Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, where our esteemed panel of experts team up to sort out the movers and shakers of an ever-shifting MMA landscape.
There’s really only one word to describe the past few weeks in MMA: Chaos.
Between the dramatic ascension of Khamzat Chimaev, the slew of controversial calls and foul-laden events, and the revenge tour enacted by a handful of the sport’s most disrespected champions, April’s action had a little something for everyone. Heck, Aljamain Sterling is still out here running victory laps over his haters since his win over Petr Yan.
Fortunately, there is plenty of magic still ahead in May, leading off with a UFC 274 pay-per-view that has all the makings of being one of the wildest cards of the year.
So before we rush to preview the upcoming slate and beyond, let’s first check in where things stand after an MMA month to remember.
Don’t forget to listen to the new episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show below, where the panel debated the MVP of April and the craziness unfolding at light heavyweight, predicted the breakout name of an action-packed May, made a few long overdue mea culpas, and much more.
Before we begin, a quick refresher on some ground rules:
- Our eight-person voting panel consists of MMA Fighting staffers Shaun Al-Shatti, Alexander K. Lee, Guilherme Cruz, Mike Heck, E. Casey Leydon, Steven Marrocco, Damon Martin, and Jed Meshew.
- Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
- Updates to the rankings will be completed at the start of every month.
- Fighters will be ranked in the weight class that their promotion regularly lists them at. That means ONE Championship fighters, who compete at a weight class one division above their counterparts in most other organizations (i.e. flyweights fight at 135 pounds, lightweights compete at 170 pounds, etc.) will be placed alongside fighters in the same listed division. In other words, use your common sense: Demetrious Johnson is a flyweight, people.
- Should a fighter announce their retirement, our panel will decide whether that fighter should immediately be removed from the rankings or maintain their position until further notice (let’s put it this way: we’d have taken Khabib Nurmagomedov out of our rankings a lot quicker than the UFC did).
- Fighters who regularly compete or hold titles in multiple weight classes are eligible to be ranked in multiple lists.
- Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.
- Regarding all the above rules, any possible exceptions will be discussed internally and noted in the article.
And with that, let’s dive in.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.
If you’re looking for Francis Ngannou, you’re more likely to find him in the ring than in the cage these days.
At least that was the case this past Saturday as the No. 1 ranked heavyweight made the trip to London to stand side-by-side with Tyson Fury in front of a packed Wembley Stadium following Fury’s win over Dillian Whyte. In a calculated move, Ngannou and Fury spoke on-broadcast of a potential hybrid rules fight between the two, with Ngannou stating “I want to find out who is the baddest motherf***** on the planet.”
The two combat sports stars have traded shots on social media on multiple occasions and it feels like they’re making a real effort to make some kind of fight happen, whether it’s with the UFC’s involvement or not. However, as UFC champion, Ngannou remains under contract with the promotion, and it remains to be seen whether they will eventually reach an agreement that allows Ngannou to pursue boxing opportunities in addition to defending his title or if he can wait out the remainder of his deal and become a free agent.
But you know who is defending his title?
Ryan Bader, that’s who. The former two-division champion rematches Cheick Kongo at Bellator 280, which will hopefully provide some closure on their rivalry after an eye poke led to a no contest in their first fight over two and a half years ago.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo (Bellator 280, May 6), No. 15 (tied) Junior dos Santos vs. Yorgan De Castro (Eagle FC 47, May 20)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Phil De Fries (3), Fedor Emelianenko (2), Alexander Romanov (2), Arjan Bhullar (1), Cheick Kongo (1), Linton Vassell (1)
Corey Anderson is coming for that No. 1 spot. Some would say he already deserves it.
That’s certainly the opinion of two of our panelists, who moved Anderson past the likes of Glover Teixeira, Jiri Prochazka, Jan Blachowicz, and yes, Vadim Nemkov, to anoint him as the best light heavyweight in the world today. Anderson’s Bellator light heavyweight grand prix finale with Nemkov ended in a no contest after a freak accidental headbutt, but all signs were pointing to an “Overtime” victory.
For the first time ever in the MMA Fighting Rankings, three different fighters have received more than one vote supporting their divisional supremacy: Teixeira, the UFC’s champion, Anderson, who beat Teixeira when they fought in 2018, and Prochazka, the former RIZIN champion who has won 12 straight fights dating back to April 2016. Keep in mind, Prochazka has a win over Nemkov and his two UFC wins have both been against former title challengers.
