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MMA Rankings, October 2022: Islam Makhachev, Sean O’Malley turn charts upside down with massive wins

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Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan
Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

In the ever-shifting MMA landscape, ranking the world’s greatest fighters might seem like a fool’s errand, but that’s exactly we’ve set out to do with the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. Here, our esteemed panel sorts out the movers and shakers from every division to provide you with the most definitive list of the best fighters on the planet.

With that, let’s take a look at the four biggest rankings storylines from this past six-week cycle.


Islam Makhachev is inevitable

UFC 280 was expected to have a major impact on the rankings with two title fights and multiple contenders in action and no fighter claimed new territory quite like Islam Makhachev.

Long considered to be a future world champion (one of our panelists has had Makhachev at No. 1 on his ballot since this past January), Makhachev fulfilled his destiny in no uncertain terms with a dominant performance against Charles Oliveira to capture the UFC lightweight title. Makhachev outworked Oliveira on the feet, then went to his vaunted wrestling game to out-grapple Oliveira — the UFC’s leader in career submission wins — and force a tap in the second round.

Oliveira’s run to the top of the 155-pound division and his performance in a trio of title fights belong in the pantheon of exciting career peaks, but there’s a reason Makhachev entered UFC 280’s main event as the favorite. Like his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov, the undefeated champion who he’s drawn endless comparisons to, Makhachev has gone about his business with machine-like efficiency and his style all but guarantees a long run at the top for as long as he chooses to defend his title.

“All but guarantees” is an important disclaimer here as Makhachev already has a pair of intriguing challengers lined up. Immediately after Makhachev’s win, he and Nurmagomedov invited UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski into the cage to set up a duel of top five pound-for-pound fighters that would take place in Perth, Australia, next February. Should Makhachev end up with a more traditional challenger, it should be Beneil Dariush, who moved into a tie for the No. 3 spot with a win over Mateusz Gamrot that extended his current win streak to eight. Dariush might not be the man to put an abrupt end to the new champion’s reign, but he’s unquestionably earned the right to try.

Is Sean O’Malley the second-best bantamweight in the world?

The question has to be asked.

Sean O’Malley now has a win over Petr Yan in the record books, controversial or otherwise. And with that, he makes a huge jump in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, vaulting into a tie with Yan for the No. 2 spot after previously not appearing on a single one of our panel’s ballots. That’s pretty impressive given that some wondered if O’Malley even deserved to be matched up with a former bantamweight champion in the first place.

Since authoring a highlight-reel finish on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017 that earned him a UFC contract and sent Snoop Dogg into hysterics, O’Malley has been a favorite son of the promotion and a fast-rising star due to his own self-promotion skills, but his resume was missing that big name to mark him as a true contender. Marlon Vera put him away with strikes and a key matchup with veteran Pedro Munhoz ended in a no contest after O’Malley accidentally scraped Munhoz’s eye.

Now O’Malley has a signature win and whether the majority of viewers agreed with the judges or not, he proved that he belongs to be ranked among the best of the best at 135 pounds.

Speaking of which...

Aljamain Sterling’s weird, wild title reign continues

It wasn’t enough for Aljamain Sterling to become the first fighter in UFC history to win a title by disqualification. Nor was it enough for him to then defend that title with a narrow split decision over Petr Yan, whose foul play was responsible for Sterling becoming champion in the first place.

No, Sterling, had to add to his bizarre time at the top with a one-sided win against a physically compromised T.J. Dillashaw, who we now know was competing with one good arm.

There’s nothing illegitimate about Sterling’s second successful title defense. The man went in there and got the job done, putting away a two-time bantamweight champion with GOAT aspirations, and leaving Abu Dhabi with gold firmly around his waist. Who knows? Maybe the fight would have gone the same way regardless

We’ll never know the answer though because Dillashaw decided to just (pardon the pun) wing it and everyone responsible for examining his health before the fight apparently decided to go along with the charade despite Dillashaw later admitting that his shoulder repeatedly popped out during fight camp. Regardless, Sterling stays at the top of the charts, while Dillashaw drops to No. 5, his lowest spot since returning to the rankings last year.

Given that Dillashaw hasn’t had a convincing win since beating Cody Garbrandt a second time in August 2018, it’s fair to wonder how much longer Dillashaw will be able to maintain that lofty ranking.

Manon Fiorot and Alexa Grasso state their case

UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko might soon have her first challengers from France or Mexico.

Both Manon Fiorot and Alexa Grasso made strong, if not overwhelming, statements this rankings cycle, scoring high-profile decision wins over Katlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo, respectively. For Fiorot, she made it past the 125-pound division’s official gatekeeper to move into our top five; for Grasso, she gained valuable experience and improved to 4-0 as a flyweight by winning her first five-round fight.

Neither woman is going to have anything close to favorable odds when the time comes to fight Shevchenko, so it’s understandable that neither is in a rush to call her out. In all likelihood, they’ll have to fight each other for their chance to be Shevchenko’s eighth challenger, though you can’t count out the winner of a Jan. 21 bout between Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy possibly setting up a rematch.

For now, let’s appreciate a division in which the top fighters regularly throw down with one another as opposed to attempting to squat on spots, which keeps it constantly moving even if it inevitably leads to a collision with a “Bullet” train.

