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News Every Day |

MMA Rankings, November 2022: Is Zhang Weili destined for a dominant UFC title run this time?

UFC 281: Adesanya v Pereira
Zhang Weili | Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

In the ever-shifting MMA landscape, ranking the world’s greatest fighters might seem like a fool’s errand, but that’s exactly we’ve set out to do with the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. Here, our esteemed panel sorts out the movers and shakers from every division to provide you with the most definitive list of the best fighters on the planet.

With that, let’s take a look at the three biggest rankings storylines from this past cycle (Oct. 23-Nov. 12).


Alex Pereira owns Israel Adesanya

How do you manufacture a new champion when your longstanding one has wiped out the competition?

Let’s break it down:

  • find a rival from the champion’s past, not in MMA, but in another combat sport entirely
  • ideally, that rival should have at least one, if not two wins over the champion
  • even better, one of those wins is a close decision and the other is an absurd one-shot knockout that has been making the rounds for years
  • this contender also happened to be a former two-division champion in a reputable kickboxing promotion
  • book the contender against competition that not only allows them to show off their strengths, but build a respectable resume as the champion picks off the last few mandatory challengers to his title
  • all the while, keep replaying that infamous knockout and reminding everyone of the history between the fighters
  • book a grudge match for a major pay-per-view in Madison Square Garden
  • have the challenger win by knockout AGAIN after trailing on the scorecards heading into the final round
  • profit

It’s almost too simple.

Everyone knew it was possible that Alex Pereira could beat Israel Adesanya in an MMA contest, but Pereira actually pulling it off was an all-time jaw-dropping moment. Pereira becoming a UFC champion in just his eighth MMA fight? Against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world? And doing it like that?

It actually happened and now Pereira makes an amazing leap from the No. 7 spot to No. 1. The good news for Adesanya and the UFC? This was a no-lose situation, because there’s now a massive rematch (or tetralogy bout, if you must) on the table and the potential for both fighters to increase their star power.

Zhang Weili poised for a memorable second title run

Zhang Weili made short work of Carla Esparza to capture the UFC strawweight title a second time. And with respect to the incumbent champion, that was the easy part.

In the short term, Zhang’s dominant performance has brought peace to the land of the 115-pounders at last, as all eight of our panelists voted her into the No. 1 spot. That’s a far cry from the chaos caused by Esparza winning the title this past May that resulted in three fighters (Zhang, Esparza, and Jessica Andrade) all receiving first-place votes.

One name you might notice missing there? Rose Namajunas, the woman who holds two wins over Zhang. “Thug Rose” is lingering on the sidelines, theoretically in great position to earn a third fight with Zhang whenever she returns to action, and if she truly is Zhang’s kryptonite we could find ourselves stuck in this strawweight circle all over again.

On the other hand, should Zhang finally vanquish her nemesis, the path appears to be clear for a dominant title run. She would have wins over Namajunas, Esparza, and Jessica Andrade, and she took Joanna Jedrzejczyk out of the picture with an incredible knockout in their rematch this past June.

Unless a fresh contender makes a convincing break from the pack (Amanda Lemos, perhaps?), Zhang could make a run at the record books over the next couple of years.

Erin Blanchfield enters top 10, Dominick Reyes exits

As one budding contender continues her rise, another continues his precipitous fall.

First, the good news from UFC 281: Blue chip flyweight prospect Erin Blanchfield lived up to the hype in her Madison Square Garden debut against the popular Molly McCann. McCann was Blanchfield’s biggest challenge yet, not that you could tell by the way the bout unfolded.

The 23-year-old’s highly vaunted grappling was on full display and she gave McCann zero room to breathe, taking her to the ground and smashing her until she found an opening for a nasty kimura submission. Blanchfield jumps from No. 13 to the No. 10 spot and depending on who you ask, that’s underselling the quality of her performances.

Now the bad news: Dominick Reyes — the man who would be light heavyweight king if a razor-thin decision had gone his way against Jon Jones — lost again. And he didn’t just lose, he was completely robbed of his senses by a rampaging Ryan Spann. Reyes was making his return from a 560-day layoff, which could have been beneficial to him on paper. But Spann was in top form this past Saturday and he gave Reyes a rude welcome back to the octagon as he knocked him out in under 90 seconds.