It’s a fun debate and one that likely won’t be resolved until Teixeira fights Prochazka at UFC 275 in June, and Anderson and Nemkov get their chance to run it back.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 4 Vadim Nemkov vs. No. 5 Corey Anderson ends in No Contest
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 4 Jan Blachowicz vs. No. 6 Aleksandar Rakic (UFC Vegas 54, May 14)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Antonio Carlos Junior (4), Nikita Krylov (4), Ryan Bader (2), Israel Adesanya (1), Tomasz Narkun (1)
In the modern MMA world where there are about 600 fights a month across the globe, it seems unfathomable that literally nothing could be happening in a given division, but that’s where we are with middleweight this month.
Two compelling bouts were booked in April, with Nassourdine Imavov getting the chance to earn a ranking spot against Kelvin Gastelum, and submission ace Andre Muniz looking to go 5-0 in the UFC with a win over Uriah Hall, but neither actually occurred. At least for Muniz and Hall, their matchup has already been rescheduled for UFC 276 in July, but Gastelum had the misfortune of losing Imavov to visa issues and then being forced to withdraw himself due to injury when Dricus Du Plessis stepped up to fight him at UFC 273.
Want another kick in the pants? Israel Adesanya’s next title defense, which is presumably against Jared Cannonier, has yet to be booked, and an injury has forced Robert Whittaker out of his UFC 275 matchup with Marvin Vettori.
So all you middleweight maniacs out there, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer to get your 185-pound fix. (Hey, Gegard Mousasi vs. Johnny Eblen in Bellator is in just two months!)
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Nassourdine Imavov (4), Chris Curtis (2), Johnny Eblen (2), Chris Weidman (2), John Salter (1), Brad Tavares (1)
Five months ago on the MMA Fighting Rankings Show, we asked how high one could justifiably rank Khamzat Chimaev after he dusted Li Jingliang to continue the unbelievable start to his UFC career. It looked like we’d have our answer once he was booked to fight Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 — and the ensuing battle provided some clarity, while also raising new questions.
Burns, a one-time welterweight title challenger, took Chimaev to the limit in a bout that was begging to have two more rounds tacked onto it. The decision went Chimaev’s way, a credit to his prodigious talent and toughness, but Chimaev not being able to put the smaller Burns away has put a damper on talk that he is a legitimate threat for Kamaru Usman. That fight is destined to happen somewhere down the road, just later rather than sooner now.
Regardless, Chimaev makes a huge jump from No. 10 to No. 3 this month, passing Leon Edwards and putting him one spot behind the man he could be fighting next, Colby Covington.
Also picking up a pivotal win was Belal Muhammad, who outworked Vicente Luque to avenge a November 2016 loss. That’s eight straight outings without a loss for Muhammad, another man throwing his hat into the Covington sweepstakes, and he remains a factor at 170 pounds even with newer names like Sean Brady and Shavkat Rakhmonov breathing down everyone’s neck.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 10 Khamzat Chimaev def. No. 4 Gilbert Burns, No. 6 Belal Muhammad def. No. 5 Vicente Luque
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Shavkat Rakhmonov (6), Roberto Soldic (4), Jason Jackson (1), Douglas Lima (1), Geoff Neal (1), Logan Storley (1)
Yes, we have some massive May fights ahead, but can we put some respect on Raush Manfio’s name?
Roll your eyes all you want at the 2021 PFL champion being ranked among the lightweight division’s best, but the Brazilian looks poised to make another run at a million dollars. He had to sweat out several decisions last season and was the beneficiary of some favorable judging, but “Cavalo de Guerra” came out of nowhere to complete a 4-0 campaign and capture a tournament crown.
Manfio actually entered the PFL’s 2022 season opener as a slight underdog to recent UFC competitor Don Madge, yet he once again beat the odds, overcoming a slow start and finishing Madge in the third round. The lightweight field is deep with names like Clay Collard, Jeremy Stephens, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and Natan Schulte standing in the way of a Manfio repeat, so we’ll see how long Manfio can hold on to the No. 15 spot in our rankings.
If you were hoping for more drama at 155, you only have to wait 10 short days for UFC 274, where four of the best — and arguably most exciting — lightweights in the world compete. No. 1 ranked Charles Oliveira goes for his second title defense when he takes on Justin Gaethje in the main event, and No. 7 ranked Tony Ferguson returns from a year-long absence to fight Michael Chandler.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 15 Raush Manfio def. Don Madge
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Charles Oliveira vs. No. 3 Justin Gaethje (UFC 274, May 7), No. 6 Michael Chandler vs. No. 7 Tony Ferguson (UFC 274, May 7)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Clay Collard (2), Roberto Satoshi (2), Diego Ferreira (1), Bobby Green (1), Conor McGregor (1), Claudio Puelles (1)
Alexander Volkanovski recorded his third successful straight defense of his undisputed UFC title and is, at last, the undisputed No. 1 featherweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.
