The most bright name in every UFC division: All eyes on Jon Jones, all over again
There are 12 weight classes in the UFC. Supreme three of them bear title fights booked. There is moderately about a “TBD” happening for the time being at the very top of MMA’s main promotion.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of grand-stakes fights both on the books, in the works or price brooding about as potentialities. There are opponents on the purpose of championship alternatives. Others are at a profession crossroads that can perchance very neatly be their on-ramp to an particular lane toward the top of the mountain or can also ship them down a ineffective finish. Some who are unranked as we head into the spring can in actual fact bear a quantity next to their name by summer.
Marc Raimondi, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim went division by division to focus on the opponents who are currently surrounded by the most intrigue.
Heavyweight: 265 pounds – Jon Jones
I will also tell Sergei Pavlovich, who’s taking the division by storm. Or Tom Aspinall, who I contemplate is the vogue forward for the division. But let’s be loyal: If Jon Jones is in a division, he’s the most bright fighter in it. He made his title put over Ciryl Gane this weekend inspect love a stroll in the park. A behind stroll. That wasn’t a title fight, that turned into a GOAT crowning.
Stipe Miocic is next, and that’s the reason as bright as they reach. So bright in actuality, that fight appears to be like to be a shoo-in to headline the UFC’s annual Global Battle Week match in July. How will Jones inspect — both bodily and technically — in his second appearance at heavyweight, towards an opponent who (one would contemplate) can also serene trip him into deeper waters than the kiddie pool he sprinted through at UFC 285? — Okamoto
Gentle heavyweight: 205 pounds – Ryan Spann
Spann went 2-0 in 2022 with a pair of first-round finishes. He turned into supposed to fight Nikita Krylov in a UFC Battle Night main match final month, but Krylov fell ill on the day of the fight, forcing a cancellation. The bout has been rebooked for Saturday, and if Spann wins, it would also vault him onto that short checklist of top contenders at 205. He looked tall in a knockout of Dominick Reyes at UFC 281 back in November. He is serene handiest 31 years dilapidated and appears to be like to bear chanced on a brand new gear.
After beating Reyes, Spann said in his postfight interview that he didn’t prepare worthy for old fights and that felt to him love his first loyal practising camp. If that is indeed the case, then the ceiling can also very neatly be excessive for a centered, disciplined Spann. He constantly had athleticism and energy in his fingers. He has a correct team with Fortis MMA and coach Sayif Saud. A put this weekend would truly build him on the 205-pound contender blueprint. — Raimondi
Middleweight: 185 pounds – Israel Adesanya
Take into account him? Sure, obviously, every person knows “The Closing Stylebender” is a lengthy capability off from being a forgotten man. But when he steps into the Octagon on April 8, Adesanya will likely be weighed down by expectations that ignore his past and threaten to limit his future.
The vulnerable champion is the making a wager accepted in his UFC 287 rematch with Alex Pereira, although the Brazilian dethroned him by capability of TKO in November — the third time Pereira had beaten Adesanya, counting their two meetings in pro kickboxing. The making a wager odds account for us that shipshape folks predict Adesanya to desire back the belt next month, but what if he falls for a fourth time? That might perchance perchance presumably relegate him to no man’s land amongst 185-pounders (no longer less than whereas Pereira owns the title), and 205 can also no longer be a more fertile panorama for him both, brooding about how Adesanya turned into manhandled in his 2021 situation of sunshine heavyweight’s then champ, Jan Blachowicz. The set aside would a defeat streak away one in every of the most dynamic opponents in MMA? — Wagenheim
Welterweight: 170 pounds – Shavkat Rakhmanov
Shavkat Rakhmonov knocks out Carlston Harris with wait on of fantastic kick
Shavkat Rakhmonov makes rapid work of Carlston Harris with an excellent spinning wheel kick at UFC Battle Night.
Or no longer it is now not correct resulting from he’s coming off a Battle of the Night performance at UFC 285 final Saturday. Quietly, Rakhmanov has been one in every of the most bright names at 170 pounds for a whereas now. I’ve heard more than as soon as from some revered names in the sport that he’s truly better than one other proficient welterweight who emerged in novel years: Khamzat Chimaev.
