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MMA Rankings, July 2022: Rafael Fiziev, Alex Pereira, Shavkat Rakhmonov lead invasion of new blood

UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos v Fiziev
Rafael Fiziev
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, where our esteemed panel of experts team up to sort out the movers and shakers of an ever-shifting MMA landscape.

The MMA Fighting Global Ranking’s wait for no one.

With an extended six-week ranking cycle this month (July 4 holiday weekend pushed everything back), you’d be correct in assuming that there were some serious shakeups. We have a new No. 1 at light heavyweight and a slew of new contenders in the middleweight and lightweight divisions. All in all, it was an outstanding cycle for fresh faces in both the UFC and Bellator, and a not-so-outstanding cycle for some of the old guard.

So who rose up in the ranks to set themselves up for future greatness, and who plummeted from the heights possibly never to be seen with a number next to their name again?

Check out this month’s Global Rankings for the answers and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to listen to the newest episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show below, where the panel debated the MVP of the past six weeks and tried to make sense of the chaos at middleweight, the new three-man race for the men’s No. 1 pound-for-pound spot, the changing of the guard happening in the lightweight division, and much more.

Before we begin, a quick refresher on some 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 will be completed at the start of every month.
  • Fighters will be ranked in the weight class that their promotion regularly lists them at. That means ONE Championship fighters, who compete at a weight class one division above their counterparts in most other organizations (i.e. flyweights fight at 135 pounds, lightweights compete at 170 pounds, etc.) will be placed alongside fighters in the same listed division. In other words, use your common sense: Demetrious Johnson is a flyweight, people.
  • 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).
  • Fighters who regularly compete or hold titles in multiple weight classes are eligible to be ranked in multiple lists.
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.
  • Regarding all the above rules, any possible exceptions will be discussed internally and noted in the article.

And with that, let’s dive in.

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

*This month’s ranking update was postponed due to July 4 holiday weekend, so this cycle includes the first two UFC events of July (UFC 276 and UFC Vegas 58)


The heavyweight division remained mostly at a standstill this month, with only Jairzinho Rozenstruik taking a slight dip after a quick TKO loss to Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 56. Rozenstruik has now lost three of his past four and could see an exit from the top 10 altogether if this poor stretch continues.

As for the rest of the big boys, there isn’t much campaigning to be done with undisputed heavyweight king Francis Ngannou still locked in his staring contest with the UFC. That said, July brings a couple of pivotal bouts for heavys looking to make major moves up the ladder, as Derrick Lewis defends his spot against hulking Russian Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 277 and Curtis Blaydes takes on British fan favorite Tom Aspinall in London.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 8 Alexander Volkov def. No. 9 Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 5 Curtis Blaydes vs. No. 7 Tom Aspinall (UFC London, July 23), No. 6 Derrick Lewis vs. Sergei Pavlovich (UFC 277, July 30)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Sergei Pavlovich (5), Phil De Fries (3), Fedor Emelianenko (2), Arjan Bhullar (1), Junior dos Santos (1), Linton Vassell (1)

UFC 275: Teixeira v Prochazka Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Light Heavyweight

Jiri Prochazka called his shot — and he is now officially the man to beat at 205 pounds.

Since coming over as RIZIN champion, Prochazka made it clear he had his sights set on the title, and his actions backed up his words as he ran through former title challengers Dominick Reyes and Volkan Oezdemir. No further convincing was needed, and when Glover Teixeira upset Jan Blachowicz to complete his Cinderalla run to the light heavyweight title, there was no doubt that Prochazka was next to fight for the belt.

The bout itself was anything but a no-doubter as Prochazka and Teixeira put on one of the best fights in UFC history, a rollicking back-and-forth affair that showed the best and the worst of both men. In the end, Prochazka — he of the two career submission wins — submitted a fading Teixeira — he of the feared Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree — to complete his wildly entertaining journey from UFC newcomer to division king.