Despite holding two wins over Max Holloway, it never felt as if fans had fully embraced the Australian champion as the true king of the 145-pound division. That was certainly the case with two of our panelists, who needed to see Volkanovski obliterate “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273 to be convinced to give him the top spot. Several legacy-building matchups await Volkanovski as a line of hungry challengers wait in the wings, not to mention a likely trilogy with Holloway.
On the Bellator side, A.J. McKee failed to cement his position as he dropped an immediate rematch to Patricio Pitbull. These two could fight a third time, but it has to feel like a missed opportunity for McKee after he made a case for himself as the best featherweight outside of the UFC following his impressive win over Pitbull last July. Now, the future is unclear, as McKee could fight Pitbull again or move up to lightweight or even possibly part ways with the promotion.
And Pitbull? He just reminded everyone why he’s still the best and most important fighter in Bellator history.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Alexander Volkanovski def. No. 7 Chan Sung Jung, No. 6 Patricio Pitbull def. No. 3 A.J. McKee
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Edson Barboza (3), Shane Burgos (3), Adam Borics (2), Ilia Topuria (2), Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (1)
Hate it or love it, Aljamain Sterling is No. 1 in one of MMA’s deepest and most competitive divisions.
It took over a year for Sterling and rival Petr Yan to step into the cage again to have one of the year’s most-anticipated fights, not only because of the extraordinary skill of the competitors, but also the controversy that emerged from the finish of their first meeting. Sterling’s disqualification win was the first of its kind in UFC championship history, and fans didn’t exactly receive instant gratification when the newly crowned Sterling took time to fix his ailing neck, leaving Yan to battle for and win an interim title in October.
There were arguments to be made for both fighters to be in the stop spot (and believe us, we made them), but all the chatter was pointless until they fought again. Sterling won a competitive fight via split decision at UFC 273, and while the bout was a close one, it still reached a conclusion that was far more satisfying than the first.
It’s highly likely that Sterling and Yan meet again someday, but for now the bragging rights are in Sterling’s favor.
In other news, the Bellator boys are in the building.
Four — that’s right, four — Bellator bantamweights find themselves with a number next to their name after an eventful Bellator 279 event that saw Patchy Mix defeat former RIZIN and Bellator champion Kyoji Horiguchi, and Raufeon Stots announce himself as one of 2022’s breakout stars with a stunning knockout of former champion Juan Archuleta in an interim title bout. Mix and Stots join Horiguchi and undisputed titleholder Sergio Pettis in the top 15.
As the Bellator bantamweight world grand prix goes on, can any of these fighters climb even further up the rankings, or is there a ceiling on how highly they’re regarded by fans simply because they don’t compete in the UFC? Either way, the division is on fire right now, and performances like what we saw this past Saturday could go a long way towards changing perspectives.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Aljamain Sterling def. No. 1 Petr Yan, Patchy Mix def. No. 9 Kyoji Horiguchi, Raufeon Stots def. No. 15 Juan Archuleta
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Rob Font vs. No. 11 Marlon Vera (UFC Vegas 53, April 30*)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Pedro Munhoz (3), Juan Archuleta (1), Frankie Edgar (1), Rustam Kerimov (1), Sean O’Malley (1), Danny Sabatello (1), Ricky Simon (1)
*April bout part of May ranking period
The MMA Gods were at their most cruel in April as they robbed us of what promised to be a super entertaining scrap between Manel Kape and Sumudaerji at UFC Vegas 51, which also would have had major rankings implications. Kape has long been a favorite of several MMA Fighting panelists and could have cracked the top 10 with another knockout win, while the streaking Sumudaerji has been seeking a marquee name to add to his résumé, and Kape fit that bill perfectly.
Speaking of up-and-coming flyweight talents, it was recently reported that blue-chipper Muhammad Mokaev has his second UFC booking as he takes on Charles Johnson on July 23. There’s already buzz about the 21-year-old being a future UFC champion, so start counting the days until his next appearance now.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 9 Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell (UFC 274, May 7)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Muhammad Mokaev (2), Matt Schnell (2), Amir Albazi (1), Danny Kingad (1), Jeff Molina (1)
Happy trails for now, Germaine de Randamie.
“The Iron Lady” exits our rankings after hitting the 18-month inactivity mark. She was scheduled to fight Irene Aldana at UFC 268 in November, but an injury sidelined her and has kept her out of action long enough to force her to relinquish her No. 3 spot at 135 pounds. Her most recent win, back in October 2020, was against current champion Julianna Pena, so don’t expect de Randamie to be out of the title picture for too long.
