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MMA rankings: Underrated Curtis Blaydes continues his climb

Daniel Omielanczuk, left, and Curtis Blaydes trade punches during their heavyweight fight at UFC 213.
Daniel Omielanczuk, left, and Curtis Blaydes trade punches during their heavyweight fight at UFC 213.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

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

Heavyweight

1. Stipe Miocic
2. Francis Ngannou
3. Daniel Cormier
4. Curtis Blaydes
5. Junior Dos Santos
6. Derrick Lewis
7. Alexander Volkov
8. Ryan Bader
9. Vitaly Minakov
10. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Curtis Blaydes may be one of the most underappreciated fighters in the sport and he showed his ability again in victory over Junior Dos Santos. Blaydes caught the striker with punches in the second round and stopped the former UFC heavyweight champion. Blaydes has wins over many of the division’s best fighters.

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Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones
2. Ryan Bader
3. Dominick Reyes
4. Thiago Santos
5. Corey Anderson
6. Anthony Smith
7. Glover Teixeira
8. Jan Blachowicz
9. Phil Davis
10. Volkan Oezdemir

Jon Jones will defend his UFC light-heavyweight title this weekend against unbeaten Dominick Reyes. Jones is the substantial favorite but Reyes enters into the fight with more momentum than any Jones opponent in quite some time.

Middleweight

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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

With Paulo Costa unavailable due to injury, Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title next against Yoel Romero. Romero has two straight losses but both were in competitive fights of the night. That plus the dearth of obvious contenders put the fight into discussion.

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

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A few fighters knocking on the door of the top 10 picked up wins recently. Michael Chiesa was able to ground and control Rafael Dos Anjos to pick up an important win at 170. Meanwhile, a pair of Bellator stars scored wins at Saitama Super Arena as Michael “Venom” Page knocked out overmatched Shinsho Anzai and Lorenz Larkin scored a wide decision win over Keita Nakamura.

Lightweight

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov
2. Tony Ferguson
3. Dustin Poirier
4. Justin Gaethje
5. Conor McGregor
6. Islam Makhachev
7. Kevin Lee
8. Al Iaquinta
9. Gregor Gillespie
10. Diego Ferreira

Conor McGregor made his triumphant return to MMA by quickly dispatching of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone via first-round TKO. McGregor is ranked at lightweight because although he competed at welterweight, that was because McGregor had the pull to nix having to cut weight. He will be fighting lightweights and will cut to 155 pounds if fighting for the title. Cerrone falls out of the top 10 following his third straight stoppage loss and Diego Ferreira enters the list after beating former champion Anthony Pettis for his sixth straight UFC win.

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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

Darrion Caldwell submitted Adam Borics to advance in the Bellator featherweight grand prix tournament. His opponent in the semifinals is the prodigy A.J. McKee in one of the most compelling Bellator bouts of the year. Caldwell will be an excellent test for where McKee stands in the division.

Bantamweight

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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

In one of the hardest matchmaking decisions to justify in quite some time, UFC is targeting Henry Cejudo’s next bantamweight title defense to be against Jose Aldo. Aldo lost his only bantamweight fight by decision and has lost four of his last six fights, while the division is fully stocked with ready contenders like Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling.

Women’s Bantamweight

1. Amanda Nunes
2. Aspen Ladd
3. Julianna Pena
4. Germaine de Randamie
5. Irene Aldana
6. Ketlen Vieira
7. Holly Holm
8. Raquel Pennington
9. Yana Kunitskaya
10. Marion Reneau

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Fights don’t get much more uneventful than Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington. Holm won their rematch by instigating clinches and accomplishing little else in the co-feature UFC 246. It’s hard to imagine Holm and Pennington will compete against each other a third time.

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. Roxanne Modafferi
9. Liz Carmouche
10. Vanessa Porto

Roxanne Modafferi was a massive underdog against young star Maycee Barber but the good natured veteran utilized her ground game and benefitted from an injury Barber suffered during the fight to pull off the upset. Modafferi has been counted out before but she continues to compete against high caliber competition and picked up a big win against Barber.

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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

The upcoming UFC strawweight title fight between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk picked up some personal animosity in the last month. Jedrzejczyk in hyping the fight posted a photoshopped picture where she was wearing a gas mask, in reference to the coronavirus that has produced a grave health threat to Zhang’s home nation of China and the world. Zhang made it clear she did not appreciate the gesture in quick order.


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