Rakhmanov correct had a stiff take a look at towards Geoff Neal, in a fight where he turned into about a 5-to-1 making a wager accepted. Don’t let the competitiveness of that fight fool you into pondering the top of this division will likely be too worthy for Rakhmanov. Neal is legit, despite the truth that he has in no procedure had a top-5 quantity next to his name. Rakhmanov confronted adversity and serene kept his enact jog alive — extending it to an most well-known 17-0. When this guy reaches a title fight (and I enact truly feel confident asserting when, and no longer if) assemble no longer be greatly surprised if he’s preferred towards the defending champ. — Okamoto
Lightweight: 155 pounds – Rafael Fiziev
Fiziev outlasts Dos Anjos in shut matchup, celebrates after 5th-round knockout
Rafael Fiziev heads into the championship rounds with Rafael Dos Anjos and celebrates his knockout put at the UFC APEX.
Fiziev can also shake up the lightweight hierarchy this spring. At UFC 286 on March 18, the Muay Thai fighter will desire on vulnerable period in-between champion Justin Gaethje in a bout that many predict to place Battle of the Night. The two men bear striking kinds that mesh neatly. Gaethje is a handful on the feet, though he’s at risk of coming into into firefights. Fiziev is incredibly technical and unpleasant alongside with his fingers as neatly as his kicks. It could perchance serene fracture for an nice matchup.
If Fiziev is able to beat Gaethje, the entire lot modifications for him in the 155-pound weight class. Gaethje has been in the title dialog there for years, and in his most novel bout, he fought for the title towards Charles Oliveira. Fiziev has won six straight, a elope that netted him $50,000 in fight-night bonuses (a Gaethje-love elope). Gaethje will likely be his toughest opponent to this point, but when Fiziev is up to the process there will likely be talks of him getting a title shot in the kill. — Raimondi
Men’s featherweight: 145 pounds – Arnold Allen
When the division’s champion, Alexander Volkanovski, challenged for the lightweight title final month, on that identical UFC 284 card, Yair Rodriguez defeated Josh Emmett for an period in-between featherweight title. That perceived to streak away Allen out of the championship image, but he soon ended up with something that he told MMA Combating is “bigger than that different.” An April 15 main match towards Max Holloway, the vulnerable champ who owns UFC featherweight records for wins (18), put jog (13), finishes (10) and KO/TKOs (8), amongst others. Here is an attention-grabbing reserving for Allen, who’s 9-0 in the UFC but has flown beneath the radar. An Allen put might perchance perchance presumably be grand, as it be been virtually a decade since any 145-pounder rather then Volkanovski has defeated Holloway. — Wagenheim
Men’s bantamweight: 135 pounds – Henry Cejudo
Umar Nurmagomedov can also very neatly be the most bright in the lengthy elope. He comes from a camp with a lengthy history of acting at reach-perfect phases. Count on at the back of the scenes who might perchance be the champ of this weight class in about a years, and likewise you’re going to hear the name “Umar” rather plenty. But lawful now, as we head into spring of 2023, Henry Cejudo is the most bright. He left because the defending champion in 2020. Now he’s coming back to are attempting to reclaim the title from Aljamain Sterling in Would perchance additionally, and if he does, the course is decided out fantastically for Triple C.
A grand title defense towards Sean O’Malley in a summer blockbuster. And if all goes neatly there, all eyes are on transferring up any other weight class in an are attempting to alter into the first fighter to place titles in three weight classes. I’m on fable asserting if Cejudo goes undefeated in 2023, he will practically absolutely be my Fighter of the Year resulting from the Twelve months is so neatly notify up for him. And I’m no longer backing off now. — Okamoto
Men’s flyweight: 125 pounds – Tatsuro Taira
The Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo rivalry at the top of the division is finally over. Figueiredo has announced his design to circulation up to bantamweight, leaving contender spots at 125 pounds huge launch. Alexandre Pantoja is probably going up next for a title shot towards Moreno. After Pantoja, there are several opponents who can build themselves, such as Manel Kape, Amir Albazi and Matheus Nicolau, or reestablish themselves, such as Kai Kara-France or Alex Perez. Taira is no longer currently ranked, but that can perchance no longer retain for for worthy longer. The undefeated fighter has won his first three fights in the UFC, the past two by capability of armbar enact.
