Ranking the 8 Best Divisions in All of MMA

Tom TaylorContributor ISeptember 3, 2020

Ranking the 8 Best Divisions in All of MMA

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    Mahmoud Khaled/Associated Press

    Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, MMA has arguably never been better.

    The UFC continues to put on dynamite events almost every weekend, while other promotions such as ONE Championship, Bellator, Rizin and KSW have all found ways to resume their schedules of action-packed fight cards.

    There's simply so much good MMA out there that it can sometimes be difficult to keep up.

    But of all the divisions in all the high-quality promotions fight fans can now enjoy, which are the best? That's a tough question to answer, but we've done our best to narrow it down. 

    Keep scrolling for our eight favorite divisions in MMA, based not on the quality of their fighters but on their capacity for exciting matchmaking.   

    Honorable mentions: The Bellator light heavyweight division, the ONE Championship atomweight division, the RIZIN bantamweight division, the UFC middleweight division, the UFC featherweight division, the PFL lightweight division, the PFL featherweight division, the UFC heavyweight division, the Bellator heavyweight division. 

8: The ONE Championship Flyweight Division

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    Bullit Marquez/Associated Press

    The ONE Championship flyweight division has received quite a bit of attention over the last two years, primarily due to the fact that it's the new home of former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, who is widely regarded as one of the best fighters ever.

    While Johnson is easily the most popular and accomplished fighter on the ONE flyweight roster, however, he's certainly not the only world-class talent there.

    The ONE flyweight division is currently ruled by Adriano Moraes, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz who trains with the likes of John Lineker, Kyoji Horiguchi, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and many other lighter weight stars at American Top Team in South Florida.

    Beyond Moraes, the division is also home to the likes of Kazakhstan's Kairat Akhmetov and the Philippines' Geje Eustaquio, both of whom have previously held the ONE flyweight title, as well as rising contenders like Japan's Yuya Wakamatsu, Filipino ace Danny Kingad and Australian grappling specialist Reece McLaren.

7: The Bellator Welterweight Division

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Bellator welterweight division recently took a pretty significant hit when it lost its former champion Rory MacDonald to the Professional Fighters League (PFL), but it remains incredibly stacked nonetheless. 

    The division's apex predator is currently Douglas Lima, who is inarguably one of the best fighters outside the UFC.

    As Lima looks to defend his title, he'll likely have to deal with a range of dangerous challengers like Michael "Venom" Page, Andrey Koreshkov, Paul Daley, Neiman Gracie, Ed Ruth, and Jon Fitch, some of whom he's already bested, but all of whom remain legitimate threats to his reign.

    The division is simply home to a wealth of high-level talent. 

6: The Bellator Featherweight Division

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Bellator featherweight division is one of the most talent-heavy divisions in all of MMA. The fact that the promotion was able to launch a 16-man featherweight grand prix in 2019 is all the proof of the division's depth that you need.

    The 145-pound weight class is currently ruled by Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who also holds the Bellator lightweight title and, like the welterweight champ Lima, he is irrefutably one of the greatest fighters outside the UFC.

    Gunning for Freire's title are lethal contenders like the undefeated AJ McKee, the former bantamweight champ Darrion Caldwell, red-hot SBG Ireland product Pedro Carvalho and former title challengers Emanuel Sanchez and Daniel Weichel.

    The Bellator featherweight division might not be home to as many household names as the UFC featherweight division, but make no mistake, it's home to just as much world-class talent.

5. The ONE Championship Lightweight Division

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    Bullit Marquez/Associated Press

    The ONE Championship lightweight division is so full of exciting fighters that it's almost impossible to make any matchmaking errors.

    The ONE lightweight title is held by Christian Lee, a 22-year-old wunderkind who is widely considered one of the most promising talents in the sport.

    Despite that reputation, he has a long list of contenders banging on his door, including former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, who is probably the most visible fighter in the weight class.

