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MMA rankings: New blood rising in the heavyweight division

The Times’ MMA rankings for June, as compiled by Todd Martin:

Heavyweight

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1. Stipe Miocic

2. Francis Ngannou

3. Curtis Blaydes

4. Alexander Volkov

5. Alistair Overeem

6. Fabricio Werdum

7. Cain Velasquez

8. Junior Dos Santos

9. Vitaly Minakov

10. Matt Mitrione

Fans for years hoped for some new blood in the heavyweight division, which had been dominated by the same fighters. Finally, it appears those new contenders are emerging with the likes of Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes, Alexander Volkov and Tai Tuivasa scoring wins over big names in the division. The biggest win in the past month came from Blaydes, who played it safe against Alistair Overeem early but found a small opening in the third round and capitalized with a series of brutal elbows to score the TKO. Tuivasa also picked up a key win over former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski in a competitive contest.

Light Heavyweight

1. Daniel Cormier

2. Alexander Gustafsson

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3. Ryan Bader

4. Phil Davis

5. Glover Teixeira

6. Volkan Oezdemir

7. Ilir Latifi

8. Misha Cirkunov

9. Nikita Krylov

10. Jimi Manuwa

UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier takes one of the biggest challenges of his career in the main event of UFC 226 on July 7 when he moves up to heavyweight to fight Stipe Miocic. It would be quite the feat if Cormier is able to best the accomplished heavyweight kingpin. Ovince St. Preux scored an important win via submission over the powerful Tyson Pedro.

Middleweight

1. Robert Whittaker

2. Yoel Romero

3. Gegard Mousasi

4. Luke Rockhold

5. Chris Weidman

6. Kelvin Gastelum

7. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

8. Michael Bisping

9. David Branch

10. Derek Brunson

It was a wild weekend in Chicago for UFC 225. Yoel Romero missed weight by a fifth of a pound and was ineligible to win the UFC middleweight title. Whittaker took the fight anyway and it ended up being a controversial one. Romero took early rounds off and that ultimately cost him the fight, but he came on strong later and had two dominant rounds where he nearly finished Whittaker.

Welterweight

1. Tyron Woodley

2. Colby Covington

3. Darren Till

4. Stephen Thompson

5. Rory MacDonald

6. Kamaru Usman

7. Rafael Dos Anjos

8. Douglas Lima

9. Robbie Lawler

10. Santiago Ponzinibbio

Colby Covington won a unanimous decision victory over Rafael Dos Anjos via continually instigating clinches and now will fight Tyron Woodley for the UFC welterweight title. There is some bad blood between the former training partners and it will be a big fight for Covington in his quest to become a star in the sport.

Lightweight

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov

2. Tony Ferguson

3. Kevin Lee

4. Dustin Poirier

5. Eddie Alvarez

6. James Vick

7. Justin Gaethje

8. Edson Barboza

9. Michael Chiesa

10. Al Iaquinta

No top 10 fighters competed in the past month, but there’s always key action in the deep lightweight division. Longtime contender Charles Oliveira stunned Clay Guida with strikes and then secured a submission at UFC 225. Meanwhile, Gregor Gillespie improved his record to a perfect 12-0 with a submission of Vinc Pichel.

Featherweight

1. Max Holloway

2. Brian Ortega

3. Jose Aldo

4. Frankie Edgar

5. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire

6. Cub Swanson

7. Mirsad Bektic

8. Chan Sung Jung

9. Darren Elkins

10. Jeremy Stephens

Mirsad Bektic picked up a key win over Ricardo Lamas via split decision. The fight wasn’t a barn burner and the decision came via split decision, but it was the sort of name victory that is likely to earn Bektic additional opportunities to compete against top featherweights.

Bantamweight

1. T.J. Dillashaw

2. Cody Garbrandt

3. Dominick Cruz

4. Raphael Assuncao

5. Marlon Moraes

6. Jimmie Rivera

7. John Lineker

8. Bibiano Fernandes

9. Darrion Caldwell

10. Cody Stamann

Marlon Moraes was impressive again, knocking Jimmie Rivera out in just 33 seconds and solidifying himself as a top contender for the UFC bantamweight title. Between Moraes’ exciting style and Dominick Cruz’s injury issues that lead to inactivity, Moraes is in good position to get a title shot at the winner of T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt II in Los Angeles.

Women’s Bantamweight

1. Amanda Nunes

2. Julianna Pena

3. Ketlen Vieira

4. Sarah Kaufman

5. Raquel Pennington

6. Cat Zingano

7. Marion Reneau

8. Sara McMann

9. Katlyn Chookagian

10. Aspen Ladd

As many of the women in the bantamweight division have filtered into the newly established featherweight and flyweight, there finally appears to be some stability in the bantamweight division. Now, the fighters that remain at 135 need to distinguish themselves as worthy title challengers for Amanda Nunes.

Flyweight

1. Demetrious Johnson

2. Henry Cejudo

3. Sergio Pettis

4. Kyoji Horiguchi

5. Joseph Benavidez

6. Jussier Formiga

7. Ray Borg

8. John Moraga

9. Alexandre Pantoja

10. Wilson Reis

Joseph Benavidez looked like a declining fighter against Sergio Pettis in Chicago, continually moving forward but eating strikes repeatedly from Pettis in the process. Benavidez also struggled against Henry Cejudo and his long status as one of the elite fighters in the sport may be coming to an end.

Women’s Strawweight

1. Rose Namajunas

2. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

3. Jessica Andrade

4. Claudia Gadelha

5. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

6. Tecia Torres

7. Carla Esparza

8. Jessica Aguilar

9. Livia Renata Souza

10. Tatiana Suarez

Carla Esparza came on strong late against Claudia Gadelha, but it wasn’t enough due to Gadelha’s success in the first two rounds. Gadelha frequently looks very dangerous in the early going but then struggles later in fights. It’s an issue that has resurfaced against her most difficult opponents.

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