Bleacher Report MMA Rankings for September 2016 Ahead of UFC 203

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2016

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 30:  (L-R) Tyron Woodley talks to UFC commentator after his knockout victory over Robbie Lawler in their welterweight championship bout during the UFC 201 event on July 30, 2016 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

It's been a while, folks, but the Bleacher Report MMA rankings are back! It's been a hectic month-and-a-half, with a number of major events and a number of good fights going down across nearly every major promotion.

There's a lot to discuss, so let's just jump right in.

The complete rules can be found here, the full rankings for each individual member of the panel can be found here and the notes for this month are as follows:

  • Jon Jones has been removed from the rankings due to his temporary suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission. When he is re-added to the rankings will be decided based on the results of his upcoming hearing with the NSAC.
  • Chad Mendes has been removed from the rankings due to his two-year suspension by USADA. He will be re-added after his next MMA bout.
  • Anthony Pettis has been moved from 155 pound consideration to 145 pounds, due to his recent win over Charles Oliveira.
  • Renan Barao has been moved from 135 pound consideration to 145 pounds, following the announcement of his upcoming featherweight fight against Phillipe Nover.
  • Patricio Freire will remain at 145 pounds due to his intent to return to the division. Ben Henderson, meanwhile, will likely remain at 170 until his next fight is made official.

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 30:  (R-L) Karolina Kowalkiewicz circles Rose Namajunas in their women's strawweight bout during the UFC 201 event on July 30, 2016 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Strawweight

No. 1- Joanna Jedrzejczyk (40)
No. 2- Claudia Gadelha (36)
No. 3- Karolina Kowalkiewicz (31)
No. 4- Rose Namajunas (26)
No. 5- Tecia Torres (22)
No. 6- Jessica Aguilar (17)
No. 7- Carla Esparza (16)
No. 8- Joanne Calderwood (10)
No. 9- Jessica Andrade (9)
No. 10- Alexa Grasso (4)
No. 10- Angela Hill (4)
No. 10- Valerie Letourneau (4)

Rose Namajunas' hype train has once again been derailed. The runner-up of The Ultimate Fighter season 20 ate a tough split decision loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 201. While Namajunas lost little ground as a result, it's a tough blow for a fighter that was incredibly close to a title shot.

Outside the rankings, Cortney Casey became one of the first women in UFC history to get a quick turnaround between fights, posting wins over Cristina Stanciu and Randa Markos over the past two months. In a bigger fight, Paige VanZant got back in the win column with a knockout of Bec Rawlings. While the switch kick that ended the fight is a great highlight, her overall performance was subpar, as she struggled to deal with Rawlings' athleticism before the random knockout.

SIOUX FALLS, SD - JULY 13:   Louis Smolka celebrates his victory over Ben Nguyen in their flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event on July 13, 2016 at Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Flyweight

No. 1- Demetrious Johnson (40)
No. 2- Joseph Benavidez (36)
No. 3- Kyoji Horiguchi (29)
No. 4- Henry Cejudo (28)
No. 5- Jussier da Silva (23)
No. 6- Ian McCall (16)
No. 7- Ali Bagautinov (11)
No. 7- Louis Smolka (11)
No. 9- Wilson Reis (10)
No. 10- Zach Makovsky (8)

Louis Smolka is looking like he could be a legitimate threat to Demetrious Johnson before long. The Hawaiian posted a dominant win over Ben Nguyen at UFC Fight Night 91, and cemented his place in the top-10. In a shallow flyweight division, he could easily be a fight or two away from a title opportunity.

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 20:  Cody Garbrandt fights Takeya Mizugaki of Japan in their bantamweight bout during the UFC 202 event at T-Mobile Arena on August 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Men's Bantamweight

No. 1- Dominick Cruz (40)
No. 2- T.J. Dillashaw (36)
No. 3- Raphael Assuncao (27)
No. 4- Bryan Caraway (21)
No. 5- Marlon Moraes (19)
No. 6- Cody Garbrandt (16)
No. 7- John Lineker (13)
No. 8- John Dodson (12)
No. 8- Aljamain Sterling (12)
No. 10- Urijah Faber (11)
 

John Lineker gave a drubbing to Michael McDonald and is sitting pretty in the top-10 as a result. McDonald, meanwhile, falls out of the running.

