Conor McGregor’s laser-focused ability to win a fight 25 pounds above his normal weight class moves him closer to the top of The Times’ MMA power rankings.
The Irishman’s welterweight triumph two weeks ago over Nate Diaz avenged his March loss. The rematch was a classic, five-round battle won by McGregor’s drive for revenge.
By embracing a challenge outside his comfort zone and backing up the talk before the fight, McGregor also belittled those who cherry-pick easy opponents.
Success in the octagon trumps all other categories in The Times’ rankings, but there has to be interest connected to the fighter, too. Points gained by the universal skill set of flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, for instance, are lost because few spectators are drawn to his fights.
Depth of division counts as well, which helps new women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Her future could include a round-robin with ex-champions Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm, plus rising contenders Julianna Pena and Valentina Shevchenko. And entertaining fights are rewarded over the boring wrestling style, so wicked-punching women’s straw-weight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk receives additional credit for her style.
With UFC 203 coming Sept. 10, marking heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic’s first title defense, against veteran Alistair Overeem, in Miocic’s hometown of Cleveland, here’s The Times’ updated list.
1. Daniel Cormier; San Jose; Light-heavyweight; 18-1.
The light-heavyweight champion said he’s content for now to kick back and do his Fox television work as he awaits a resolution to Jon Jones’ drug suspension.
Next fight: If the UFC bypasses Jones, UFC 202 winner Anthony Johnson should emerge as a possible Cormier foe on Dec. 30.
2. Conor McGregor; Ireland; Featherweight; 20-3.
After defeating Nate Diaz, McGregor left the arena wanting his next fight to be his own choice. He’s hoping to become the UFC’s first-ever simultaneous two-belt champion, so lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez seems his favored opponent.
Next fight: This is the question of the day, as UFC President Dana White said he’d strip McGregor’s featherweight belt if he doesn’t defend it next against Jose Aldo.
3. Dominick Cruz; San Diego; Bantamweight; 22-1.
Cruz watched Cody Garbrandt’s impressive UFC 202 knockout win from the Fox in-arena television set and raised his arms as if approving the youngster’s title-shot worthiness.
Next fight: Garbrandt, a disciple of Cruz’s sworn enemy Urijah Faber is fine taking on Cruz at Las Vegas on Dec. 30.
4. Demetrious Johnson; Parkland, Wash.; Flyweight; 24-2-1.
He’s so dominated the division that the UFC has gone completely off the grid by deciding that whoever wins this season’s “The Ultimate Fighter” reality television series winner will be Johnson’s next opponent.
Next fight: Dec. 3 in Las Vegas versus the TUF winner.
5. Stipe Miocic; Cleveland; Heavyweight; 15-2.
The hometown advantage for a title fight is not a given, as Miocic proved by taking the belt from Fabricio Werdum in his native Brazil. But Miocic’s defense against Overeem could end remarkably quickly, given the potency of their punches.
Next fight: Sept. 10 in main event of UFC 203 in Cleveland in Miocic’s title defense versus Alistair Overeem.
6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk; Poland; Straw-weight; 12-0.
Endured mental battle of “The Ultimate Fighter” series and two-round deficit against Claudia Gadelha to win with flying fists and reconfirm her status as one of UFC’s toughest fighters.
Next fight: Pushing for the UFC’s first New York card Nov. 12; all signs point to her facing unbeaten No. 2 contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
7. Jose Aldo; Brazil; Featherweight; 26-2.
Forget that 13-second knockout loss to McGregor in December, Aldo and his supporters argue, and recall the decade of dominance that preceded it, along with his July triumph over Frankie Edgar.
Next fight: White hasn’t yet budged from his statement that either McGregor agrees to return to 145 pounds for a rematch or the full belt is again Aldo’s.
8. Tyron Woodley; St. Louis; Welterweight; 16-3.
Not only did Woodley prove his mettle with a first-round title-fight knockout of Robbie Lawler, but the 34-year-old also wants to get the best fights possible. So he is chasing Georges St-Pierre for a possible Dec. 10 date in Toronto or Nick Diaz.
Next fight: Uncertain. But with St-Pierre expressing interest in Diaz, Woodley’s first title defense should be top contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
9. Amanda Nunes; Brazil/Miami; Bantamweight; 13-4.
Uneasy rests the crown for this champion after successive losses by title holders Rousey, Holm and Tate. But Nunes showed killer instinct to hammer Tate with punches and finish her by submission in the first round in July.
Next fight: If Rousey deems herself fit after a recent conditioning camp in Glendale, expect her to face Nunes on Dec. 30 in a title bout.
10. Eddie Alvarez; Philadelphia; Lightweight; 28-4.
By knocking out Rafael dos Anjos to capture the title, Alvarez is positioned to take on a slew of intriguing possible opponents, including McGregor, Nate Diaz or Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Next fight: Uncertain. UFC talks with McGregor will dictate Alvarez’s next bout.
Others to watch: 11. Michael Bisping (middleweight); 12. Cain Velasquez (heavyweight); 13. T.J. Dillashaw (bantamweight); 14. Luke Rockhold (middleweight); 15. Jon Jones (light-heavyweight).