MMA rankings: An eventful month in the lightweight division

Daniel Cormier remains atop two divisions.
(Steven Ryan / Getty Images)

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


1. Daniel Cormier

2. Stipe Miocic

3. Francis Ngannou

4. Vitaly Minakov

5. Curtis Blaydes

6. Derrick Lewis

7. Alexander Volkov

8. Alistair Overeem

9. Junior Dos Santos

10. Alexey Oleynik

Tai Tuivasa had the opportunity to score a major win when he fought former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos in Tuivasa’s home country of Australia. Unfortunately for Tuivasa, things didn’t go as planned. When Dos Santos hurt Tuivasa with a punch, Tuivasa charged forward rather than exercising caution and he got knocked down by additional precise shots. On the ground, Dos Santos mounted Tuivasa and Tuivasa elected to punch from the bottom rather than defending and he was quickly knocked out. Tuivasa needs to implement better strategy the next time he takes on a competitor the caliber of Dos Santos.

Light Heavyweight


1. Daniel Cormier

2. Ryan Bader

3. Alexander Gustafsson

4. Ilir Latifi

5. Anthony Smith

6. Volkan Oezdemir

7. Dominick Reyes

8. Thiago Santos

9. Phil Davis

10. Glover Teixeira

Thiago Santos breaks into the top 10 this month after a knockout victory over Jimi Manuwa in a thrilling contest. Both men came out swinging and seemed on the verge of either victory or defeat at pretty much every moment. Santos was a big hitter at middleweight and he has retained that power moving up a division.


1. Robert Whittaker

2. Yoel Romero

3. Gegard Mousasi

4. Luke Rockhold

5. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

6. Kelvin Gastelum

7. Israel Adesanya

8. Chris Weidman

9. Paulo Costa

10. David Branch

Lyoto Machida picked up his third straight win at age 40 in his Bellator debut against Rafael Carvalho. Machida didn’t look that good in his split decision win but will have the opportunity to prove he still belongs in the upper echelon of the middleweight division.


1. Tyron Woodley

2. Colby Covington

3. Kamaru Usman

4. Darren Till

5. Stephen Thompson

6. Rory MacDonald

7. Rafael Dos Anjos

8. Douglas Lima

9. Santiago Ponzinibbio

10. Robbie Lawler

Kamaru Usman’s momentum continues as he scored a decisive decision win over former champion Rafael Dos Anjos. The top of the welterweight division is getting crowded with Woodley, Covington and Usman plus a host of other elite fighters and the undefeated Ben Askren will be making his UFC debut soon as well. Gunnar Nelson inched his way back towards the top 10 with a submission win over Alex Oliveira. Nelson busted Oliveira up badly with an elbow.



1. Khabib Nurmagomedov

2. Tony Ferguson

3. Conor McGregor

4. Dustin Poirier

5. Eddie Alvarez

6. Justin Gaethje

7. Al Iaquinta

8. Kevin Lee

9. Edson Barboza

10. Michael Chandler

It was an eventful month in the lightweight division. Al Iaquinta defeated Kevin Lee for a second time via decision, a big win that could catapult the unique personality into the top mix at 155 pounds. Edson Barboza was the betting underdog against the surging Dan Hooker, but Barboza devastated Hooker with a vicious display of kickboxing technique. Michael Chandler recaptured the Bellator lightweight title with a competitive decision victory over Brent Primus.


1. Max Holloway

2. Brian Ortega

3. Jose Aldo

4. Frankie Edgar

5. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire

6. Chad Mendes

7. Renato Moicano

8. Mirsad Bektic

9. Alexander Volkanovski

10. Zabit Magomedsharipov

There were questions surrounding Max Holloway heading into his UFC featherweight title defense against Brian Ortega, given Holloway had to pull out of two fights the week of the event in 2018. Holloway answered all questions in emphatic fashion, delivering a scintillating performance in stopping Ortega and handing the title challenger the first loss of his career.


1. T.J. Dillashaw

2. Cody Garbrandt

3. Dominick Cruz

4. Raphael Assuncao

5. Marlon Moraes

6. Jimmie Rivera

7. Aljamain Sterling

8. John Lineker

9. Darrion Caldwell

10 Cody Stamann

As the UFC dissolves its flyweight division, many of that division’s best fighters will be moving up to bantamweight. It was a rough journey to bantamweight for one of those athletes, as Sergio Pettis struggled against Rob Font and lost a decisive decision.

Women’s Bantamweight


1. Amanda Nunes

2. Julianna Pena

3. Ketlen Vieira

4. Cat Zingano

5. Aspen Ladd

6. Germaine de Randamie

7. Sarah Kaufman

8. Tonya Evinger

9. Raquel Pennington

10. Marion Reneau

UFC bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes will face the toughest challenge of her career at the end of the month as she takes on featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino and seeks to end Justino’s long unbeaten streak in MMA.


1. Henry Cejudo

2. Demetrious Johnson

3. Kyoji Horiguchi

4. Joseph Benavidez

5. Jussier Formiga

6. Ray Borg

7. Deiveson Figueiredo

8. Alexandre Pantoja

9. Wilson Reis

10. Brandon Moreno

Joseph Benavidez has struggled in recent bouts but he returned to form with a solid win over Alex Perez, reminding fans of the skills that have made him one of the sport’s most underappreciated talents. Wilson Reis defeated Ben Nguyen in another battle of highly regarded flyweights.

Women’s Flyweight

1. Valentina Shevchenko

2. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

3. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane

4. Nicco Montano

5. Jessica Eye

6. Katlyn Chookagian

7. Alexis Davis

8. Liz Carmouche

9. Sijara Eubanks

10. Roxanne Modafferi

With the great Valentina Shevchenko capturing the UFC women’s flyweight title, the division has sorted itself out enough to debut its top 10 here. Joanna Jedrzejczyk may not stay in this division but she is one of the world’s best female fighters. Bellator champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane takes third position after defending her title successfully in her native Hawaii against Valerie Letourneau. Jessica Eye upset Katlyn Chookagian in a very close fight to move into the top tier of the division.

Women’s Strawweight


1. Rose Namajunas

2. Jessica Andrade

3. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

4. Tatiana Suarez

5. Livia Renata Souza

6. Nina Ansaroff

7. Claudia Gadelha

8. Tecia Torres

9. Carla Esparza

10. Cynthia Calvillo

Nina Ansaroff picked up the biggest win of her career, upsetting Claudia Gadelha by decision to emerge as a strawweight contender. For Gadelha, it’s a tough loss and one that will surely lead to some reevaluations as she faded as a fight progressed again.