Making Sense of the Updated Athlete Rankings After UFC 243
UFC 243 will be remembered as the night Israel Adesanya summited the middleweight mountain. The card, which emanated from Melbourne, Australia, saw Adesanya capture the promotion's middleweight strap from long-absent champion Robert Whittaker in a dazzling display of skill and showmanship.
Outside of this headline-dominating main event, the card was admittedly a little sparse in terms of top talent, but it did feature a handful of ranked fighters in Al Iaquinta, Dan Hooker and Tai Tuivasa.
Despite the lack of high-profile fighters on the bill, UFC 243 did cause a considerable shake-up in the rankings for a number of divisions. Which fighters climbed? Which fighters fell?
Let's take a look at the new UFC rankings in the wake of the UFC 243 card.
Note: The women's strawweight, women's flyweight, men's featherweight and light heavyweight divisions remain unchanged in the new UFC rankings. Weight classes have been organized based on the significance of the changes to the rankings.
Israel Adesanya (up 6 spots)
Kamaru Usman (down 1 spot)
Robert Whittaker (down 5 spots)
No. 1 Pound-for-Pound: Jon Jones
As expected, UFC 243 had a big impact on the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings.
New middleweight champion Israel Adesanya surged up the list, settling at No. 8. In doing so, he bumped welterweight champion and fellow Nigerian Kamaru Usman down to the No. 9 spot.
Robert Whittaker, meanwhile, lost more than the middleweight belt. He also lost his status as a top-10 pound-for-pound UFC fighter, careening five spots down to the periphery of the list.
With pound-for-pound stars like Usman, Amanda Nunes and Max Holloway all set to compete in the coming months, we can expect this list to remain fluid. The rapidly evolving beef between Adesanya and Jon Jones could also wind up having huge implications on the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings.
Robert Whittaker (down 1 spot)
Antonio Carlos Junior
Champion: Israel Adesanya
UFC 243 only caused one change to the UFC middleweight rankings, but it's a big one. Adesanya usurped the division's throne, forcing Whittaker back into a crowded middleweight field. Whittaker now holds the division's No. 1 spot. Despite the former champ's position at the front of the line, the next middleweight title shot is expected to go to the division's No. 2 fighter, undefeated Paulo Costa. Former heavyweight Jared Cannonier is also on the cusp of a middleweight title shot.
Paul Felder (up 1 spot)
Dan Hooker (up 8 spots)
Al Iaquinta (down 2 spots)
Kevin Lee (down 2 spots)
Anthony Pettis (down 2 spots)
Charles Oliveira (down 1 spot)
Alexander Hernandez (down 1 spot)
Islam Makhachev (down 1 spot)
Champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov
The lightweight Top Five went untouched at UFC 243, but the rest of the Top 15 looks nearly unrecognizable in the wake of the card. That's thanks primarily to the handiwork of Dan Hooker, who thumped Al Iaquinta to a unanimous decision win in the UFC 243 co-main event.
Hooker rocketed up a whopping eight spots and now calls the No. 7 ranking home. From this new vantage point, the Kiwi has called for fights with Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, the division's No. 2 and No. 4 fighters, respectively. Unfortunately for Hooker, both Poirier and Gaethje have their crosshairs locked on Conor McGregor.
Hooker's vanquished foe, Iaquinta, settled at No. 8. With back-to-back losses in the rearview mirror, the New Yorker will have to collect a few consecutive victories to regain his footing.
Elsewhere in the lightweight rankings, Paul Felder climbed one spot to No. 6. Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis, who both made their latest trips to the cage as welterweights, each fell two spots, settling at No. 10 and No. 12, respectively. Lastly, Charles Oliveira, Alexander Hernandez and Islam Makhachev all tumbled down one spot to fill out the bottom of the Top 15.
They can all thank Hooker for their demotions.
Men's Flyweight, Men’s Bantamweight
Champion: Henry Cejudo
UFC 243 had no direct effect on the men's flyweight or bantamweight divisions, both of which are ruled by Henry Cejudo, but both divisions' rankings have experienced some small changes unrelated to the card.
