The reliability of MMA rankings have long been debated due to their subjective nature. However, with the help of math, personal opinions can be removed from ranking systems as much as possible. That is the aim of the following monthly UFC ranking system, which orders fighters in each division based on a formula that heavily weighs results against similar competition.
By removing non-UFC fighters from the equation, many of whom have not proven themselves against elite competition, these rankings eliminate much of the guesswork that goes into personal rankings. That is not to say there are not elite fighters competing outside of the Octagon, but the UFC has become the major league of MMA, and there is no denying that.
Take a look at the complete UFC rankings on the following pages of this slideshow and leave your opinions in the comment section below. Alterations to the ranking formula will be made based on the response from the Bleacher Report community.
The following rankings are computerized based primarily on comparing similar competition among fighters. Exhibition bouts are not considered in determining rankings.
Fighters will be ranked in the division in which they last competed unless they are scheduled for a bout in a new division, in which case, the fighter will be listed as a non-ranked fighter in their new division until their scheduled bout occurs.
Champions who compete outside the division in which they hold a belt will be ranked in both divisions unless one year has passed since they have defended their title.
Competitors who have announced their retirement will be ineligible for ranking until they return to the Octagon. However, once their return fight is announced, they will be listed as non-ranked fighters.
Suspended fighters and competitors who have been inactive for more than one calender year will not be ranked.
Changes will be made to these guidelines at the overwhelming request of Bleacher Report readers.
Following a year-long layoff due to a brutal arm injury suffered against Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira returned to the Octagon at UFC 153 and picked up a win over Dave Herman.
While many have wondered how close Nogueira could be to retirement, the Brazilian heavyweight is still widely considered a top-10 heavyweight and has only lost against Mir and Cain Velasquez since joining the UFC ranks.
Like Nogueira, Antonio Silva also silenced some critics who may have believed his career was headed south. The former EliteXC champion slowed the rise of Travis Browne with a first-round stoppage and retained his spot as one of the 10 best UFC heavyweights in the process.
Recent Heavyweight Fights
Upcoming Heavyweight Fights
Hot—Stefan Struve—Since being knocked out by Travis Browne in May 2011, Struve has picked up four straight victories. During his current streak, Struve has stopped all of his opponents in the second round or earlier and is surprisingly coming close to surpassing Browne on the heavyweight ladder after the latter recently hit a wall in the form of Antonio Silva.
Cold—Stipe Miocic—Wins in his first three Octagon appearances had some considering Miocic a soon-to-be contender in the heavyweight division. However, Miocic had trouble dealing with the reach of Struve in his most recent outing and was bumped back down in these rankings for now.
Non-Ranked UFC Heavyweights
Chael Sonnen has talked his way into another big-money fight. Coming off a loss in a title fight against middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Sonnen didn't even have to pick up a single win at light heavyweight before being granted a title shot against 205-pound champion Jon Jones.
As an explanation for why Sonnen was granted an opportunity to fight for the title, UFC president Dana White pointed at the former 185-pound fighter's willingness to take a fight with Jones on short notice prior to the cancelled UFC 151 event.
Light heavyweight contenders Mauricio Rua and Lyoto Machida, meanwhile, declined to meet the champion without a longer training camp.
There was no risk in Sonnen accepting that proposed fight with Jones, though. If he had lost, Sonnen could have placed blame on the lack of preparation time he would have had, and it's not like his standing in light heavyweight rankings would have been changed as a result.
After all, the outspoken Team Quest member won't even be included in these rankings until he steps into the cage with Jones in April 2013.
Recent Light Heavyweight Fights
Upcoming Light Heavyweight Fights
Light Heavyweight Rankings
Hot—Vinny Magalhaes—Since being released from the UFC in April 2009, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace has won eight of his past nine fights. With a pair of stoppage victories due to strikes during that time, there is reason to believe The Ultimate Fighter runner-up has made the improvements needed to become a contender in the light heavyweight division.
