Last Saturday, fans were treated to one of the blockbuster cards of 2019 as UFC 235 saw two championship fights, some spectacular finishes and plenty of controversy. Following this event, there have been some significant changes in the UFC rankings. Some fighters find their stock at an all-time high, while others have plummeted.
In many ways, Johnny Walker was the star of UFC 235. Prior to his short-notice bout against Misha Cirkunov, Walker had spent a cumulative 2 minutes and 12 seconds in the Octagon, obtaining two ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses in the process. Against Cirkunov, Walker continued this incredible streak of first-round finishes as he finished the submission specialist via flying knee and punches in just 36 seconds. As a result, Walker finds himself closing in on light heavyweight’s top 10 and currently sits at #13 in the rankings. Indeed, Walker’s reputation might be higher than this position suggests, and ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported last night that the Brazilian is looking to fight Alexander Gustafsson in June, to take place in Stockholm, in what would be his fourth UFC fight in less than eight months.
At UFC 235, Zabit Magomedsharipov continued his unbeaten start to his UFC career, following up an exceptional 2018 with a decision victory over veteran Jeremy Stephens. ‘Zabeast’ showcased outstanding speed, an array of striking tools from both stances and grappling skill and following this performance has moved up seven places to #6. After this victory, Magomedsharipov tweeted “Aldo or Volkanovski?”, however, the former champion and Australian rising star are slated to face each other instead. This may mean Magomedsharipov faces Renato Moicano or Brian Ortega in his next fight, who are ranked #2 and #5 respectively. Failing this, the former ACB featherweight champion may find himself opposite Yair Rodriguez, who he was originally slated to face at UFC 228 before the Mexican striker withdrew.
Aljamain Sterling last competed at UFC on ESPN 1, where he dominated Jimmie Rivera to earn a unanimous decision victory. Following his victory over the former #5 UFC bantamweight, Sterling overtook Rivera and moved to #5. That was until #9 ranked Pedro Munhoz brutally finished former champion and #1 ranked contender Cody Garbrandt on Saturday. Munhoz moved up to #4 in the division while Sterling himself shot to #3. Given that a rematch between Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw looks set to take place, it is likely Sterling will earn a rematch with either Marlon Moraes or Raphael Assuncao next. Should he prevail, a title shot may well follow for ‘The Funkmaster.’
Tyron Woodley entered his bout with Kamaru Usman on Saturday as the bettingfavorite, looking to defend his welterweight title for the fifth time. However, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ had other plans, as Kamaru Usman dominated Woodley for five rounds and became the new champion. As a result, Woodley, who was the previous #6 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, plummeted to #13, which also makes him the fourth highest non-champion in the pound-for-pound rankings behind Conor McGregor, Stipe Miocic and Tony Ferguson.
In 2016, Cody Garbrandt defeated Dominick Cruz via unanimous decision and became the UFC’s bantamweight champion. Three years later, following two losses to T.J. Dillashaw, Garbrandt found himself opposite #9 ranked contender Pedro Munhoz in what was meant to be a fight to get him back on track. However, Garbrandt was drawn into a brawl by ‘The Young Punisher’ and with just 13 seconds left of the first round, ‘No Love’ dropped his left hand as Munhoz delivered a right that sent Garbrandt to the canvas and ended the fight. Garbrandt now finds himself as the #6 ranked bantamweight in the UFC and it is difficult to envisage a way that Garbrandt can get back to the heights he achieved earlier in his career.
Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren appeared on the surface to be a typical bout between a knockout artist and a wrestler. However, the fight, which lasted just 3 minutes and 20 seconds, was anything but typical. When the fight began, Askren immediately shot for a takedown but ended up in bottom position after Lawler was able to slam him to the canvas. Despite vicious ground-and-pound by Lawler, Askren returned to his feet and submitted the former UFC champion via bulldog choke. While many were unhappy about the stoppage, the NAC ruled it as acceptable and as a result, Lawler has fallen to #8 in the rankings, roughly five years after he captured the Welterweight title against Johny Hendricks. While Askren has indicated he is not interested in a rematch with Lawler, Dana White appears keen to re-book the fight and give the fans a more conclusive outcome.
The two most notable entries to the UFC’s rankings both happen to be in the welterweight division and in the build-up to UFC 235, both men shared a heated rivalry. After his outstanding performance on Saturday, Kamaru Usman has entered the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings at #9, in between Conor McGregor and Stipe Miocic. Given the sheer dominance of his performance against Woodley, it does not seem unlikely that the Hard Knocks 365 fighter will advance up these rankings further with other victories over the likes of Colby Covington, who he is likely to face next, and other welterweights such as Darren Till and the streaking Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Another man who he is likely to face down the line is Ben Askren, his fight-week rival who, following his UFC debut, has entered the UFC’s welterweight rankings at #6 behind Rafael Dos Anjos. In his post-fight press conference, Askren revealed that he would be in London for UFC Fight Night 147, where Darren Till faces Jorge Masvidal, with intentions of facing the winner next. Till is currently #3 in the rankings while Masvidal, who hasn’t fought since November 2017, currently sits at #11.