Sandhagen in his last fight in February. The former lightweight champ and long-time ranked featherweight won a split decision against Pedro Munhoz in his bantamweight debut last August. Edgar was coming off two losses at featherweight. He suffered a first-round knockout to the “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung after losing a unanimous decision in a title fight to Max Holloway in 2019. Since 2017, Edgar does have impressive wins over featherweight contenders Cub Swanson and Yair Rodriguez.
I could see Garbrandt ranked ahead of Edgar. However, I clearly don’t think Garbrandt should be ranked ahead of Munhoz. It makes more sense for Munhoz to be ranked ahead of Edgar compared to Garbrandt being ranked ahead of Munhoz. For the record, I would have Edgar No. 6, Munhoz No. 7, and Garbrandt No. 8.
Paul Felder ranked No. 11 at lightweight
Paul Felder dropped two spots from No. 9 to No. 11 in the lightweight rankings this week after publicly announcing his retirement this past Saturday. Felder had the honor of making the announcement to the world at his UFC commentary position alongside his broadcast partners, Michael Bisping and Brendan Fitzgerald. The UFC did a nice video tribute for Felder and the “Irish Dragon” was given some airtime to explain his decision.
“My apologies for holding up the division to all the guys behind me and all you young guns out there,” said Felder into the camera.
It would have been nice to see one of the young guns that Felder is referring to enter the rankings as opposed to watching Felder drop two spots and out of the top 10. In no particular order, below are three up and coming lightweights who are worthy of the number 15 ranking.
Damir Ismagulov (23-1, 4-0 UFC)
This past Saturday, Damir Ismagulov returned after an eighteen-month layoff to win his fourth UFC fight. The victory over Rafael Alves brings his overall MMA winning streak to 18. The 30-year-old Russian also holds notable victories over Joel Alvarez and current No. 15 ranked Thiago Moises. Both Alvarez and Moises have won three straight since losing to Ismagulov.
Rafael Fiziev (9-1, 3-1 UFC)
After losing his first fight in the UFC to Magomed Mustafaev, Fiziev has won three in a row. The 28-year-old muay thai specialist from Kyrgyzstan has a notable unanimous decision win over British standout Marc Diakiese. However, his most impressive victory was a TKO in his last fight at UFC 256 in December against former top 5 featherweight Renato Moicano.
Arman Tsarukyan (16-2, 3-1 UFC)
Tsarukyan lost a hard-fought decision to current No. 9 Islam Makhachev in his UFC debut in 2019. The 24-year-old Armenian has rallied off three straight victories after drawing one of the toughest lightweights on the roster in his promotional debut. Tsarukyan defeated Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Davi Ramos and most recently Matt Frevola at UFC 257 in January.
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.