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MMA rankings: Underrated Curtis Blaydes continues his climb

The Times’ MMA rankings for February, as compiled by Todd Martin:

Heavyweight

1. Stipe Miocic2. Francis Ngannou3. Daniel Cormier4. Curtis Blaydes5. Junior Dos Santos6. Derrick Lewis7. Alexander Volkov8. Ryan Bader9. Vitaly Minakov10. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Curtis Blaydes may be one of the most underappreciated fighters in the sport and he showed his ability again in victory over Junior Dos Santos. Blaydes caught the striker with punches in the second round and stopped the former UFC heavyweight champion. Blaydes has wins over many of the division’s best fighters.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones2. Ryan Bader3. Dominick Reyes4. Thiago Santos5. Corey Anderson6. Anthony Smith7. Glover Teixeira8. Jan Blachowicz9. Phil Davis10. Volkan Oezdemir

Jon Jones will defend his UFC light-heavyweight title this weekend against unbeaten Dominick Reyes. Jones is the substantial favorite but Reyes enters into the fight with more momentum than any Jones opponent in quite some time.

Middleweight

1. Israel Adesanya2. Robert Whittaker3. Paulo Costa4. Yoel Romero5. Gegard Mousasi6. Jared Cannonier7. Rafael Lovato Jr.8. Jack Hermansson9. Darren Till10. Kelvin Gastelum

With Paulo Costa unavailable due to injury, Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title next against Yoel Romero. Romero has two straight losses but both were in competitive fights of the night. That plus the dearth of obvious contenders put the fight into discussion.

Welterweight

1. Kamaru Usman2. Tyron Woodley3. Colby Covington4. Jorge Masvidal5. Douglas Lima6. Stephen Thompson7. Leon Edwards8. Rory MacDonald9. Santiago Ponzinibbio10. Demian Maia

A few fighters knocking on the door of the top 10 picked up wins recently. Michael Chiesa was able to ground and control Rafael Dos Anjos to pick up an important win at 170. Meanwhile, a pair of Bellator stars scored wins at Saitama Super Arena as Michael “Venom” Page knocked out overmatched Shinsho Anzai and Lorenz Larkin scored a wide decision win over Keita Nakamura.

Lightweight

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov2. Tony Ferguson3. Dustin Poirier4. Justin Gaethje5. Conor McGregor6. Islam Makhachev7. Kevin Lee8. Al Iaquinta9. Gregor Gillespie10. Diego Ferreira

Conor McGregor made his triumphant return to MMA by quickly dispatching of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone via first-round TKO. McGregor is ranked at lightweight because although he competed at welterweight, that was because McGregor had the pull to nix having to cut weight. He will be fighting lightweights and will cut to 155 pounds if fighting for the title. Cerrone falls out of the top 10 following his third straight stoppage loss and Diego Ferreira enters the list after beating former champion Anthony Pettis for his sixth straight UFC win.

Featherweight

1. Alexander Volkanovski2. Max Holloway3. Brian Ortega4. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire5. Zabit Magomedsharipov6. Yair Rodriguez7. Chan Sung Jung8. Frankie Edgar9. A.J. McKee10. Josh Emmett

Darrion Caldwell submitted Adam Borics to advance in the Bellator featherweight grand prix tournament. His opponent in the semifinals is the prodigy A.J. McKee in one of the most compelling Bellator bouts of the year. Caldwell will be an excellent test for where McKee stands in the division.

Bantamweight

1. Henry Cejudo2. Marlon Moraes3. Petr Yan4. Cory Sandhagen5. Raphael Assuncao6. Aljamain Sterling7. Jose Aldo8. Jimmie Rivera9. Pedro Munhoz10. Cody Stamann

In one of the hardest matchmaking decisions to justify in quite some time, UFC is targeting Henry Cejudo’s next bantamweight title defense to be against Jose Aldo. Aldo lost his only bantamweight fight by decision and has lost four of his last six fights, while the division is fully stocked with ready contenders like Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling.

Women’s Bantamweight

1. Amanda Nunes2. Aspen Ladd3. Julianna Pena4. Germaine de Randamie5. Irene Aldana6. Ketlen Vieira7. Holly Holm8. Raquel Pennington9. Yana Kunitskaya10. Marion Reneau

Fights don’t get much more uneventful than Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington. Holm won their rematch by instigating clinches and accomplishing little else in the co-feature UFC 246. It’s hard to imagine Holm and Pennington will compete against each other a third time.

Women’s Flyweight

1. Valentina Shevchenko2. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane3. Katlyn Chookagian4. Jessica Eye5. Jennifer Maia6. Joanne Calderwood7. Andrea Lee8. Roxanne Modafferi9. Liz Carmouche10. Vanessa Porto

Roxanne Modafferi was a massive underdog against young star Maycee Barber but the good natured veteran utilized her ground game and benefitted from an injury Barber suffered during the fight to pull off the upset. Modafferi has been counted out before but she continues to compete against high caliber competition and picked up a big win against Barber.

Women’s Strawweight

1. Weili Zhang2. Joanna Jedrzejczyk3. Jessica Andrade4. Rose Namajunas5. Tatiana Suarez6. Nina Ansaroff7. Claudia Gadelha8. Carla Esparza9. Michelle Waterson10. Cynthia Calvillo

The upcoming UFC strawweight title fight between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk picked up some personal animosity in the last month. Jedrzejczyk in hyping the fight posted a photoshopped picture where she was wearing a gas mask, in reference to the coronavirus that has produced a grave health threat to Zhang’s home nation of China and the world. Zhang made it clear she did not appreciate the gesture in quick order.

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