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MMA Rankings, September 2022: How long can Leon Edwards reign atop the welterweight division?

UFC 278: Usman v Edwards 2
Leon Edwards
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

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 three biggest rankings storylines from this past six-week cycle.


Leon Edwards is the man... but for how long?

Leon Edwards made sure MMA fans headed into the last quarter of 2022 with a bang.

The British welterweight scored a shocking knockout of Kamaru Usman at UFC 278 to become the new king of the 170-pound division. Edwards also thrust himself into the pound-for-pound conversation by taking out the man who only recently lost the No. 1 spot after consistently topping the charts since its inception in July 2021. Call Edwards’ finishing shot perfect or call it lucky, either way he’s now the king of one of MMA’s deepest divisions.

Now he just has to hold onto that spot — and that’s no easy task given he’s likely going to have to face Usman in a trilogy bout.

Then there’s the looming menace of Khamzat Chimaev. Thanks to an absurd weight miss this past weekend, Chimaev has to prove that he can still make the cut to 170, but if he can and scores one more win in the division, he’ll be a heavy favorite to take the title from Edwards.

Merab Dvalishvili cracks the top 5, Dominick Cruz creeps closer to exit

Merab Dvalishvili scored the biggest win of his career at UFC 278, picking up a hard-fought decision win over UFC legend Jose Aldo. The Serra-Longo product has now won eight straight fights and looks like a shoo-in to challenge for the bantamweight title any day now ... or at least that would be the case if it wasn’t currently held by his teammate and close friend Aljamain Sterling.

Following his win over Aldo, commentator Joe Rogan raised the question of how Dvalishvili would handle having to fight Sterling for the belt, and Dvalishvili made it clear that he’ll never fight “Funk Master.”

“Please, don’t ask me this question anymore,” Dvalishvili told Rogan. “We are brothers.”

For now, it appears that Dvalishvili will serve as an obstacle for those chasing Sterling and not a pursuant himself.

Also of note at 135 pounds, former UFC champion Dominick Cruz suffered a brutal head-kick knockout against Marlon Vera. After three rounds, Cruz was actually ahead on the cards, but Vera’s potent finishing power reared its head and he added “The Dominator” to his increasingly impressive highlight reel. With that loss, the 37-year-old drops one spot to No. 12 in our rankings.

It doesn’t sound right, but with fighters like Song Yadong, Ricky Simon, and Sean O’Malley nipping at its heels, we could soon live in a world where Cruz finds himself among the unranked.

Ciryl Gane edges out Stipe Miocic for No. 2 spot

Stipe Miocic has never fallen past the No. 2 spot in our rankings. Until now.

At some point, Miocic’s inactivity was going to cost him, and it’s not surprising that it’s Ciryl Gane who bumps him down to No. 3. Gane survived a scare against Tai Tuivasa to win a thriller in the history-making headliner of UFC Paris, and has proven to be the most dangerous man in the division not named Francis Ngannou. Even if Miocic were active, there are presumably some who would rank Gane ahead of him anyway just based on the Frenchman’s body of work since joining the UFC in 2019.

Miocic’s position was a tentative one anyway as the two-time heavyweight champion is set to be removed from our rankings in October. He has not competed since March 2021, which means he’ll soon surpass our 18-month cutoff for ineligibility.

Check out the complete September rankings below.


Heavyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Ciryl Gane def. No. 5 Tai Tuivasa, No. 13 Marcin Tybura def. No. 11 Alexandr Romanov, No. 14 Valentin Moldavsky vs. Steve Mowry ends in NC

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 12 Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. No. 15 Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 61, Oct. 1)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Phil De Fries (3), Jailton Almeida (2), Alistair Overeem (2), Linton Vassell (1)


Light Heavyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 14 Jamahal Hill def. No. 12 Thiago Santos

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 12 Volkan Oezdemir vs. Nikita Krylov (UFC 280, Oct. 22)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Antonio Carlos Junior (4), Dustin Jacoby (2), Nikita Krylov (2), Yoel Romero (2), Azamat Murzakanov (1), Tomasz Narkun (1), Johnny Walker (1)


Middleweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Robert Whittaker def. No. 3 Marvin Vettori, No. 10 Paulo Costa def. Luke Rockhold, No. 14 Nassourdine Imavov def. Joaquin Buckley

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 12 Reiner de Ridder vs. Shamil Abdulaev (ONE on Prime Video 3, Oct. 21)

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. 4 Leon Edwards def. No. 1 Kamaru Usman, No. 3 Khamzat Chimaev def. No. 15 Kevin Holland (180-pound catchweight bout), Geoff Neal def. No. 9 Vicente Luque

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Belal Muhammad vs. No. 10 Sean Brady (UFC 280, Oct. 22)

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): Nate Diaz def. No. 12 Tony Ferguson (welterweight bout)

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Charles Oliveira vs. No. 3 Islam Makhachev (UFC 280, Oct. 22), No. 5 Beneil Dariush vs. No. 8 Mateusz Gamrot (UFC 280, Oct. 22)

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


Featherweight

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

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Patricio Pitbull vs. Adam Borics (Bellator 286, Oct. 1), No. 4 A.J. McKee vs. Spike Carlyle (Bellator 286, Oct. 1, lightweight bout)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Aaron Pico (3), Edson Barboza (3), Adam Borics (2), Shane Burgos (1), Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (1)


Bantamweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 6 Merab Dvalishvili def. No. 5 Jose Aldo, No. 7 Marlon Vera def. No. 11 Dominick Cruz

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Aljamain Sterling vs. No. 3 T.J. Dillashaw (UFC 280, Oct. 22), No. 2 Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley (UFC 280, Oct. 22), No. 4 Cory Sandhagen vs. No. 13 Song Yadong (UFC Vegas 60, Sept. 17), No. 14 John Lineker vs. Fabricio de Andrade (ONE on Prime Video 3, Oct. 21)

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


Flyweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 4 Demetrious Johnson def. No. 3 Adriano Moraes

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 7 Askar Askarov vs. No. 8 Brandon Royval (UFC Vegas 62, Oct. 15), No. 12 (tied) Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon (UFC 280, Oct. 22)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Jeff Molina (5), Ali Bagautinov (4), Rogerio Bontorin (3), Matt Schnell (3), Amir Albazi (1), Danny Kingad (1)


Women’s Bantamweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Irene Aldana def. No. 10 (tied) Macy Chiasson (140-pound catchweight bout), Mayra Bueno Silva def. No. 15 (tied) Stephanie Egger

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 8 Sara McMann vs. Aspen Ladd (UFC Vegas 60, Sept. 17), No. 9 Karol Rosa def. Lina Lansberg (UFC 270, Oct. 22)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Aspen Ladd (3), Lina Lansberg (1), Julija Stoliarenko (1), Dariya Zheleznyakova (1)


Women’s Flyweight

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

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 4 Katlyn Chookagian vs. No. 7 (tied) Manon Fiorot (UFC 280, Oct. 22), No. 9 Alexa Grasso vs. No. 11 Viviane Araujo (UFC Vegas 62, Oct. 15)

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


Strawweight

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 12 Nina Nunes def. Cynthia Calvillo (flyweight bout), No. 14 Angela Hill def. Lupita Godinez

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Mackenzie Dern vs. No. 7 Yan Xiaonan (UFC Vegas 61, Oct. 1), No. 15 Xiong Jingnan vs. Angela Lee (One on Prime Video 2, Sept. 30)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Angela Lee (3), Tabatha Ricci (2), Lupita Godinez (1)


A quick note on the new publishing schedule for the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, Pound-for-Pound Rankings, and Rankings Show: These features will now release after every UFC pay-per-view, to best capitalize on the periods when the biggest rankings changes typically take place. That means our next rankings cycle runs until UFC 280 on Oct. 22. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our Rankings Shakeup features that will serve as a rapid response to any major changes before the start of the next cycle.

And don’t forget to check out the Rankings Show podcast this Thursday, where we’ll discuss justifying Edwards going from unranked to top five on our Pound-for-Pound list, the problems with ONE’s weight class system and how that could lead to a revision of our rules, plus we’ll take a look at three rising contenders and book their fastest path to UFC gold.


Lastly, a 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 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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