    Beyond Alvarez, other admirers of Lee's ONE lightweight belt include unbeaten top contender Iuri Lapicus, streaking Dutch star Pieter Buist, ferocious Russian finisher Timofey Nastyukhin, Dagestani destroyer Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev, undefeated Hawaiian juggernaut Lowen Tynanes and Japanese legend Shinya Aoki.

    All of that talent, and we still haven't given a nod to talented ONE lightweight veterans such as Eduard Folayang, Amir Khan, Ariel Sexton and Ev Ting.  

4. The UFC Strawweight Division

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The UFC strawweight division is easily the deepest division in women's MMA, but it's also one of the deepest in the sport.

    The weight class is ruled by one of the most exciting champions in the sport in China's Weili Zhang, who is now on a ridiculous 20-fight unbeaten streak after a perfect 5-0 start to her UFC career.

    The next title challenger for Zhang's title is likely to be the division's former champion Rose Namajunas who, despite a 2019 loss to Jessica Andrade, is still regarded as one of the best female fighters on the planet.

    Beyond Namajunas, the division's top 5 is populated by two other former champs in Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk—the latter of whom is considered one of the most accomplished fighters in women's MMA history—and the undefeated Tatiana Suarez, who many fans view as a future champion. 

    Outside of that upper echelon, the division is home to a long list of established contenders like Nina Ansaroff, Claudia Gadelha, Carla Esparza, Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill, and rising talents like Marina Rodriguez, Yan Xiaonan, Amanda Ribas and Virna Jandiroba, all of whom seem to be a few wins away from title shots.

3. The UFC Bantamweight Division

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The UFC bantamweight division is crawling with elite talent.

    Currently sitting on the division's throne is Russia's Petr Yan, who captured the vacant championship with a July TKO win over featherweight legend Jose Aldo.

    While Yan looks like he could be a long-term champion, a quick scan of the UFC bantamweight top 15 reveals he's going to have his hands very full as he attempts to continue his reign.

    Circling Yan's throne are a group of truly dangerous fighters like former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champ Marlon Moraes, former UFC bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt, surging contender Aljamain Sterling, former UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, and rising talents like Rob Font, Merab Dvalishvili, Song Yadong, and Marlon "Chito" Vera.

    All that, and we still haven't mentioned bantamweight studs like Cory Sandhagen, Pedro Munhoz and Sean O'Malley, who are all riding losses but are still seemingly in distance of title shots. 

    There's no two ways about it. This is an amazing division.

2. The UFC Welterweight Division

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The UFC welterweight has always been good, but it has arguably never been quite so good.

    Today, the division is reigned over by Kamaru Usman who, after successful title defenses against Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal—both elite fighters in their own right—is looking like he could become the most dominant champion the division has seen since the legendary Georges St-Pierre.

    Outside of Usman, Covington and Masvidal, the division is also now home to Gilbert Burns, who after a long career as a lightweight, surged into welterweight No. 1 contender status with lopsided wins over stars like Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia and former champ Tyron Woodley.

    Factor in the presence of established welterweight contenders like Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, Neil Magny, Nate Diaz and Robbie Lawler, and rising stars like Michael Chiesa, Vicente Luque, and Geoff Neal, and it quickly becomes irrefutable that this is one of the finest divisions in the sport.

1. The UFC Lightweight Division

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    You had to know the UFC lightweight division would get our No. 1 spot.

    The division is ruled by one of the most dominant fighters in MMA history, the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov, and is home to a quartet of fighters who are currently ranked in the UFC's pound-for-pound top 15 in Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson.

    That's a lot of world-class talent for one division, and that doesn't even cover the other killers that call the weight class home, such as Dan Hooker, Charles Oliveira, Paul Felder, Diego Ferreira and Islam Makhachev.

    While it's getting increasingly difficult to imagine anybody defeating UFC lightweight champ Nurmagomedov, that does nothing to change the fact that the division is home to more top-level talent than any other in the entirety of the sport.

    It simply doesn't get any better.