That’s four straight losses for Reyes now, three by knockout, and he falls from No. 10 in the rankings all the way to the realm of the also-rans.

Check out the complete November rankings below.


Heavyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 4 Tai Tuivasa vs. No. 6 Sergei Pavlovich (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3), No. 7 Derrick Lewis vs. Serghei Spivac (UFC Vegas 65, Nov. 19), No. 11 Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. No. 15 Chris Daukaus (UFC 282, Dec. 10)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Phil De Fries (6), Serghei Spivac (3), Linton Vassell (1)


Light Heavyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): Ryan Spann def. No. 10 Dominick Reyes

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Jiri Prochazka vs. No. 2 Glover Teixeira (UFC 282, Dec. 10), No. 3 Corey Anderson vs. No. 5 Vadim Nemkov (Bellator 288, Nov. 18), No. 4 Jan Blachowicz vs. No. 6 Magomed Ankalaev (UFC 282, Dec. 10)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Khalil Rountree (4), Yoel Romero (3), Dominick Reyes (2), Johnny Walker (2), Antonio Carlos Junior (1)


Middleweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 7 Alex Pereira def. No. 1 Israel Adesanya

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 7 Derek Brunson vs. No. 13 Jack Hermansson (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3), No. 12 Reinier de Ridder vs. Anatoly Malykhin (ONE on Prime Video 5, Dec. 2), No. 15 Dricus Du Plessis vs. Darren Till (UFC 282, Dec. 10)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Anatoly Tokov (2), Kelvin Gastelum (1), Darren Till (1)


Welterweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3), No. 14 Roberto Soldic vs. Murad Ramazanov (ONE on Prime Video 5, Dec. 2)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Neil Magny (3), Kevin Holland (2), Michael Page (2), Jason Jackson (1), Jake Matthews (1)


Lightweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 (tied) Dustin Poirier def. No. 6 Michael Chandler

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Rafael dos Anjos vs. Bryan Barberena (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Usman Nurmagomedov (4), Tofiq Musayev (3), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (2), Roberto Satoshi (2), Dan Hooker (1), Alexander Shabliy (1)


Featherweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 9 Arnold Allen def. No. 8 Calvin Kattar

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 13 Bryce Mitchell vs. No. 14 Ilia Topuria (UFC 282, Dec. 10)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Edson Barboza (2), Aaron Pico (2), Adam Borics (1), Damon Jackson (1), Jeremy Kennedy (1), Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (1), Sodiq Yusuff (1)


Bantamweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Raufeon Stots vs. Danny Sabatello (Bellator 289, Dec. 9), No. 11 Patchy Mix vs. Magomed Magomedov (Bellator 289, Dec. 9)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): John Lineker (4), Danny Sabatello (3), Chris Gutierrez (2), Kyoji Horiguchi (2), Adrian Yanez (2), Pedro Munhoz (1)


Flyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Matheus Nicolau vs. Matt Schnell (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Matt Schnell (4), Ali Bagautinov (3), Rogerio Bontorin (3), Jeff Molina (3), Amir Albazi (1), Danny Kingad (1)


Women’s Bantamweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Lina Lansberg (2), Chelsea Chandler (1), Lucie Pudilova (1), Julija Stoliarenko (1)


Women’s Flyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 13 Erin Blanchfield def. Molly McCann

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 7 Liz Carmouche vs. No. 9 Juliana Velasquez (Bellator 289, Dec. 9), No. 11 Jennifer Maia vs. Maryna Moroz (UFC Vegas 65, Nov. 19), No. 9 SW Amanda Ribas vs. Tracy Cortez (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Joanne Wood (3), Tracy Cortez (2), Molly McCann (2), Amanda Ribas (1), Karina Rodriguez (1)


Strawweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Zhang Weili def. No. 1 Carla Esparza

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 9 Amanda Ribas vs. Tracy Cortez (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3, flyweight bout), No. 13 Angela Hill vs. No. 14 Emily Ducote (UFC Orlando, Dec. 3)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Tabatha Ricci (3), Lupita Godinez (1)


A refresher on the 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 are completed at the start of every month.
  • 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).
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion. Additionally, fighters who regularly compete or hold titles in multiple weight classes are eligible to be ranked in multiple lists.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.

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