Askar Askarov, who battled Brandon Moreno to a draw at the recent UFC Mexico event, moved up to the No. 13 spot at flyweight, displacing Ryan Benoit. Benoit, in turn, slid to No. 14. We can probably attribute his slight stumble to the fact that he hasn't set foot in the Octagon since November 2017.
That Benoit is ranked at all indicates the shallow nature of the lightest men's division. The UFC's decision-makers still can't seem to decide what to do with this weight class.
UFC 243 was originally expected to feature a bantamweight bout between Khalid Taha and Bruno Silva, but that turned into a 137-pound catchweight contest when Taha missed weight, meaning the card went down without a single morsel of official men's bantamweight action.
That being said, there was one small, seemingly arbitrary change to the UFC bantamweight rankings. Jimmie Rivera climbed up to the No. 7 spot to tie former champion Dominick Cruz. Rivera lost his last two fights, so it's not clear what prompted this rise.
Aspen Ladd (up 1 spot)
Julianna Pena (down 1 spot)
Irene Aldana (up 1 spot)
Marion Reneau (down 1 spot)
Macy Chiasson (up 1 spot)
Champion: Amanda Nunes
UFC 243 was supposed to include a women's bantamweight bout between former champion Holly Holm and former title challenger Raquel Pennington. Unfortunately, the matchup was nixed when Holm suffered an injury.
Despite that, there were some changes on the women's bantamweight list, and they're a little difficult to decipher.
Aspen Ladd climbed one spot to No. 4. She displaced Julianna Pena, who settled at No. 5. Irene Aldana stole the No. 8 spot, pushing Marion Reneau down to No. 9. And Macy Chiasson climbed to No. 11, tying the woman she recently lost to, Lina Lansberg.
None of these women fought at UFC 243. Why they moved is hard to say. The most likely culprit is the whim of the UFC ranking panelists. History shows they can be an indecisive bunch.
Rafael Dos Anjos
Stephen Thompson (up 1 spot)
Darren Till (down 1 spot)
Gilbert Burns (not previously ranked)
Champion: Kamaru Usman
The only changes to the UFC welterweight rankings are unrelated to the UFC 243 card.
Two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson made a one-spot climb ahead of his UFC 244 fight with the 14th-ranked Vicente Luque and is now sitting at No. 8. It's possible the UFC encouraged voters to give Thompson a little push to raise the stakes of his fight with Luque.
Former welterweight title challenger Darren Till fell one spot to No. 9, despite a previous win over Thompson. His drop is likely because of his hike north to the middleweight division, which will culminate when he meets Kelvin Gastelum in the UFC 244 co-main event.
Lastly, former lightweight Gilbert Burns is now ranked at welterweight. He assumed the No. 15 spot after short-notice triumphs over Aleksei Kunchenko and Gunnar Nelson. Burns recently told BJPenn.com's Cole Shelton that he intends to stick to the welterweight division for now, but he isn't ruling out a return to lightweight.
Junior Dos Santos
Blagoy Ivanov (up 1 spot)
Shamil Abdurakhimov (up 1 spot)
Augusto Sakai (up 1 spot)
Aleksei Oleinik (up 1 spot)
Maurice Greene (up 1 spot)
Sergei Pavlovich (not previously ranked)
Marcin Tybura (not previously ranked)
Champion: Stipe Miocic
The UFC heavyweight Top 15 underwent big changes for two reasons.
First, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez exited the rankings after migrating to the pro wrestling ring. Second, Tai Tuivasa was booted out of the Top 15 after being submitted by the unheralded Sergey Spivak on the UFC 243 main card.
With Velasquez and Tuivasa out, the door opened for some of the previously unranked big boys to lumber into the rankings, though the victorious Spivak surprisingly wasn't one of them.
Sergei Pavlovich climbed into the No. 14 spot, while Marcin Tybura, who has been inside the Top 15 before, reemerged at No. 15. Augusto Sakai, Aleksei Oleinik and Maurice Green also made small climbs.
Reigning champ Stipe Miocic and former champ Daniel Cormier remain the division's apex predators. The pair are expected to meet in a tie-breaking trilogy fight in 2020. The fight will be Cormier's last and have huge implications for not only the heavyweight rankings but also the ongoing Greatest of All Time debate.