Cold—Anthony Perosh—After losing to Mirko Filipovic in his return to the UFC in February 2010, Perosh rattled off three straight wins. However, even in victory, Perosh's lacking striking technique was easily visible. It was only a matter of time until Perosh came crashing back down, and that time came in a seven-second knockout loss to Ryan Jimmo.
Non-Ranked UFC Light Heavyweights
It hasn't even been four months since Anderson Silva last defended his middleweight title. However, for top 185-pound contenders like Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping, it seems "The Spider" has been an absent champion for much longer.
That is probably because Silva is currently showing very little interest in returning to the middleweight division for his next appearance. Silva is also currently coming off a light heavyweight win over Stephan Bonnar that has earned him a spot in the 205-pound rankings until he drops some pounds for a bout ina different weight class.
At the moment, Silva seems most interested in a superfight with long-time welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. However, that fight could depend on a St-Pierre win in an upcoming bout with interim champion Carlos Condit.
Recent Middleweight Fights
Upcoming Middleweight Fights
Hot—Alan Belcher—The wheels may not be spinning as fast as he would like, but Belcher is finally being recognized as a serious contender in the middleweight division.
Though a career-threatening eye problem kept Belcher out of action for 16 months in 2010 and 2011, the 28-year-old has come back stronger than ever with first-round stoppages of Jason MacDonald and Rousimar Palhares.
Cold—Jason MacDonald—With wins over the likes of Chris Leben and Ed Herman, the journeyman has had a respectable MMA career. However, after being stopped in the first round of his past two bouts, it is beginning to appear as if MacDonald's career is nearing its close.
Non-Ranked UFC Middleweights
Though talented prospect Erick Silva came up short in his bout with Jon Fitch, the past month has shown that the welterweight division is nowhere close to a shortage on rising fighters nearing title contention.
Former middleweight title challenger Demian Maia recently moved to the 170-pound division and made a big statement in his most recent appearance by easily submitting Rick Story in the opening round. Additionally, Kyle Noke made a big splash in his move from middleweight to welterweight by rolling through Charlie Brenneman in a first-round knockout win.
Over recent years, the welterweight division has emerged as one of the deepest divisions in MMA. In Georges St-Pierre's absence, a number of contenders have arisen, and Carlos Condit earned an interim championship, making the immediate future of the 170-pound division very interesting.
Recent Welterweight Fights
Upcoming Welterweight Fights
Hot—Demian Maia—After losing to Chris Weidman in January, Maia made the decision to drop down to welterweight to revitalize his MMA career and make a new run at a title in a different weight class. Now, with a dominant victory over a solid welterweight in Rick Story, Maia already finds himself closing in on the top 170-pound fighters in the world.
Cold—Josh Neer—Following a two-year absence from the UFC, the crowd pleaser returned to the Octagon with a bloody win over Keith Wisniewski.
Neer tacked on a nasty submission win over Duane Ludwig, and fans began to wonder if "The Dentist" was priming himself for a run toward the top of the welterweight division. So much for that, as Neer has now been finished in the opening rounds of his past two fights.
Non-Ranked UFC Welterweights
The past month has seen several lightweight bouts, but most of the division's top fighters were inactive, causing anticipation to build for the December title fight between 155-pound champion Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz.
As the build-up for that fight continues, Matt Wiman picked up a big win over grappling ace Paul Sass. The veteran was expected to provide a stiff test for Sass, but few could have predicted Wiman would submit the Englishman as he did in the first round.
Wiman may not be getting picked to win a title any time soon, but his fight against Sass showed one more time that he's the type of fighter who can cause problems for any opponent on any given night.
Recent Lightweight Fights
Upcoming Lightweight Fights
Hot—Matt Wiman—With his win over Sass, Wiman has now won five of his past six fights and is proving himself to be one of the better grapplers in the lightweight division.
The 29-year-old is still in his prime and may have set himself up for a fight with a top-10 lightweight. He'd likely be an underdog against the elite 155-pound fighters, but you can't ever count this grinder out of a fight.
Cold—Gleison Tibau—With wins in four of his past five fights, you might be wondering how Tibau can be considered a fighter who is falling in the rankings.
