UFC Rankings Review: Khamzat Chimaev is Back?

April 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

In this week’s UFC rankings, many fighters were taken out of the rankings due to inactivity, change in weight division or in the case of Tyron Woodley, not re-signing at the end of his contract.  We see a lot of fresh faces in the rankings this week and a familiar face at welterweight.

Khamzat Chimaev re-enters the welterweight rankings at No. 15

For regular readers of this column, you may be getting tired of reading about why Khamzat Chimaev should not be ranked.  I did not think we would see Chimaev ranked again until he won another fight at welterweight.  While he is inactive because of his recovery from COVID complications, there are other welterweights earning impressive victories, like Randy Brown at UFC 261 this past Saturday.

There is no doubt Chimaev was extremely dominant in all three of his UFC victories, but the fact remains, he is 1-0 at welterweight in the UFC with his lone welterweight victory coming against a fighter in Phys McKee who was making his UFC debut.   McKee lost his second UFC fight and is no longer on the roster.  Chimaev has two wins at middleweight.  In his UFC debut, he defeated John Phillips who went 1-5 in the UFC before his release.  Chimaev’s most impressive win was against Gearald Meerschaert who is not a top 20 middleweight.

I won’t give a list of 10 fighters like I did in a previous article, but here are three welterweights who should be ranked ahead of Chimaev.

Randy Brown has now won 3 out of his last 4 with his lone loss in the last two years coming against current No. 6 Vicente Luque.  His three recent wins were all finishes over notable welterweights Brian Barberena, Warley Alves and Alex Oliveira.

James Krause has won five in a row in the UFC welterweight division, including his most recent win over Claudio Silva who was previously 5-0 as a UFC welterweight.

Miguel Baeza is undefeated at 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the UFC.  The Dana White Contender Series alum has notable victories in his last two fights, stoppage victories over Matt Brown and Takashi Sato.  Baeza is scheduled to face former top 10 Santiago Ponzinibbio in June.  The winner of that fight should definitely see a number next to his name.

As I said before, this doesn’t mean I do not think Chimaev would beat the above fighters.  In fact, I still think Chimaev would beat most of the ranked welterweights.  My main point in this column will continue to be that rankings should be first and foremost based on results.

Donald Cerrone ranked No. 15 at lightweight

Cerrone enters the rankings with Al Iaquinta coming out due to inactivity.  “Cowboy” is another very popular fighter.  He earned his last lightweight ranking when he beat previously ranked lightweights Alexander Hernanez and Al Iaquinta.  The Iaquinta win in 2019 was Cerrone’s last victory inside the octagon.

Cerrone has gone winless in five straight fights, albeit three of them were against the cream of the crop in the lightweight division.  Cerrone lost to Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor.  Cerrone’s last two fights were at welterweight – a unanimous decision loss to Anthony Pettis and a draw that was later ruled a no contest against Niko Price.  His next fight was also scheduled at welterweight against former teammate Diego Sanchez until Diego had to recently withdraw.

The argument can be made for a few fighters to be ranked ahead of Cerrone at lightweight.  However, one fighter I will highlight who I think should be ranked ahead of “Cowboy” is Drew Dober.

Dober lost his last fight in March against the current No. 11 Islam Makhachev.  Prior to the Makhachev fight, Dober won 6 of his last 7 with his only loss in that stretch coming against current No. 9 Beneil Dariush.  Dober looked very impressive in this last two victories, stoppages over high level prospects Nasrat Haqparast and Alexander Hernandez.

Dober is scheduled to fight City Kickboxing standout Brad Riddell in his next fight in June. The New Zealander Riddell is off to a 3-0 start in the talent rich UFC lightweight division.  The winner of this fight should enter the lightweight top 15.

Sergei Pavlovich ranked No. 14 at heavyweight

With all the movement this week with inactive fighters leaving the rankings, I am surprised to see Sergei Pavlovich still ranked.  He has not fought in 18 months.  Besides the inactivity, Pavlovich is only 2-1 in the UFC with his biggest win coming over Maurice Greene who is currently not ranked.  While Pavlovich has been inactive, here are three heavyweights who deserve to be ranked higher than him.

No doubt Andrei Arlovski is a legend of the sport.  However, he is still relevant at heavyweight.  Although he likely will never contend for the title again, the former champ has been quite active and has won 4 of his last 6 fights.  He fought twice in 2019, twice in 2020 and has already fought twice in 2021.  His two losses during that stretch were against current No. 6 ranked Jairzinho Rozenstruik and current No. 13 ranked Tom Aspinall.  Two notable victories during this stretch were against former ranked fighters in Tanner Boser and Ben Rothwell.

Sergei Spivac is 3-2 in the UFC heavyweight division.  His losses were against current No. 8 Walt Harris and current No. 12 Marcin Tybura.  The Moldovan has won two straight and has notable victories over top Brazilian prospect Carlos Felipe and former ranked heavyweight Tai Tuivasa.

Alexander Romanov went into his recent fight against Juan Espino with both fighters having won their first two fights in the UFC by submission.  Romanov defeated the TUF 28 winner by technical split decision to go 3-0 in the UFC’s heavyweight division and 13-0 overall.  The fight ended in a little controversy with Romanov not being able to continue due to an illegal knee to the groin.  However, the Moldovan was on his way to winning a decision with two out of the three judges having scored the first two rounds for him.  Romanov made his UFC debut in September of last year, 11 months after Pavlovich last fought.

Kamaru Usman ranked No 2. Pound for Pound

I don’t usually pay much attention to the pound for pound rankings and have never wrote about them in this column.  However, I’m going to stick with the theme of this week’s article which is rewarding strength of schedule and not rewarding inactivity.

I think Kamaru Usman should have moved ahead of Jon Jones in the pound for pound rankings with his recent UFC 261 KO over Jorge Masvidal.  

Jones has not fought in over a year and his last three victories at light heavyweight have not been very impressive.  He defeated Dominick Reyes by decision in his last fight, a fight that many saw Reyes winning.  He won a lackluster split decision over Thiago Santos.  He defeated Anthony Smith in a fight in which he landed an illegal knee that if Smith would have decided not to continue, Jones would have lost his title.

Meanwhile, Usman has won three fights since Jones has been out of action.  He has had four title defenses in total.  I know his title defenses pale in comparison to Jones’.  Let me make the distinction, Usman has a long way to go before he would be considered in the greatest of all time talk with Jones; however, I feel like he deserves to be the current pound for pound king ahead of Jones.

Before Khabib retired, he was number one pound for pound.  Usman may even be higher ranked than Khabib right now.  Usman has had four title defences and Khabib had three.   Usman won his title against a dominant champ at the time in Tyron Woodley.  Khabib won the vacant title against Al Iaquinta who took the fight on a day’s notice.  Khabib’s three title defenses were in a two-and-a-half-year span.  Usman’s four title defenses were in a three-and-a-half-year span.  Usman is 14-0 in the UFC, Khabib is 13-0 in the UFC.

My main point with the Khabib comparison is that Khabib was considered number one pound for pound ahead of Jon Jones.  Since Khabib took over Jones’ pound for pound title in November, Jones continues to be inactive.  Meanwhile Usman has been a very active champ with stoppage victories over top contenders in Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal.

Derrick Lewis: ‘We’re just waiting on Francis Ngannou to pick a date’

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.