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MMA Rankings: Kamaru Usman is the man

UFC 245 Mixed Martial Arts
Kamaru Usman, left, and Colby Covington face off during the weigh-in ahead of their fight, which Usman won.
(Associated Press)

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

Heavyweight

1. Stipe Miocic

2. Francis Ngannou

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3. Daniel Cormier

4. Curtis Blaydes

5. Junior Dos Santos

6. Derrick Lewis

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7. Alexander Volkov

8. Ryan Bader

9. Vitaly Minakov

10. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alistair Overeem engaged in a strange fight in the main event of a UFC card in Washington, DC. Overeem was winning a cautious, defensive battle before Rozenstruik brought it to a violent end with just seconds remaining in the final round. Rozenstruik’s knockout win showcased his power but also some of his vulnerabilities as he heads into a fight with another knockout artist Francis Ngannou.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones

2. Ryan Bader

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3. Dominick Reyes

4. Thiago Santos

5. Corey Anderson

6. Anthony Smith

7. Glover Teixeira

8. Jan Blachowicz

9. Phil Davis

10. Volkan Oezdemir

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Volkan Oezdemir won his second straight bout after a series of losses, besting Aleksandar Rakic with a workman like decision. The Swiss fighter remains in a good position in what is largely still a wide open division.

Middleweight

1. Israel Adesanya

2. Robert Whittaker

3. Paulo Costa

4. Yoel Romero

5. Gegard Mousasi

6. Jared Cannonier

7. Rafael Lovato Jr.

8. Jack Hermansson

9. Darren Till

10. Kelvin Gastelum

It’s been an uneventful period for the middleweight division, but a noteworthy fight was signed for March when former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker takes on emerging contender Jared Cannonier in Las Vegas.

Welterweight

1. Kamaru Usman

2. Tyron Woodley

3. Colby Covington

4. Jorge Masvidal

5. Douglas Lima

6. Stephen Thompson

7. Leon Edwards

8. Rory MacDonald

9. Santiago Ponzinibbio

10. Demian Maia

In a classic title bout, Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington engaged in a back and forth war that culminated with Usman pouring it on in the fifth round and getting the TKO stoppage. There’s no questioning the heart of either man in the cage. Geoff Neal is on the verge of cracking the top 10 after winning his seventh straight with a quick stoppage of Mike Perry. Neal has been taking it to some fearsome opponents.

Lightweight

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov

2. Tony Ferguson

3. Dustin Poirier

4. Justin Gaethje

5. Islam Makhachev

6. Kevin Lee

7. Donald Cerrone

8. Al Iaquinta

9. Gregor Gillespie

10. Paul Felder

The lightweight division is home of some of the biggest scheduled fights of 2020 as UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov defends against top contender Tony Ferguson while Conor McGregor returns against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

Featherweight

1. Alexander Volkanovski

2. Max Holloway

3. Brian Ortega

4. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire

5. Zabit Magomedsharipov

6. Yair Rodriguez

7. Chan Sung Jung

8. Frankie Edgar

9. A.J. McKee

10. Josh Emmett

It’s been a period of turnover in the featherweight division as a new crop of fighters is emerging to challenge the biggest established names. Alexander Volkanovski captured the UFC featherweight title from Max Holloway via well-deserved decision. Chan Sung Jung knocked out former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Although perhaps the most impressive rising fighter in the sport is Bellator’s A.J. McKee, who scored a beautiful submission win over Derek Campos to advance in Bellator’s featherweight grand prix tournament.

Bantamweight

1. Henry Cejudo

2. Marlon Moraes

3. Petr Yan

4. Cory Sandhagen

5. Raphael Assuncao

6. Aljamain Sterling

7. Jose Aldo

8. Jimmie Rivera

9. Pedro Munhoz

10. Cody Stamann

Petr Yan put the rest of the bantamweight division on notice with his brutal demolition of MMA legend Urijah Faber. It’s a deep division full of talent but Yan may be the scariest of them all. Jose Aldo’s UFC bantamweight debut went better than many predicted as he gave Marlon Moraes a tough, competitive fight but in the end Moraes picked up the narrowest of decision wins. Song Yadong had a lot of hype going into his fight with Cody Stamann but Stamann proved to be a tough matchup and Yadong was extremely fortunate to emerge from that bout with a majority draw.

Women’s Bantamweight

1. Amanda Nunes

2. Aspen Ladd

3. Julianna Pena

4. Germaine de Randamie

5. Irene Aldana

6. Ketlen Vieira

7. Raquel Pennington

8. Yana Kunitskaya

9. Holly Holm

10. Marion Reneau

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes had to confront a little more trouble than she’s used to, but she still came away from her fight with Germaine de Randamie with a clear unanimous decision victory. Nunes nearly won the fight in the first round but expended a lot of energy and de Randamie came on in the second. However, Nunes relied on her wrestling to take down and control de Randamie the remainder of the fight. Aspen Ladd rebounded from her first career loss to de Randamie by scoring a TKO over Yana Kunitskaya and Ladd is right back in the top mix. Meanwhile, Ketlen Vieira was handed her first career loss by Irene Aldana via brutal knockout. Aldana could be the next challenger for Nunes on the strength of that performance.

Women’s Flyweight

1. Valentina Shevchenko

2. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane

3. Katlyn Chookagian

4. Jessica Eye

5. Jennifer Maia

6. Joanne Calderwood

7. Andrea Lee

8. Liz Carmouche

9. Vanessa Porto

10. Juliana Velasquez

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane took center stage again in Bellator’s return to Hawaii, as the popular and unbeaten Hawaiian took it to Kate Jackson in a dominant unanimous decision win. Next up for Macfarlane could be Juliana Velasquez, who cracks the top 10 after defeating Bruna Ellen to improve to 10-0 on the same card. Jessica Eye rebounded from a title fight defeat to Valentina Shevchenko by beating Viviane Araujo via decision, although Eye missed weight badly for the fight.

Women’s Strawweight

1. Weili Zhang

2. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

3. Jessica Andrade

4. Rose Namajunas

5. Tatiana Suarez

6. Nina Ansaroff

7. Claudia Gadelha

8. Carla Esparza

9. Michelle Waterson

10. Cynthia Calvillo

Weili Zhang’s first UFC strawweight title defense will come in March when she takes on former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It will be an interesting test of where Zhang’s skills stand against a formidable challenger. Cynthia Calvillo had a competitive fight with Marina Rodriguez that went to a fair majority draw.


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