Cody Garbrandt has become a legitimate phenomenon in the past month since knocking out respected veteran Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 202. Mizugaki is a great name to have on the résumé and Garbrandt's brand of pure power and smart wrestling looks good enough to make a legitimate run for the title.

July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA;  Valentina Shevchenko (blue gloves) celebrates after defeating Holly Holm in their women's bantamweight bout during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Women's Bantamweight

No. 1- Amanda Nunes (36)
No. 2- Ronda Rousey (35)
No. 3- Miesha Tate (31)
No. 4- Valentina Shevchenko (28)
No. 5- Holly Holm (24)
No. 6- Julianna Pena (23)
No. 7- Cat Zingano (12)
No. 8- Tonya Evinger (10)
No. 9- Alexis Davis (8)
No. 10- Sara McMann (7)
 

The women's bantamweight division has been thrown into disarray. Again. 

At UFC on Fox 20, Valentina Shevchenko took a decisive win over Holly Holm, earning three 49-46 scorecards. Due to her March loss to Amanda Nunes, that further muddies a division that already had rankings which function like a seven-way rock-paper-scissors contest.

Outside the top of the pack, Raquel Pennington scored a solid win at UFC 202 over Elizabeth Phillips. She is now riding one of the longest active winning streaks in the division today (3) (which isn't saying much, but still), and could very well be poised for a jump up in competition before long.

VANCOUVER, BC - AUGUST 27:  (R-L) Anthony Pettis of the United States submits Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Rogers Arena on August 27, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Featherweight

No. 1- Conor McGregor (40)
No. 2- Jose Aldo (36)
No. 3- Frankie Edgar (31)
No. 4- Max Holloway (29)
No. 5- Daniel Straus (15)
No. 6- Ricardo Lamas (14)
No. 6- Cub Swanson (14)
No. 8- Anthony Pettis (12)
No. 9- Yair Rodriguez (9)
No. 10- Patricio Freire (6)

Anthony Pettis is a featherweight now, and kicked things off in style with a surprising submission win over Charles Oliveira. While the young Brazilian looked strong for much of the fight, he was caught in the third round by a guillotine choke that forced the tap. Pettis instantly jumps into the thick of things in the top-10, while Oliveira is now working along the perimeter.

Yair Rodriguez makes his rankings debut following another exciting performance opposite Alex Caceres. The UFC is clearly behind the young Mexican striker, and he could be en route to big things in the future.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Lightweight

No. 1- Eddie Alvarez (39)
No. 2- Khabib Nurmagomedov (36)
No. 3- Rafael dos Anjos (32)
No. 4- Tony Ferguson (27)
No. 5- Will Brooks (23)
No. 6- Nate Diaz (20)
No. 7- Edson Barboza (18)
No. 8- Dustin Poirier (7)
No. 9- Michael Chiesa (6)
No. 10- Michael Chandler (4)
No. 10- Justin Gaethje (4)

Edson Barboza gave Gilbert Melendez a rude welcome back to the UFC. The former Strikeforce champ was absolutely battered by Barboza's kicking game, and may officially be on the downslide of his career. Barboza, meanwhile, continues to improve every fight even this deep in his career, and may not be too far off a title berth.