Though he is not the unanimous choice in our rankings (someone sneaked in a vote for top Bellator light heavyweight Corey Anderson), he has plenty of time to cement his spot in the near future, whether with a rematch against Teixeira, a potential blockbuster against former champion Jan Blachowicz at a stadium in Europe, or against the surging Magomed Ankalaev, who could be an Anthony Smith win away from becoming the No. 1 contender.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Jiri Prochazka def. No. 1 Glover Teixeira

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 7 Magomed Ankalaev vs. No. 8 Anthony Smith (UFC 277, July 30), No. 12 Paul Craig vs. No. 15 Volkan Oezdemir (UFC London, July 23)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Antonio Carlos Junior (6), Nikita Krylov (3), Yoel Romero (3), Tomasz Narkun (1), Ryan Spann (1)


You want to see some movement in the rankings? Middleweight has you covered this month, as it’s our first of two divisions that saw the old guard ushered out in favor of a slew of fresh and intriguing contenders.

Bellator’s new 185-pound champ Johnny Eblen leads the way, soaring all the way from unranked to No. 5 with a commanding decision win over Gegard Mousasi. “The Dreamcatcher” has been holding down our No. 3 spot since we started compiling these rankings a year ago, and it seemed inevitable that one of Bellator’s homegrown challengers would eventually take it from him. Sure enough, Eblen seized the opportunity with gusto and now finds himself ahead of some major names.

That includes fellow risers Alex Pereira and Andre Muniz, who rode big wins at UFC 276 to place themselves at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Pereira is now poised to face champion Israel Adesanya in a third meeting, with the knowledge that he has two past kickboxing wins over “The Last Stylebender.” And just behind him is Muniz, a dominant grappler that has all the makings of a future champion himself.

With those entries, Darren Till, Kelvin Gastelum, and Uriah Hall fall out of the top 15 — and given how this division is heating up (we see you Nassourdine Imavov and Dricus Du Plessis), it could be a long road back for those veterans.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Israel Adesanya def. No. 4 Jared Cannonier, Johnny Eblen def. No. 3 Gegard Mousasi, Alex Pereira def. No. 8 Sean Strickland, No. 10 Andre Muniz def. No. 12 Uriah Hall

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 12 Jack Hermansson vs. Chris Curtis (UFC London, July 23), No. 13 Reiner de Ridder vs. Vitaly Bigdash (ONE Championship 159, July 22)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Chris Curtis (4), Kelvin Gastelum (2), Darren Till (2), Uriah Hall (1), Anatoly Tokov (1), Chris Weidman (1)


The welterweight division only saw one fighter make a significant move, but it was a big one.

Obscured by the Khamzat Chimaev hype, the undefeated Shavkat Rakhmonov has been carving out his own impressive UFC start with four finishes in his first four fights for the promotion. Wins over Carlston Harris, Michel Prazeres, and Alex Oliveira impressed, but seeing him absolutely truck Neil Magny — who is currently tied with Georges St-Pierre for the most UFC welterweight wins at 19 — was truly awe-inspiring. By the way, Rakhmonov’s 16 wins? All by knockout or submission.

Rakhmonov jumps five spots up to No. 8 this month, but to give you an even better idea of the hype building around him, he was as high as No. 3 on one ballot and received top-10 votes on six others.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 13 (tied) Shavkat Rakhmonov def. No. 12 Neil Magny

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Jorge Masvidal (3), Michael Page (3), Michel Pereira (2), Neil Magny (2), Jake Matthews (2), Jason Jackson (1), Douglas Lima (1), Geoff Neal (1)

UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan v Gamrot
Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot exchange strikes in the main event of UFC Vegas 57
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC


Speaking of fresh blood, there’s plenty of it in the shark-infested lightweight waters — and the young predators are chowing down.

Moving up the rankings are Rafael Fiziev, Mateusz Gamrot, Arman Tsarukyan, Jalin Turner, and Damir Ismagulov, while the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Gregor Gillespie, Tony Ferguson, Brad Riddell, and Raush Manfio and all fall from their lofty spots. The new wave of 155ers will not be denied.

Fiziev scored an enormous knockout of former UFC champion Rafael dos Anjos, Gamrot and Tsarukyan made the most of their first UFC main event opportunity, Ismagulov extended his absurd win streak to 19, and Turner forced a tap from Riddell in just 45 seconds.

