MMA/UFC

MMA Rankings, January 2023: Can anyone stop the rise of Umar Nurmagomedov and Jailton Almeida?

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MMA Rankings, January 2023: Can anyone stop the rise of Umar Nurmagomedov and Jailton Almeida?
Umar Nurmagomedov | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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 (Dec. 11-Jan. 21).


Umar Nurmagomedov and Jailton Almeida won’t be stopped

Aljamain Sterling has a number of compelling challengers lined up for him and we just found out that that the UFC is trucking on in the absence of Francis Ngannou by announcing a fight between the returning Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane, but whoever ends up holding the bantamweight and heavyweight titles in the next few months shouldn’t feel safe.

Because Umar Nurmagomedov and Jailton Almeida are coming for those No. 1 spots.

With just four UFC appearances each under their belts, these two have absolutely slayed the competition, looking levels above the poor souls that have been matched up with them. Nurmagomedov has been as invincible as his famous family name would suggest, while Almeida has performed like Demian Maia if you gave him Alistair Overeem‘s diet and a reliable blast double.

Who gets a title shot first is anybody’s guess. Nurmagomedov has impressed against better competition (he just annihilated top-20 bantamweight Raoni Barcelos with a seemingly harmless short punch that left Barcelos out cold on the canvas), but also has a deeper field to compete against at 135 pounds. Almeida has focused his sights on the heavyweight division, ironically a shorter mountain to climb especially if he can start knocking off contenders the same way he has his introductory set of foes.

There are no certainties in MMA and it’s entirely possible Nurmagomedov and Almeida flame out before even coming close to UFC gold, but if their recent performances are anything to go by, at least one of them will top the MMA Fighting Global Rankings in the not-too-far future.

Will the real No. 1 light heavyweight please stand up (or has he already?)

We’ve already presented the question of what to make of Jamahal Hill‘s case to be considered the No. 1 light heavyweight with his out-of-nowhere UFC title win in the latest Rankings Shakeup, but wherever you rank him, the question remains: what the heck do we make of the rest of this division?

Once the marquee attraction of the world’s largest fight promotion, the 205-pound roster became watered down during Jon Jones’ years-long reign as he cleaned out the division and it has been a murky mess since he vacated the title in 2020. There have been a handful of thrills since — a respectful bow to Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira blessing us with one of the greatest fights of all time — but little stability and plenty of stops-and-starts from inconsistent contenders.

Hill’s win only confuses things further as he moved to the No. 2 spot on three ballots this cycle (Prochazka is still our unanimous No. 1), with Jan Blachowicz, Magomed Ankalaev, and Bellator’s Vadim Nemkov also receiving votes for the spot vacated by the retired Teixeira. That’s what happens when have three different UFC light heavyweight title fights scheduled in the span of two months.

For a division that had a clear-cut ruler for so long, it’s remarkable to consider how long it might be until we can definitely say that it has a truly undisputed champion again.

A.J. McKee puts both feet through the lightweight door

A notable exit has to be addressed as the panel determined that A.J. McKee belongs in the lightweight rankings now. Heading into this cycle, McKee was tied for the No. 4 spot at 145 pounds, but with his past two appearances taking place at 155 pounds (including an impressive win over RIZIN champ Roberto Satoshi) and his entry into the upcoming Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix, it’s time for a change.

The same could soon be said for two-time UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, who immediately announced that he would make an anticipated move to bantamweight following his loss to Brandon Moreno at UFC 283 this past weekend, and for former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos who has seemingly committed to welterweight. They’ve kept their current positions for now, a situation that will likely change once they receive their next bookings.

What other high-profile weight class moves could we see before the end of the year? Will Alex Pereira jump up to 205 to go after Hill and avenge Teixeira if middleweight title defenses against Israel Adesanya or Robert Whittaker don’t materialize? Will Aljamain Sterling shift over to featherweight to make room at the top for close friend Merab Dvalishvili? Will Jessica Andrade ever settle on competing in one division?

Look to see familiar names in the rankings at the end of the year in not-so-familiar places.

Check out the complete March rankings below.


Heavyweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 13 Jailton Almeida def. Shamil Abdurakhimov

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 7 Derrick Lewis vs. Serghei Spivac (UFC Vegas 68, Feb. 4), No. 10 (tied) Marcin Tybura vs. Blagoy Ivanov (UFC Vegas 68, Feb. 4), No. 10 (tied) Ryan Bader vs. Fedor Emelianenko (Bellator 290, Feb. 4)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Serghei Spivac (5), Linton Vassell (1)


Light Heavyweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 10 Jamahal Hill def. No. 2 Glover Teixeira, Johnny Walker def. No. 14 Paul Craig

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Paul Craig (5), Yoel Romero (3), Antonio Carlos Junior (1), Khalil Rountree (1)


Middleweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Jared Cannonier def. No. 11 (tied) Sean Strickland, No. 11 (tied) Sean Strickland def. No. 14 Nassourdine Imavov (light heavyweight bout)

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Johnny Eblen vs. Anatoly Tokov (Bellator 290, Feb. 4)

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


Welterweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Gilbert Burns def. Neil Magny

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

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


Lightweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 9 Arman Tsarukyan def. No. 15 Damir Ismagulov

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Islam Makhachev vs. No. 1 FW Alexander Volkanovski

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Drew Dober (6), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (5), Tofiq Musayev (2), Roberto Satoshi (2), Renato Moicano (2), Dan Hooker (1)


Featherweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Patricio Pitbull def. Kleber Koike, No. 4 A.J. McKee def. Roberto Satoshi (lightweight bout)

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Alexander Volkanovski vs. No. 1 LW Islam Makhachev (lightweight bout) (UFC 284, Feb. 11), No. 4 Yair Rodriguez vs. No. 7 Josh Emmett (UFC 284, Feb. 11)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Dan Ige (3), Adam Borics (1), Jeremy Kennedy (1), Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (1), Movlid Khaybulaev (1), Jonathan Pearce (1), Sodiq Yusuff (1)


Bantamweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 13 Umar Nurmagomedov def. Raoni Barcelos

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

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


Flyweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Brandon Moreno def. No. 2 Deiveson Figueiredo, No. 11 Manel Kape def. No. 14 (tied) David Dvorak

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Matt Schnell (3), Tim Elliott (3), Ali Bagautinov (2), John Dodson (2), Rogerio Bontorin (2), Jeff Molina (2), Danny Kingad (1)


Women’s Bantamweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 6 Raquel Pennington def. No. 3 Ketlen Vieira

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Talita Bernardo (2), Lina Lansberg (2), Chelsea Chandler (1), Melissa Dixon (1), Julija Stoliarenko (1)


Women’s Flyweight


Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Jessica Andrade def. No. 6 Lauren Murphy

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

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


Strawweight


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): Tabatha Ricci (2), Lupita Godinez (1), Luana Pinheiro (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 typically completed following each month’s UFC pay-per-view.
  • 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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