VANCOUVER, BC - AUGUST 27: Demian Maia of Brazil (top) attempts to submit Carlos Condit of the United States in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Rogers Arena on August 27, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by J
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Welterweight

No. 1- Tyron Woodley (37)
No. 2- Stephen Thompson (35)
No. 3- Robbie Lawler (33)
No. 4- Rory MacDonald (27)
No. 4- Demian Maia (27)
No. 6- Ben Askren (18)
No. 7- Carlos Condit (10)
No. 8- Andrey Koreshkov (9)
No. 9- Donald Cerrone (7)
No. 10- Kelvin Gastelum (5)

UFC 202 featured three big welterweight fights and while the main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz was the biggest fight on the show, neither man is ranked at 170 pounds, and neither man changed position after. Donald Cerrone, however, cemented himself as a top-10 welterweight by putting a beating on Rick Story and Lorenz Larkin knocked Neil Magny out cold, and knocked him out of the rankings in the first round of their fight.

More recently, Demian Maia continues to look absolutely dominant. His latest victim? Carlos Condit. Maia took him down, secured back control and locked in a rear-naked choke on the former WEC champion in under two minutes, earning his most impressive win to date and pushing him further up the rankings.

Jul 13, 2016; Sioux Falls, SD, USA;  Sam Alvey (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Eric Spicely (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Denny Sanford Premier Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Middleweight

No. 1- Michael Bisping (38)
No. 2- Luke Rockhold (37)
No. 3- Chris Weidman (32)
No. 4- Ronaldo Souza (29)
No. 5- Robert Whittaker (19)
No. 6- Gegard Mousasi (18)
No. 7- Vitor Belfort (15)
No. 7- Lyoto Machida (15)
No. 9- Anderson Silva (6)
No. 9- Derek Brunson (6)

Not much happened in the middleweight division this month. Sam Alvey and Thales Leites posted wins over Kevin Casey and Chris Camozzi, respectively, but neither man made his way into the top-10.

Axel Heimken/Associated Press

Light Heavyweight

No. 1- Daniel Cormier (40)
No. 2- Anthony Johnson (36)
No. 3- Alexander Gustafsson (30)
No. 4- Ryan Bader (26)
No. 5- Phil Davis (24)
No. 6- Glover Teixeira (18)
No. 7- Liam McGeary (17)
No. 8- Mo Lawal (12)
No. 9- Ovince Saint Preux (8)
No. 10- Mauricio Rua (4)

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson absolutely destroyed Glover Teixeira at UFC 202 in one of his most vicious knockouts to date. That's not surprising at this point, though. Neither was Alexander Gustafsson beating Jan Blachowicz or Ryan Bader defeating Ilir Latifi (though Bader exploding Latifi with a knee was a bit of a shock). 

What is surprising is how good Nikita Krylov has been. The Ukrainian posted an amazing headkick knockout of Ed Herman at UFC 201, extending his winning streak to five, with each fight ending in impressive fashion. It's time to stop looking at the youngster as an action fighter, and start looking at him as one of the best in the division.

Axel Heimken/Associated Press

Heavyweight

No. 1- Stipe Miocic (40)
No. 2- Fabricio Werdum (35)
No. 3- Cain Velasquez (32)
No. 4- Alistair Overeem (28)
No. 5- Junior dos Santos (24)
No. 6- Ben Rothwell (21)
No. 7- Travis Browne (14)
No. 8- Josh Barnett (11)
No. 9- Derrick Lewis (5)
No. 10- Andrei Arlovski (4)

It wasn't an especially active month for the heavyweight division, but there was still some good stuff to be found. 

Josh Barnett showed that he remains one of the craftiest fighters in MMA by defeating Andrei Arlovski with a catch wrestling seminar that culminated in a rear-naked choke. It cemented Barnett's place in the top-10, while pushing Arlovski further down, and pushing him further toward retirement.

Some younger talent was also on display earlier in the month, too. Francis Ngannou and Marcin Tybura both posted impressive knockout wins and showed that things might not be that bad in the heavyweight division in five years.

May 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic makes an appearance in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Top Upcoming Fights to Watch

  • Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem (UFC 203)
  • Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne (UFC 203)
  • Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Johnson (UFC Fight Night 94)
  • John Lineker vs. Jon Dodson (UFC Fight Night 96)

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