But wait, there’s more! Grant Dawson, Claudio Puelles, and Mark O. Madsen are also charging the gates, so the top of the division has been put on notice. Take a snapshot of the current rankings, because a year from now it could be unrecognizable,

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 10 Rafael Fiziev def. No. 7 Rafael dos Anjos, No. 11 (tied) Mateusz Gamrot def. No. 11 (tied) Arman Tsarukyan, Jalin Turner def. No. 13 Brad Riddell, Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. No. 14 (tied) Raush Manfio

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Grant Dawson (4), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (2), Roberto Satoshi (2), Alexander Shabliy (2)


Alexander Volkanovski is the man at 145 pounds. But we knew that already, right?

If there were any doubters remaining following Volkanovski’s second encounter with featherweight great Max Holloway two years ago, they were left without any ammunition after Volkanovski thoroughly decimated Holloway in their trilogy bout at UFC 276. The term “masterclass” is often overused in sports, but that’s exactly what Volkanovski put on in in front of a packed house at T-Mobile Arena.

After 25 minutes of one-sided action, the question wasn’t whether Volkanovski was the best in his division, but maybe the best fighter in any division. (Make sure to check out this month’s Rankings Show podcast as we discuss where “The Great” stands compared to Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya, Francis Ngannou, and Charles Oliveira in the pound-for-pound debate.)

Further down the rankings, Josh Emmett swapped spots with Calvin Kattar after edging out a decision win over him at UFC Austin, and Movsar Evloev improved to 6-0 in the UFC with a dominant win over Dan Ige. The unbeaten Evloev now sits at No. 11, right on the edge of the top 10.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Alexander Volkanovski def. No. 2 Max Holloway, No. 8 Josh Emmett def. No. 7 Calvin Kattar, No. 14 Movsar Evloev def. No. 13 Dan Ige

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 4 (tied) Brian Ortega vs. No. 6 Yair Rodriguez (UFC on ABC 3, July 16)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Aaron Pico (4), Edson Barboza (3), Dan Ige (3), Adam Borics (1), Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (1)


Danny Sabatello is knocking on the door of a top 15 ranking, but fell just short this month.

Unbeaten in three Bellator appearances and now 15-1 as a pro after a win over Leandro Higo, “The Italian Gangster” has used a steady diet of wrestling and an even steadier diet of trash talk to make himself one of the most intriguing names in the stacked 135-pound division. He may have gotten carried away to the tune of a $5,000 fine after making a fiery post-fight speech, but that’s a small price to pay for publicity.

The good news for Sabatello is that the bantamweight field in Bellator is wide open and he could be one or two wins away from breaking into the top 10. He certainly has a clearer path than his peers in the UFC, as blue-chippers like Adrian Yanez, Umar Nurmagomedov, Ricky Simon, and Jack Shore will have to either convince the veterans above them to take a fight or wait for them to fall on their own.

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

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: N/A

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Danny Sabatello (5), Adrian Yanez (3), Pedro Munhoz (2), Umar Nurmagomedov (2), Juan Archuleta (1), Frankie Edgar (1), Ricky Simon (1)


Ever since Adriano Moraes finished Demetrious Johnson to claim a ONE championship, the title of best flyweight in the world has legitimately been in dispute. Soon, Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France will muddy the conversation further.

With current UFC champion Deiveson Figueiredo recovering from injury — and emerging as the latest star to come to loggerheads with the promotion over compensation — an interim title bout was ordered between Moreno and Kara-France. Moreno is the former champion whose exciting style and affable personality have made him one of the faces of the division, while Kara-France has arguably been the most exciting fighter at 125 pounds for the past 12 months. They collide at UFC 277.

Also on that card, a contenders’ bout between Alexandre Pantoja and Alex Perez feels like it’s flying under the radar. Pantoja has long been at the front of the contender’s line, especially considering that he has previously bested Moreno twice. If he can get past the snake-bitten Alex Perez (seriously, Perez hasn’t been able to actually get in a fight since November 2020), then he could be next to fight for either the undisputed or interim strap.

