Stock Up, Stock Down: Making Sense of the Rankings After UFC on ESPN 9
Tyron Woodley’s loss to Gilbert Burns could not have been more damaging for his standing in the official UFC rankings.
Last Saturday, in the main event of UFC on ESPN 9, the former UFC welterweight champion returned to the cage for the first time since he surrendered his title to Kamaru Usman in March 2019. For five rounds, he was comprehensively beaten by Burns en route to the first two-fight losing streak of his illustrious career.
Unsurprisingly, this outcome had a huge affect on the UFC welterweight rankings. It also caused a shake-up to the men’s pound-for-pound list, where Woodley was a long-time staple.
Interestingly, the UFC on ESPN 9 card also caused significant shake-ups to the rankings for several other divisions, including heavyweight and men’s flyweight.
Without out any further ado, let’s get to work and unpack the changes.
Note: The men's bantamweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight divisions and women’s strawweight, flyweight and bantamweight divisions did not experience any changes in the new UFC rankings. Weight classes are organized based on the significance of the changes to the rankings.
1. Jon Jones
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov
3. Stipe Miocic (up one spot)
4. Israel Adesanya (up one spot)
5. Daniel Cormier (up one spot)
6. Kamaru Usman (up one spot)
7. Alexander Volkanovski (up one spot)
8. Conor McGregor (up one spot)
9. Max Holloway (up one spot)
10. Justin Gaethje (up one spot)
11. Dustin Poirier (up one spot)
12. Tony Ferguson (up one spot)
13. Robert Whittaker (up one spot)
14. Francis Ngannou (not previously ranked)
15. Dominick Reyes (not previously ranked)
The men’s pound-for-pound rankings look completely different than they did a few weeks ago, and that’s due to the exit of two mainstays from the list: the vanquished Woodley and former flyweight and bantamweight champ Henry Cejudo, who recently retired from competition.
Their departures cleared the way for a number of other fighters to rise a spot apiece. They also made room for two new additions to the pound-for-pound list: top light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes, who previously featured on the list, and leading heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou, who makes his pound-for-pound debut.
1. Amanda Nunes
2. Weili Zhang
3. Valentina Shevchenko
4. Jessica Andrade
5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
6. Rose Namajunas
7. Tatiana Suarez
8. Holly Holm
9. Germaine De Randamie
10. Aspen Ladd
11. Katlyn Chookagian
12. Jessica Eye
13. Claudia Gadelha
14. Julianna Pena
15. Nina Ansaroff (down one spot)
The new women’s pound-for-pound list only includes one change: Nina Ansaroff took a one-spot tumble to No. 15.
This drop is likely due to the fact that she has not fought since June 2019 in a loss to Tatiana Suarez, and given that she’s pregnant, she’s unlikely to fight again any time soon.
While the women’s pound-for-pound list looks more or less the same as it did last week, it could look different when it’s updated next, as Amanda Nunes is set to defend her featherweight title against Felicia Spencer in the main event of UFC 250 on Saturday.
Champion: Kamaru Usman
1. Gilbert Burns (up five spots)
2. Colby Covington
3. Jorge Masvidal
4. Tyron Woodley (down three spots)
5. Leon Edwards (down one spot)
6. Stephen Thompson (down one spot)
7. Demian Maia
8. Michael Chiesa
9. Rafael dos Anjos
10. Nate Diaz
11. Geoff Neal
12. Robbie Lawler
13. Vicente Luque
14. Anthony Pettis (up one spot)
15. Conor McGregor (down one spot)
Tyron Woodley’s loss to Gilbert Burns didn’t just send him packing from the pound-for-pound rankings, it also sent him careering down the welterweight list. He now sits at No. 4.
Burns, on the other hand, has made a massive climb, rocketing up five spots to settle at No. 1—surpassing bona fide contenders such as Leon Edwards, Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington.
With such a favorable station in the division, he may well leapfrog his rivals to get the next crack at champion Kamaru Usman, who he shares a training space with at Sanford MMA in South Florida.
Outside of the Burns-related movement, the updated welterweight rankings feature one unrelated change: a seemingly arbitrary switch between Anthony Pettis and Conor McGregor, who now sit at Nos. 14 and 15, respectively.