Taira is the vulnerable flyweight champion of Japan’s Shooto organization, the first MMA promotion to be founded. Whereas Muhammad Mokaev has gotten moderately about a hype because the top prospect in the division — and for correct motive — Taira is lawful there as neatly. He is handiest 23 years dilapidated and the sky appears to be like love the limit for his capability. Regardless of all of its history in MMA and martial arts generally, Japan has in no procedure had a UFC champion. Taira serene has a capability to head, but he’s the closest of any Japanese fighter. — Raimondi
Ladies’s featherweight: 145 pounds – matchmaker Sean Shelby
Will we correct streak away this case clean, love UFC.com does in the gap devoted to its divisional rankings? No? OK, then let’s pop a cork and celebrate an anniversary: It turned into two years previously on Monday that this division’s belt turned into final build up for grabs. Amanda Nunes, the champ at both featherweight and bantamweight, doesn’t bear many alternatives in a division with correct seven other opponents on the roster. But where are Shelby and the relaxation of the UFC skill scouts supposed to search out featherweights? The PFL correct offered the division for the 2023 season (changing ladies’s lightweight), and the cupboards are practically bare at Bellator and Invicta FC. Presumably Jones can supply some bantamweight ladies a seminar on bulking up? — Wagenheim
Ladies’s bantamweight: 135 pounds – Irene Aldana
Here is the Twelve months of the Mexican title challengers, it would appear. Brandon Moreno in January. Yair Rodriguez in February. Alexa Grasso in March. Irene Aldana … this summer? Presumably later in the Twelve months in Mexico, if the UFC decides to manufacture an match around all of this Mexican momentum.
Aldana is coming into her seventh Twelve months in the UFC. She got right here into the organization utilizing excessive expectations as a vulnerable Invicta FC title challenger. She has the physical tools to compete with any individual at 135 pounds, including Nunes. She might perchance perchance presumably be an underdog, obviously — but to this point that hasn’t been a situation for Mexican opponents this Twelve months. And I bear to contemplate Aldana will likely be emboldened by the success of her fellow countrymen, in particular Grasso, whom she has expert alongside for years. I assemble no longer imply to sound love a broken fable and retain speaking in regards to the Mexican MMA scene, but what’s happening is legitimately wonderful and Aldana can also very neatly be next up in phrases of adding to the country’s UFC gold. — Okamoto
Ladies’s flyweight: 125 pounds – Tatiana Suarez
Tatiana Suarez returns with second-round submission put
Tatiana Suarez returns after four years away from the Octagon and submits Montana De La Rosa.
Erin Blanchfield can also had been the option right here, but she has crossed over from being bright to being the capability No. 1 contender. Plus, the entire lot changed on this division Saturday night when Grasso terrorized longtime champion Valentina Shevchenko to place the title by capability of fourth-round submission.
There might perchance be mostly a straight rematch, striking the relaxation of the division in flux. But let’s no longer inspect past what Suarez did in her comeback fight, submitting Montana De La Rosa on Feb. 25 in the second round. Suarez, who virtually made the Olympics as a wrestler, turned into the heir apparent at strawweight before a series of injuries. In actuality, she beat Grasso by first-round submission in a dominant performance in 2018. The put over De La Rosa turned into Suarez’s first fight in practically four years. And he or she looked correct. If Suarez is able to remain healthy, she has the skill notify to no longer handiest gain to the top of the division but would presumably be the favourite towards the new champ, Grasso, and presumably even Shevchenko if she wins the title back. — Raimondi
Ladies’s strawweight: 115 pounds – Amanda Lemos
Amanda Lemos shocks Livinha Souza early
Amanda Lemos stuns Livinha Souza with a grand lawful hook of their bout in the early prelims of UFC 259.
The champ, Zhang Weili, does no longer bear a fight scheduled. Neither does any individual in the top 5.
Sure, there are provocative title-bout storylines on hand to the matchmakers. Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas, who beat her twice? Zhang vs. Andrade, whom she beat for the belt? But both of those capability challengers are coming off losses. Lemos, on the different hand, is on a two-fight winning jog after a pair of top-10 finishes (Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson-Gomez). Simply, Lemos turned into done in the first round by Andrade less than a Twelve months previously. But in a division that infrequently feels love a game of musical chairs with the identical few participants circling the throne, there might perchance be something refreshing about constructing a imprint-new matchup for the belt. — Wagenheim