Two other veterans held firm as both Raquel Pennington and Pannie Kianzad picked up solid wins to hold on to their spots in the top 15, with Pennington actually picking up her fourth straight win to move closer to an unlikely second crack at the title. “Rocky” might never win a Fight of the Night award, but she’s been one of the division’s grinders for years and would be a fresh matchup for Pena should Pennington’s The Ultimate Fighter 18 housemate beat Amanda Nunes again.
Then again, Pennington probably needs Holly Holm to lose her upcoming May 21 matchup with Ketlen Vieira, seeing as Holm has two wins over Pennington and is always on the matchmakers’ shortlist when it comes to handing out title opportunities. If Holm beats Vieira, don’t be surprised if she gets another chance to reclaim the bantamweight championship.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 6 Raquel Pennington def. Aspen Ladd, No. 13 Pannie Kianzad def. Lina Lansberg
May bouts featuring ranked fighters (number of ballot appearances shown): No. 3 Holly Holm vs. No. 7 Ketlen Vieira (UFC Vegas 55, May 21), No. 12 Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont (featherweight bout)
Fighters also receiving votes: Stephanie Egger (3), Jessica-Rose Clark (1)
Putting aside some questionable refereeing, it feels good to call Liz Carmouche a world champion, doesn’t it?
The former Marine has been scraping and clawing her way up the ranks for over a decade, finding herself in countless notable encounters — Carmouche fought Ronda Rousey for the bantamweight championship in the first women’s fight in UFC history, holds a 2010 win over Valentina Shevchenko, and also challenged Marloes Coenen for Strikeforce gold — but also seemingly destined to serve as the B-side to the greats.
Now Carmouche is officially one of them as she became Bellator’s third flyweight champion by defeating Juliana Velasquez at Bellator 278. Velasquez plans to formally appeal the stoppage and a rematch should be booked ASAP, but regardless of how a second fight might go, Carmouche can say she held the title of a major promotion. We applaud these things.
On more of a down note, Carmouche’s friend and teammate, former Bellator champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, exits the rankings after a disappointing loss to Justine Kish. This was Macfarlane’s first fight since losing her title to Velasquez and the result has to have fans of “The Iliminator” wondering whether the Hawaiian star can regain her spark.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Jessica Andrade def. No. 9 SW Amanda Lemos (strawweight bout), No. 8 Liz Carmouche def. No. 4 Juliana Velasquez, Justine Kish def. No. 9 Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Katlyn Chookagian vs. No. 8 SW Amanda Ribas (UFC Vegas 54, May 14), No. 12 Viviane Araujo vs. No. 13 Andrea Lee (UFC Vegas 54, May 14)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Vanessa Porto (4), Maycee Barber (3), Cynthia Calvillo (1), Justine Kish (1), Jessica Eye (1), Karina Rodriguez (1)
There shouldn’t be anymore questions that Jessica Andrade is one of the greats of women’s MMA after her most recent performance.
“Bate Estaca” became the first fighter to win in the UFC with a standing arm-triangle choke when she submitted Amanda Lemos in the main event of UFC Vegas 52. It was another astonishing accolade for the 30-year-old Brazilian star, who was returning to strawweight, a division in which she has already won a UFC title. Consider that she has also fought for the flyweight title, is now tied with Amanda Nunes for the most wins by a woman in UFC history, and is currently ranked in the top 4 of two divisions, and the real question is whether we talk about Andrade enough.
Another title shot could be coming soon for Andrade, depending on what happens in the co-main event of UFC 274. Rose Namajunas defends the strawweight championship against Carla Esparza, and if Namajunas is victorious, it could set up a trilogy bout with Andrade.
Even if Andrade never becomes UFC champion again, the fact that she can jump between weight classes and dominate the majority of the competition has to be a scary prospect for anyone having to get past her for a title shot at 115 or 125 pounds.
April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Mackenzie Dern def. No. 7 Tecia Torres, No. 2 FLW Jessica Andrade def. No. 9 Amanda Lemos
May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Rose Namajunas vs. No. 3 Carla Esparza (UFC 274, May 7), No. 8 Amanda Ribas vs. No. 3 WFLW Katlyn Chookagian (UFC Vegas 54, May 14, flyweight bout), No. 13 Angela Hill vs. No. 14 Virna Jandiroba (UFC Vegas 54, May 14)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Emily Ducote (2), Jessica Penne (2), Kanako Murata (1)