1. Deiveson Figueiredo
2. Joseph Benavidez
3. Brandon Moreno
4. Jussier Formiga
5. Alexandre Pantoja
6. Askar Askarov
7. Kai Kara France
8. Rogerio Bontorin
9. Alex Perez
10. Matt Schnell
11. Brandon Royval (not previously ranked)
12. Tim Elliott (down one spot)
13. Jordan Espinosa (down one spot)
14. Raulian Paiva (down one spot)
15. David Dvorak (down one spot)
The men’s flyweight top 15 looks quite different than it did last week, and that’s thanks entirely to former LFA flyweight champion Brandon Royval.
On the UFC on ESPN 9 undercard, Royval made his Octagon debut against former title challenger Tim Elliott—certainly not a warm welcome to the promotion.
Royval ended up winning with a second-round arm-triangle choke, instantly inserting himself into the division’s top 15, and pushing Elliott, Jordan Espinosa, Raulian Paiva and David Dvorak down one spot apiece.
At present, the men’s flyweight division doesn’t have a champion, but that will change when Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo rematch for the title on July 18. With another few wins, Royval could find himself in a fight with the winner.
Champion: Stipe Miocic
1. Daniel Cormier
2. Francis Ngannou
3. Curtis Blaydes
4. Derrick Lewis
5. Junior dos Santos (down one spot)
6. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
7. Alexander Volkov
8. Alistair Overeem
9. Walt Harris
10. Augusto Sakai (up three spots)
11. Aleksei Oleinik (down one spot)
12. Shamil Abdurakhimov (down one spot)
13. Sergei Pavlovich (up one spot)
14. Fabricio Werdum (up one spot)
15. Blagoy Ivanov (down three spots)
In the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 9, former Bellator star Augusto Sakai stepped into the Octagon with former World Series of Fighting champion Blagoy Ivanov.
Sakai ended up winning by split decision. It wasn't a particularly exciting fight, nor was the victory especially convincing, but it was enough to push the 29-year-old into the vaunted heavyweight top 10.
Now tied with Francis Ngannou for the longest active win streak in the heavyweight division at four, Sakai climbed a significant three spots in the new UFC rankings, displacing several other big men in the process.
Ivanov, on the other hand, tumbled down three spots, settling on the cusp of the rankings at No. 15.
While the heavyweight division is at a bit of a standstill, with champion Stipe Miocic and No. 1 contender Daniel Cormier still without a date for their title rematch, the rankings could change again soon, as No. 3-ranked contender Curtis Blaydes is set to fight No. 7 Alexander Volkov on June 20.
Champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov
1. Justin Gaethje
2. Tony Ferguson
3. Dustin Poirier
4. Conor McGregor
5. Dan Hooker
6. Paul Felder
7. Charles Oliveira
8. Kevin Lee
9. Al Iaquinta
10. Diego Ferreira
11. Gregor Gillespie
12. Donald Cerrone (up one spot)
13. Islam Makhachev (down one spot)
14. Beneil Dariush (up one spot)
15. Drew Dober (down one spot)
The new lightweight rankings include a number of changes, but they’re all very hard to decode.
Donald Cerrone made a bizarre, one-spot climb to No. 12, despite the fact that his last two fights—losses to Anthony Pettis and Conor McGregor—occurred in the welterweight division. By moving up, Cowboy pushed Islam Makhachev down a spot.
Beneil Dariush also made a one-place climb, swiping the No. 14 spot from Drew Dober. Dariush has not fought since he knocked out Drakkar Klose in March, so it’s not clear why he got a boost in the rankings.
Then again, so little about the UFC rankings is ever clear. We should be used to this kind of inexplicable movement by now.
Champion: Alexander Volkanovski
1. Max Holloway
2. Brian Ortega
3. Zabit Magomedsharipov
4. Chan Sung Jung
5. Yair Rodriguez
6. Calvin Kattar
7. Frankie Edgar
8. Josh Emmett
9. Jeremy Stephens
10. Shane Burgos
11. Dan Ige
12. Arnold Allen (down one spot)
13. Jose Aldo
14. Ryan Hall
15. Sodiq Yusuff
There’s only one update to the UFC featherweight top 15, and it’s another headscratcher: England’s Arnold Allen dropped one spot to No. 12.
We can probably expect many more—and easier to decipher—changes to this list in the coming weeks, as Josh Emmett is expected to take on Calvin Kattar on June 20, and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega are pegged to fight on Dana White’s Fight Island this summer.