Rankings Review: What happened to Marlon Vera and Montana De La Rosa?

January 30, 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 always find it interesting when there is a change in the rankings and the fighters that moved places have not had recent fights.  This was the case when the UFC rankings came out last week with Casey Kenney and Alexa Grasso appearing at No. 15 in their weight divisions, replacing Marlon Vera and Montana De La Rosa, respectively.

Marlon Vera – Unranked at Bantamweight

Marlon Vera was replaced by Casey Kenney, who entered the bantamweight rankings at No. 15 last week, even though Kenney has not competed since October.  Vera also did not have a recent fight to justify a change in ranking.

In just over a year, from August of 2018 to October of 2019, “Chito” Vera racked up five straight victories, all of which were finishes, in the UFC bantamweight division.  This was quite the strength of schedule and finishing streak which made Vera one of the top bantamweight prospects to watch out for.

Vera’s winning streak came to an end after losing a controversial decision to ranked bantamweight Song Yadong in a short-notice fight at featherweight in May of 2020.  Vera then extended his finishing streak at bantamweight to six with a win over then No. 15 ranked Sean O’Malley to enter the rankings himself.

Vera had his six-fight finishing streak at bantamweight snapped when he lost a decision to former featherweight champ and top 10 ranked bantamweight Jose Aldo in December.  The loss to Aldo rightfully did not drop Vera from the rankings at the time.

Jose Aldo punches Marlon Vera at UFC Vegas 17
Jose Aldo punches Marlon Vera at UFC Vegas 17

Casey Kenney had an active 2020, having fought four times.  He started off the year in February with a unanimous decision loss to then unranked Merab Dvalishvili, who is now ranked No. 12.

He has since won three straight fights with his most notable victory in his last outing in October, a unanimous decision victory over British prospect Nathaniel Wood.  The win over Wood was Kenney’s second fight in October, having won a unanimous decision over Heili Aletang earlier in the month on UFC Fight Island.

In my opinion, Vera is more deserving of the ranking considering he had a six-fight finishing streak at bantamweight including his last win against a previously ranked fighter in Sean O’Malley, who was on a streak of his own.  Kenney has looked really good in his last three fights, but he has yet to beat a ranked fighter.  Vera lost his last fight, but it was a decision loss against recent title challenger and the current No. 6 ranked bantamweight in Jose Aldo.

Kenney has a big opportunity coming up in his next fight against the current No. 11 ranked bantamweight and former champion Dominick Cruz, on the stacked UFC 259 card in March.  A victory, over the man who many consider to be the greatest bantamweight of all time, would certainly move Kenney up the rankings.

Alexa Grasso – Ranked No. 15 at Flyweight

Much like Kenney and Vera, Alexa Grasso replaced Montana de la Rosa at No. 15 in the women’s flyweight division with both fighters not having recently fought, to create the change in rankings.

Grasso has only had one fight at flyweight.  She looked impressive in her last fight, which was her flyweight debut against Ji Yeon Kim back in August.  Grasso was ranked at strawweight, however, she had lost three of her last five at strawweight, albeit to the top ranked competition.  I do not feel like beating an unranked fighter in her only fight so far in her new division warrants a number beside her name.

De la Rosa is coming off a loss against the current No. 7 ranked Viviane Araujo.  Going into the Araujo fight De La Rosa was ranked No. 11, having won four out of her last five with her most recent win against Mara Romero Borella, who was ranked No. 13 at the time.  Her other loss at flyweight was against the current No. 11 ranked Andrea Lee.

Viviane Araujo punches Montana De La Rosa
Viviane Araujo punches Montana De La Rosa

Besides De La Rosa, there are a few fighters who are more deserving than Grasso of a ranking at flyweight.  Gillian Robertson, Mollly McCann, and Sabina Mazo are three fighters who stand out to me.

Gillian Robertson was recently bounced from the rankings after losing to the current No. 13 ranked Taila Santos.  Robertson is tied for the most wins in the women’s flyweight division history, with Valentina Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian, at six victories.  The Canadian has the most submissions and finishes in division history with four.  Her notable victories include submission victories over Courtney Casey and Molly McCann.

After losing to the aforementioned Robertson in her UFC debut, Molly McCann rallied off three straight victories which earned her a ranking in the flyweight division.  The British veteran lost her ranking after a unanimous decision loss in her last fight to the current 17-1 Taila Santos.

Sabina Mazo looked very impressive in her last outing in September against Justine Kish.  The 23-year-old Colombian showed great striking for the better part of three rounds before securing a rear naked choke late in the third.  This was Mazo’s third straight victory in the UFC flyweight division.

There are a number of big fights in February for the above female flyweight fighters which include:

  • Molly McCann vs. Lara Procópio, February 6
  • (10) Maycee Barber vs. (15) Alexa Grasso, February 13
  • Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick, February 13
  • Sabina Mazo vs. (12) Alexis Davis, February 27
  • Montana De La Rosa vs. Mayra Bueno Silva, February 27

Rankings Conclusion

It does not make sense for rankings to change between two fighters when neither fighter have had a fight since the previous week’s rankings.  Does it have anything to do with the fact that Kenney and Grasso have fights lined up against ranked fighters?

Chimaev got the No. 15 welterweight ranking around the time he was first scheduled to fight Leon Edwards.  I am not suggesting a conspiracy theory, I am simply suggesting that perhaps these fighters become more top of mind to the voters when big fights are announced.  Or is it because there has been a change in the voting panellists?  Either way, I don’t think it’s a good look from a sporting and consistency perspective.

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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.