UFC Rankings Review: Daniel Rodriguez Takes Li Jingliang’s Welterweight Ranking After Defeating Jingliang in a 180 Pound Catchweight Fight

September 14, 2022

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.  I will also analyze significant movement in the rankings that I agree with.

Editorial Commentary by Peter Parsons

With the unprecedented last-minute shuffling of the top three fights on the UFC 279 card this past weekend, Li Jingliang agreed to fight Daniel Rodriguez at a catchweight of 180 pounds.  This was despite the fact that Jingliang already weighed in at 170.5 pounds for his scheduled welterweight fight with Tony Ferguson.  Meanwhile, Rodriguez had weighed in at 179 pounds for his scheduled catchweight fight with Kevin Holland.  Rodriguez defeated Jingliang by a controversial split decision and went on to take the Chinese fighter’s UFC welterweight ranking.

Li Jingliang unranked at welterweight; Daniel Rodriguez ranked No. 14 at welterweight

There is no way, in my opinion, that Daniel Rodriguez should be ranked ahead of Li Jingliang after “D-Rod” outweighed “The Leech?” by 8.5 pounds in a 180-pound catchweight bout.  Jingliang weighed in at 170.5 pounds expecting to fight his biggest name to date in Tony Ferguson in a welterweight bout.  In a shocking chain of events, Jingliang accepted the last-minute fight when his original opponent Tony Ferguson moved up to the main event to fight Nate Diaz after Diaz’ original opponent Khamzat Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds.

Even if Rodriguez defeated Jingliang in dominant fashion on Saturday night, I still would not agree with him taking Jingliang’s No. 14 welterweight ranking since the fight was at 180 pounds.  There is a reason why we have weight divisions in MMA and nearly ten pounds is a big difference.  From a sporting and rankings standpoint, it is plain unfair to rank Rodriguez ahead of Jingliang at welterweight when he didn’t defeat him in a welterweight fight.  Any fighter will tell you that cutting those extra pounds compared to not cutting them makes a big difference.

Let’s back up and look at the two fighters recent UFC resumes.  Jingliang had won nine out of his last twelve fights in the UFC welterweight division.  “The Leech” was on the brink of a ranking after his notable third round stoppage victory over Elizeau Zaleski dos Santos in August of 2019.  After dropping his next fight to perennial contender Neil Magny, Jingliang returned with a first-round knockout of former top 10 welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio who was on a seven-fight winning streak.  After losing to Chimaev in October of 2021, Jingliang returned in July with a second round TKO over Muslim Salikhov, stopping the formerly ranked Russian’s five fight winning streak in the UFC welterweight division.

Rodriguez was on the cusp of a welterweight ranking having won 6 out of his 7 UFC fights.  After losing to Nicholas Dalby in November of 2020, “D-Rod” won three straight including notable victories over Mike Perry and Kevin Lee.  Perry was not a ranked welterweight and Lee was previously a ranked lightweight.

Rodriquez’ biggest victories on his resume over Mike Perry and Kevin Lee are not as impressive as Jingliang’s biggest victories over Santiago Ponzinibbio and Muslim Salikhov.  Also, Jingliang had two finishes in those two fights whereas Roderiguez had two decision victories over lesser opposition.

In my opinion, Jingliang should still be ranked No. 14 and Rodriguez should be behind current No. 15 Michel Pereira who has notable victories in his last four fights over Khaos Williams, Nico Price, Andre Fialho and Santiago Ponzinibbio.

I feel that a fighter should not be ranked in a particular division based on a victory outside of that division.  In the case of Daniel Rodriguez, he won a controversial split decision over Li Jingliang who weighed in for a welterweight fight.  Some people think the decision was a robbery.  I don’t think the decision was a robbery, but I do think Li Jingliang losing his ranking is a robbery.

Upcoming Notable UFC Welterweight Fights

Oct 1 – Francisco Trinaldo vs. Randy Brown

Oct 22 – (8) Sean Brady vs. (5) Belal Muhammad

Oct 29 – Tim Means vs. Max Griffin

Nov 19 – Andre Fialho vs. Muslim Salikhov

Dec 10 – Robbie Lawler vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

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.  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 with the above Ranking Review? Express your thoughts in the comments below.