Well, none of those five recent fights have come against top-10 lightweights, yet the Brazilian has fought to narrow decisions in four of them. Additionally, the lone stoppage Tibau earned in his past six appearances came against the low-ranked Rafaello Oliveira.
Non-Ranked UFC Lightweights
With Jose Aldo's bout against Frankie Edgar put on hold temporarily, Cub Swanson is attempting to emerge as the next fighter in line for a title shot, which could potentially mean a rematch with the Brazilian champion.
Swanson was stopped quickly and brutally in his first meeting with Aldo, who landed a double flying knee eight seconds into the bout. However, with three straight knockout wins, Swanson is beginning to look like a much-improved featherweight.
There's no doubt Aldo would be a massive favorite heading into a second fight with Swanson, but there's an equal chance that the matchup would produce plenty of excitement even in the event that it is not competitive once again.
Recent Featherweight Fights
Upcoming Featherweight Fights
Hot—Cub Swanson—After being submitted by Ricardo Lamas in his UFC debut, it appeared there was a chance Swanson was going to fade under the bright lights.
On the contrary, Lamas has since become a top featherweight contender, while Swanson has bounced back with three impressive victories. With one more win, Swanson should start receiving consideration for a title shot.
Cold—Jonathan Brookins—At the time it happened, a submission loss to Charles Oliveira did not seem like that big of a setback for Brookins.
However, now that Oliveira has been knocked out by Swanson and shown to be much further from the top of the 145-pound division than many previously believed, Brookins' standing among featherweights also takes a plunge.
Non-Ranked UFC Featherweights
It has already been three months since Renan Barao earned the interim bantamweight title with a victory over Urijah Faber. If Barao sits on that belt until fellow champion Dominick Cruz returns from injury, it will be many more months before fans see a 135-pound title fight inside the Octagon.
While a fight between Cruz and Barao is one many are looking forward to, there is little point in creating an interim title that goes undefended. Some promising contenders will be built up during the absence of these bantamweight champions, but fans will no doubt lose interest in a division where the belt is not up for grabs for what will likely be around one year in time.
Recent Bantamweight Fights
Upcoming Bantamweight Fights
Hot—Mike Easton—The Alliance MMA fighter is starting to come within striking distance of his teammate and bantamweight champion. While Easton needs another win or two before he's on Cruz's level, the 28-year-old's only career loss remains a defeat due to a broken arm in September 2007.
Cold—Dustin Pague—After losing to John Albert in his appearance at The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale, the reality show contestant received a rare third chance to retain a contract with the UFC.
Pague made the most of that chance by submitting Jared Papazian in his following fight, but he is now going down a path that leads toward fighting outside of the Octagon. Pague has lost two straight and will likely need a win in his next fight to avoid being released from the world's premier MMA organization.
Non-Ranked UFC Bantamweights
The flyweight division is finally beginning to take shape.
With Demetrious Johnson's narrow win over Joseph Benavidez, the weight class has its first champion. Already, that champion has his first challenger in John Dodson. The Ultimate Fighter winner earned his title shot with a knockout victory over UFC newcomer Jussier Formiga.
Obviously, the division is still relatively shallow, but the UFC has done a solid job of adding elite flyweight talent and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the months to come. Fans can expect more contenders to arise in the very near future.
Recent Flyweight Fights
Upcoming Flyweight Fights
Hot—John Dodson—"The Magician" was already a top flyweight prior to the UFC adopting the division. However, Dodson was a mostly unknown commodity before his successful appearance on The Ultimate Fighter. Now, the Greg Jackson-trained fighter is on his way toward adding another champion to his coach's stable of elite competitors.
Cold—Yasuhiro Urushitani—Prior to joining the UFC, the former Shooto champion was riding a five-fight winning streak and was considered one of the best 125-pound fighters on the planet. Now, after being knocked out by Benavidez, Urushitani will need a win in his next fight in order to remain a top-10 flyweight.
Non-Ranked UFC Flyweights