Check out the complete October rankings below.


Heavyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 14 Jailton Almeida vs. Maxim Grishin (220-pound catchweight bout)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Phil De Fries (4), Serghei Spivac (3), Linton Vassell (1)


Light Heavyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): Nikita Krylov def. No. 12 Volkan Oezdemir

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Dominick Reyes vs. Ryan Spann

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Thiago Santos (4), Yoel Romero (3), Dustin Jacoby (2), Antonio Carlos Junior (2), Johnny Walker (1)


Middleweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Israel Adesanya vs. No. 7 Alex Pereira

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Anatoly Tokov (2), Kelvin Gastelum (1), Darren Till (1)


Welterweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 6 Belal Muhammad def. No. 10 Sean Brady

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters:

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Daniel Rodriguez (3), Kevin Holland (2), Michael Page (2), Jason Jackson (1), Neil Magny (1), Jake Matthews (1)


Lightweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Islam Makhachev def. No. 1 Charles Oliveira, No. 5 Beneil Dariush def. No. 8 Mateusz Gamrot

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 (tied) Dustin Poirier vs. No. 6 Michael Chandler

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Tofiq Musayev (3), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (2), Usman Nurmagomedov (2), Dan Hooker (1), Alexander Shabliy (1)


Featherweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Patricio Pitbull def. Adam Borics, No. 4 A.J. McKee def. Spike Carlyle (lightweight bout)

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 8 Calvin Kattar vs. No. 9 Arnold Allen (UFC Vegas 63, Oct. 29)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Edson Barboza (2), Aaron Pico (2), Adam Borics (1), Damon Jackson (1), Jeremy Kennedy (1), Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (1), Sodiq Yusuff (1)


Bantamweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Aljamain Sterling def. No. 3 T.J. Dillashaw, Sean O’Malley def. No. 2 Petr Yan, No. 4 Cory Sandhagen def. No. 13 Song Yadong, No. 14 John Lineker vs. Fabricio de Andrade ends in a no-contest

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters:

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): John Lineker (4), Danny Sabatello (3), Kyoji Horiguchi (2), Umar Nurmagomedov (2), Adrian Yanez (2), Frankie Edgar (1), Pedro Munhoz (1)


Flyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 12 (tied) Muhammad Mokaev def. Malcolm Gordon

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Matt Schnell (4), Ali Bagautinov (3), Rogerio Bontorin (3), Jeff Molina (3), Amir Albazi (1), Danny Kingad (1)


Women’s Bantamweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 9 Karol Rosa def. Lina Lansberg

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Lina Lansberg (2), Chelsea Chandler (1), Julija Stoliarenko (1), Dariya Zheleznyakova (1)


Women’s Flyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 7 (tied) Manon Fiorot def. No. 4 Katlyn Chookagian, No. 9 Alexa Grasso def. No. 11 Viviane Araujo

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 13 Erin Blanchfield vs. Molly McCann

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Tracy Cortez (2), Molly McCann (2), Joanne Wood (2), Justine Kish (1), Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (1), Amanda Ribas (1), Karina Rodriguez (1)


Strawweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 7 Yan Xiaonan def. No. 6 Mackenzie Dern, No. 15 Xiong Jing Nan def. Angela Lee

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Carla Esparza vs. No. 3 Zhang Weili, No. 5 Marina Rodriguez vs. No. 9 Amanda Lemos (UFC Vegas 64, Nov. 5)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Tabatha Ricci (3), Lupita Godinez (1)


A few notes:

  • Notice someone missing? That’s right, Stipe Miocic is no longer eligible to be ranked after not fighting for over 18 months. When we last saw Miocic, he was handing over the UFC heavyweight title to Francis Ngannou after being knocked out at UFC 260 in March 2021. Miocic could be right back near the top if an oft-discussed meeting with Jon Jones ever comes to fruition, but until then, both of them are no longer in the conversation.
  • A happy trails as well to Jose Aldo, whose ranked days are over after announcing his retirement from MMA competition in September.
  • Belal Muhammad picked up the most memorable finish of his career, ran his unbeaten streak to nine, and was received like a superstar in Abu Dhabi, and his rankings reward for all that is... no movement whatsoever. Muhammad knocked off his fourth ranked opponent in a row, but remains rooted at the No. 6 spot with only fighters with championship bout experience (and Khamzat Chimaev) ahead of him. Should his success have propelled him over Chimaev (who missed the welterweight limit by a whole Hasbulla in his most recent fight) or the inactive Colby Covington by now?

A refresher on the ground rules:

  • Our eight-person voting panel consists of MMA Fighting staffers Shaun Al-Shatti, Alexander K. Lee, Guilherme Cruz, Mike Heck, E. Casey Leydon, Steven Marrocco, Damon Martin, and Jed Meshew.
  • Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout. Updates to the rankings are completed at the start of every month.
  • Should a fighter announce their retirement, our panel will decide whether that fighter should immediately be removed from the rankings or maintain their position until further notice (let’s put it this way: we’d have taken Khabib Nurmagomedov out of our rankings a lot quicker than the UFC did).
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion. Additionally, fighters who regularly compete or hold titles in multiple weight classes are eligible to be ranked in multiple lists.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.

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