The light heavyweight division is a prime example of a weight class that’s seen better days. Once the UFC’s premier division–loaded with stars in the primes and intriguing fights–it’s in a sorry state of affairs today, with a thin pool of elite talent and even less in the way of up-and-coming prospects.
The ebbs and flows of different divisions are all part of the fight game, and at any given time, there will always be weight classes that are more intriguing than others. Today, we’re ranking the top 5 weight classes in the UFC right now.
Criteria for ranking
We’re looking at star power, overall depth, match-ups potential, and up-and-coming talent. Of course, there’s a bit of overlap in these categories, but each provide ample exclusive arguments to contribute to our rankings.
Champion: Jose Aldo
Established Stars: Frankie Edgar, The Korean Zombie, Max Holloway
Prospects: Yair Rodriguez, Doo Ho Choi, Mirsad Bektic, Brian Ortega
Upcoming Fight to Watch: Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
You heard it here first: featherweight is the most loaded weight class in the UFC. For years, it’s been ingrained in fight fans’ brains that it’s all about the lightweights, but take a look at what 145 has to offer right now.
Even without Conor McGregor, there are a ton of names that could headline cards, from Edgar to the Korean Zombie to Cub Swanson. Though Aldo and Max Holloway have distanced themselves a bit from the rest, there isn’t a lot of drop-off in talent from Ricardo Lamas on down.
This Division is a Matchmaker’s Dream
You could literally pick the names of the top-15 out of a hat and still come up with exciting, impactful fights. What really sets featherweight apart is the young talent in the pipeline. Ranked 8-15 are a bunch of guys under 30 that are brimming with potential: Charles Oliveira, Yair Rodriguez, Brian Ortega, Doo Ho Choi and Mirsad Bektic.
This division is set for the next few years at the very least.
Champion: Conor McGregor
Established Stars: Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Nate Diaz
Upcoming Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
Having the biggest star in UFC in history as the champ brings a lot of eyes to this division, but even before McGregor took the belt, 155 was known as the deepest division in the UFC. Khabib is huge star in Russia, and Ferguson’s recent surge has brought his name into the spotlight – plus he’s kind of an odd dude with his own sort of “it” factor.
Taking a closer look at the rest of the UFC rankings, I don’t see how anyone could think that this division is more talent-rich than 145. There are bigger stars here, with McGregor and Diaz, but a lot of the fighters in the top-15 are either past their peak or don’t project as championship contenders.
From 6-15, there are guys like Michael Johnson, Beneil Dariush, Dustin Poirier and Gilbert Melendez. If we were playing Fantasy UFC, you’d take the bottom half of the featherweight rankings over lightweight all day.
Champion: Michael Bisping
Established Stars: Michael Bisping, Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman
Prospects: Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum
Upcoming Fight: Michael Bisping (+145) vs Georges St. Pierre (-165)
You’ve got a champ that can sell fights, even if it’s mainly because people want to see him lose. After him are five elite dudes that he’d likely be the underdog against. When does that ever happen?
This is the best middleweight division the UFC has ever seen, even though it’s ridiculously top-heavy with Rockhold, Jacare, Romero, Mousasi and Weidman all jockeying for title contention.
But after those guys, the the cupboards are bare. There are really only two young prospects to speak of: Kelvin Gastelum and Robert Whittaker. The rest of the division is filled out with aging fighters like Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort, or flawed talent like Uriah Hall.
4. Women’s Strawweight
Champion: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Established Stars: Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Paige VanZant, Michelle Waterson, Claudia Gadelha, Rose Namajunas
Prospects: Rose Namajunas, Alexa Grasso, Jessica Andrade
Upcoming Fight: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
Having a violent, trash-talking Muay Thai surgeon like J-Check is good for business. She’s been a breakout star among fight fans, and is easily one of the most exciting champs on the roster.
Right behind her are two legitimate Brazilian threats to her title, Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade, both armed with brute power and vastly different (but equally punishing) fight styles.
The rest of the division has a slew of attractive, bankable stars. Michelle Waterson, Paige VanZant, and Rose Namajunas have all carried successful UFC on FOX cards – and each are camera-friendly and fun to watch. On top of that, there are so many women in their 20s in the UFCs top-15 that we’ve got years to watch them grow.
Champion: Tyron Woodley
Established stars: Robbie Lawler, Donald Cerrone, Stephen Thompson
Upcoming Fight: Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
Welterweight sneaks onto the top-5 for two main reasons: starpower and style match-ups. While most of these guys aren’t stars in the typical sense of drawing views, fight fans will tune in to watch guys like Robbie Lawler, Wonderboy, Cowboy Cerrone, Demian Maia, and yes, even T-Wood. This is a deep, deep division with plenty of recognizable fighters.
The best part about 170 is that it’s a division where a lot of top guys are defined by a singular, dominant MMA skill, setting up awesome style vs. style matchups. Maia is a BJJ master. Wonderboy is a kickboxing phenom. Lawler is an old-school sprawl-and-brawler.
It never gets old watching top-level martial artists try to impose distinct styles on each other. In fact, it’s a huge reason why we started watching in the first place.
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