Breaking Down Each UFC Weight Class

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2019

Breaking Down Each UFC Weight Class

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    Jon Jones
    Jon JonesSean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    While the popularity of mixed martial arts has skyrocketed, the UFC is practically a foreign language for many people.

    However, learning about the sport shouldn't be an overwhelming task. Consider this a beginner's guide to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

    The following sections feature a brief look at each men's and women's division, including the current champion and top contender. Notable clashesparticularly between those two fightersare mentioned throughout the breakdown.

    Rankings are from

Flyweight (115-125 Pounds)

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    Henry Cejudo
    Henry CejudoJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Henry Cejudo brought home a gold medal in wresting for the United States. He's now a two-division champion inside the Octagon.

    Cejudo took the flyweight belt at UFC 227 when he unseated Demetrious Johnson, the champion for nearly six years. The two had previously fought in one of Johnson's 11 successful title defenses.

    Joseph Benavidez lost a pair of title fights to Johnson but remains one of the division's premier contenders.

Bantamweight (125-135 Pounds)

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    Marlon Moraes
    Marlon MoraesJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Cejudo added his second championship at UFC 238 in June, knocking out Marlon Moraes in the third round. The bantamweight belt was vacant because of T.J. Dillashaw's drug-related suspension.

    However, a shoulder injury will prevent Cejudo from fighting through the end of 2019, which could lead to an interim champion.

    Raphael Assuncao, Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan are among the best options for a title fight in Cejudo's absence.

Featherweight (135-145 Pounds)

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    Max Holloway
    Max HollowayChris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    For about six years, the featherweight belt belonged to either Conor McGregor or Jose Aldo. McGregor was the high-profile attraction, while Aldo held the championship for more than 2,000 days total.

    Then came Max Holloway.

    He defeated Anthony Pettis for the interim title at UFC 206 before knocking out Aldo at UFC 212. The rematch at UFC 218 again went to Holloway, who also defended the belt against Brian Ortega at UFC 231.

    Frankie Edgar fell to Holloway in a recent title fight, and a showdown with Alexander Volkanovski is likely coming soon. Aldo is sticking around, too; he signed a new deal earlier in 2019.

Lightweight (145-155 Pounds)

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    Khabib Nurmagomedov
    Khabib NurmagomedovJohn Locher/Associated Press

    McGregor already held the featherweight belt when he snatched the lightweight title at UFC 205 in Nov. 2016.

    This division has been loaded with drama in the ensuing months and years.

    Tony Ferguson took the interim crown in Oct. 2017, but both he and McGregor lost their titles in April 2018. Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Al Iaquinta for the belt at UFC 223 and knocked out McGregor at UFC 229. A post-match brawl resulted in a suspension for both fighters.

    Dustin Poirier earned a unanimous decision win over Holloway at UFC 236 to secure the interim title.

    Nurmagomedov, who has opened his career 27-0, will return to the ring against Poirier at UFC 242.

Welterweight (155-170 Pounds)

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    Kamaru Usman
    Kamaru UsmanChris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Long the home of superstar fighter Georges St-Pierre, the welterweight division became a larger part of UFC history in 2019.

    At UFC 235, Kamaru Usman defeated Tyron Woodley to become the company's first-ever African-born champion. Usman won a unanimous decision in dominant fashion.

    Along with former champions Woodley and Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards are possible challengers for the welterweight belt when Usman is healthy.

Middleweight (170-185 Pounds)

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    Robert Whittaker
    Robert WhittakerJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman ruled the middleweight division for nine years before Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping had their turn. However, Bisping's knee injury allowed Robert Whittaker to snatch the belt on an interim basis in 2017.

    Later that year, Bisping formally lost the title to Georges St-Pierre, but St-Pierre relinquished the belt after only 34 days due to ulcerative colitis. Whittaker then became the undisputed champion.

    He has yet to defend the title, though.

    Several injuries and medical issues have prevented Whittaker from fighting, and Yoel Romero failed to make weight at UFC 225. The division now has another interim champion in Israel Adesanya.

    Barring a setback, Whittaker and Adesanya are scheduled to fight at UFC 243 on Oct. 6, 2019.

Light Heavyweight (185-205 Pounds)

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    Jon Jones and Thiago Santos
    Jon Jones and Thiago SantosSean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Despite his controversial status because of arrests and suspensions, Jon "Bones" Jones has dominated this division.

    He initially secured the belt at UFC 128 in March 2011 and defended the title for eight fights and 1,501 days. Jones has since been stripped of and regained the belt twice, building a 25-1 (1 NC) career record.

    This year, Jones has beaten both Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos, two of the premier challengers in the light heavyweight class.

Heavyweight (205-265 Pounds)

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    Daniel Cormier
    Daniel CormierJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    Daniel Cormier rose to popularity in the light heavyweight division but has since become a heavyweight champion.

    Cormierwho vacated the light heavyweight belt in Dec. 2018 to focus on the heavier classwon the heavyweight belt at UFC 226 by knocking Stipe Miocic out in the first round. He then retained the title against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230.

    Miocic is set for a rematch with Cormier at UFC 241 on Aug. 17. The winner will likely be hearing from Francis Ngannou.

Women's Strawweight (Up to 115 Pounds)

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    Jessica Andrade
    Jessica AndradeJeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    Carla Esparza secured the inaugural title in Dec. 2014, and her victory over Rose Namajunas started a unique trend. Every strawweight champion also has a loss in a title fight on her resume.

    Joanna Jedrzejczyk dethroned Esparza and successfully defended her championship five times, the last of which came against Jessica Andrade. Namajunas then defeated Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 and in the UFC 223 rematch before she fell to Andrade.

    Andrade's knockout triumph at UFC 237 landed her the belt, but Weili Zhang is looking to steal it on Aug. 31.

    Tatiana Suarez, who toppled Nina Ansaroff at UFC 238, seems likely to have a title shot in the future.

Women's Flyweight (115-125 Pounds)

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    Valentina Shevchenko
    Valentina ShevchenkoJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Though the division has taken a while to grow in popularity, flyweight may have a bright future with Valentina Shevchenko.

    At UFC 231, she secured the vacant flyweight championship with a unanimous decision win over Jedrzejczyk. Shevchenko then defended the belt against Jessica Eye at UFC 238, needing only 26 seconds in the second round to retain her title.

    Katlyn Chookagian and Liz Carmouche are also eyeing the belt, and Carmouche has a showdown with Shevchenko on Aug. 10.

Women's Bantamweight (125-135 Pounds)

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    Amanda Nunes
    Amanda NunesSean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Best known for Ronda Rousey's reign of nearly three years, this division has boasted a quartet of recognizable champions.

    Rousey fell to Holly Holm at UFC 193, and Miesha Tate knocked Holm from her short-lived perch at UFC 196. Amanda Nunes then defeated Tate at UFC 200 and has since defended her title against Rousey, Shevchenko, Raquel Pennington and Holm.

    Germaine de Randamie, Ketlen Vieria and Aspen Ladd have since joined Holm as key threats within the division.

Women's Featherweight (135-145 Pounds)

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    Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes
    Cris Cyborg and Amanda NunesKyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Nunes swiped the featherweight crown from Cris Cyborg at UFC 232, knocking out the reigning champion in only 51 seconds. In doing so, she became the first woman in UFC history to hold belts in two divisions at the same time.

    Prior to that UFC 232 knockout loss, Cyborg held the featherweight title for 517 days. She defended it twice, defeating Holly Holm at UFC 219 and Yana Kunitskaya at UFC 222.

    Since the featherweight division does not feature many fights, a rematch between Nunes and Cyborg would be a high-profile event.