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

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 2 Brandon Moreno vs. No. 4 (tied) Kai Kara-France (UFC 277, July 30), No. 7 Alexandre Pantoja vs. No. 8 Alex Perez (UFC 277, July 30)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Jeff Molina (5), Muhammad Mokaev (2), Matt Schnell (2), Amir Albazi (1), Danny Kingad (1)

Women’s Bantamweight

The women’s side of 135 remains a barren wasteland of inactivity, though tip of the cap to Julija Stoliarenko for snatching a point with a nasty armbar submission of Jessica-Rose Clark.

The good news is that it won’t be long before we see the two best bantamweights face off once more, as Julianna Peña rematches Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 277 in Dallas in just two short weeks. A second meeting between Peña and Nunes has loomed over the division since Peña emphatically dethroned “The Lioness” this past December, and their coaching rivalry on The Ultimate Fighter has arguably been more noteworthy than any of the recent matchups we’ve seen at 135 pounds.

Most intriguing scenario? Peña defeats Nunes again and can move on to take on a first-time challenger like Ketlen Vieira or Irene Aldana. Less intriguing? Nunes regains the title, which sets up a trilogy fight between the two while the rest of the division remains in a perpetual state of limbo.

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

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Julianna Peña vs. No. 2 Amanda Nunes (UFC 277, July 30), No. 10 Miesha Tate vs. No. 6 (WFLW) Lauren Murphy (flyweight bout) (UFC on ABC 3, July 16)

Fighters also receiving votes: Aspen Ladd (2), Julija Stoliarenko (1), Dariya Zheleznyakova (1)

UFC 275: Shevchenko v Santos Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Women’s Flyweight

It’s not often that a fighter makes such a significant jump up the rankings coming off of a loss, but that’s exactly what Taila Santos accomplished after her valiant effort against Valentina Shevchenko.

Despite her qualifications, most didn’t see Santos as much more than a mandatory challenger to the indomitable Shevchenko heading into their title fight at UFC 275. The Brazilian Muay Thai specialist was around a +450 underdog, according to DraftKings — better odds than several of Shevchenko’s previous challengers, but hardly a vote of confidence.

However, Santos proved to be Shevchenko’s most difficult challenge yet at 125 pounds, as she went to her jiu-jitsu to put the pressure on “Bullet.” Santos took Shevchenko’s back in Round 1 and had success grappling throughout the fight, but a lack of damaging offense cost her in the end as Shevchenko escaped the contest with a split decision.

Though Shevchenko likely deserved to win the fight, there was no denying that it was a close call and Santos has been given plenty of credit for taking the champion to her limit. In our rankings, that credit manifested itself as a bump from No. 8 all the way up to No. 3.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko def. No. 8 Taila Santos, No. 13 Erin Blanchfield def. JJ Aldrich

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Lauren Murphy vs. No. 10 (BW) Miesha Tate (UFC on ABC 3, July 16)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Tracy Cortez (3), Vanessa Porto (2), Joanne Wood (2), Cynthia Calvillo (1), Justine Kish (1), Amanda Ribas (1), Karina Rodriguez (1)


Zhang Weili put a stamp on her two-fight series with Joanna Jedrzejczyk — and also moved one step closer to regaining the No. 1 strawweight spot in our rankings.

The former champion’s ridiculous spinning backfist knockout of Jedrzejczyk was more than enough to convince one of our panelists to award her with a first-place vote, leaving six for current No. 1 Carla Esparza and one for another former champion Jessica Andrade. As mentioned last month, you can make a strong case for Esparza, Zhang, Andrade, or Rose Namajunas to be called the queen of 115. Imagine if Jedrzejczyk had evened the score with Zhang!

Esparza has given a timetable for her return, targeting a title defense before the end of 2022. With the aforementioned names breathing down her neck, one could see it as the clock ticking down on her reign, or that Esparza has the opportunity to string together a series of defenses that will make her second run with the belt far more memorable.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Zhang Weili def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 10 Michelle Waterson vs. No. 11 Amanda Lemos (UFC on ABC 3, July 16)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Jessica Penne (3), Lupita Godinez (2), Emily Ducote (1), Kanako Murata (1)

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