Within the Ultimate Fighting Championship are 12 weight classes, ranging from 115 to 265 pounds.
Each division has a respective champion responsible for defending their world title as well as representing their fellow combatants, which the majority do on a daily basis. The never-ending debate of which division is the strongest debuted back when the promotion introduced a variety of weight classes for the first time; ask two people, and you’ll find yourself with two very different answers.
Fans often believe that a division such as lightweight is the greatest, purely due to it being home to undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and formidable contender Tony Ferguson. However, as you’ll soon learn, this conclusion jumping does no good.
Of course, what you are going to read is subjective – it is my personal opinion on which divisions reign supreme in the UFC. I have made my decision based on the amount of talent that currently exists in the division, specifically the top 15, in addition to how good the fighters actually are at fighting.
no.3 – welterweight
Coming in third is the welterweight division, which for many years has produced multiple barnburners that are enough to entice even the regular sports fan.
As recent as December, current champion Kamaru Usman along with bitter rival Colby Covington went to war for five gruelling rounds, opting to exchange strikes on the feet as an oppose to flaunting their highly regarded wresting. In the end, it was us fans who won, as we witnessed one of the best fights of the year.
This isn’t the only time a 170-pound matchup smashed expectations; once upon a time, Robbie Lawler sat on the throne, earning three ‘Fight of the Night’ honors within four fights. A truly magnificent feat.
At the time of writing, welterweight is full of new blood, and its full-fledged revamping isn’t complete as of yet. Veteran’s such as Demian Maia and Rafael Dos Anjos still roam the halls, no longer as intimidating, however still snatching up the odd victim mercilessly. My real interest in the division lays at the creme of the crop, which includes the likes of Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards.
Technically speaking, Leon Edwards may well be the most well-rounded mixed martial artist in the division today. He should already be competing for the title if it wasn’t for the UFC’s inability to give legitimate contenders championship opportunities. His profound eight-fight win streak in one of the sport’s toughest division tells you all you need to know, but providing you are looking for further proof, watch his elegant display of the striking arts versus former champion Rafael Dos Anjos.
You don’t have to travel to far up the rankings to find more killers: Gilbert Burns and Geoff Neal to be more specific. The pair are rapidly scaling the welterweight scene as if their lives depend on it, accumulating wins in impressive fashion while posing as an authentic hazard towards the elite of the elite.
Overall, Welterweight has a magnitude of exciting talent that ranges from striking technicians to submission maestros. It’s where power meets speed, and talent meets opportunity.
NO. 2 – lightweight
The 155-pound division needs absolutely no introduction. Currently under siege by the aforementioned Khabib Nurmagomedov, lightweight, in many ways, is the ultimate proving ground in mixed martial arts. Various athletes have made adjustments to their weight in order to make the limit of 155-pounds, frequently finding success.
Lightweight’s top 5 – Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor and Justin Gaethje – are all elite MMA combatants, who on top of possessing the skills necessary to the reach the pinnacle of the sport, happen to be immensely popular among fans. Their acceptance and marketability are one of the major reasons why the division is perceived as the best.
A contender on the rise is Charles Oliveira, who recently defeated Kevin Lee to extend his win streak to seven. The Brazilian has fought for the UFC for the best part of a decade and has never been more relevant in the title picture. One more victory, particularly over someone like Poirier, would garner enough attention for Oliveira to make a demand – title shot, or a critical number one contender bout against a household name. As of today, he occupies the No. 8 position in the official UFC lightweight rankings.
Even if you venture towards the No. 15 spot, the talent, and overall fighting ability, remains significant; Diego Ferreira and Islam Makachev are great examples of this. There’s a serious case to argue that fighters such as these are better than their superiors, who occupy higher positions in the rankings.
As a whole, the 155-pound division remains one of the more firm and robust inside of the UFC. Despite narrowly missing out on the top spot in my mind, it’s understandable why many regard it as not only the promotion’s best, but the sports.
no.1 – Bantamweight
That’s right, folks, I believe that the bantamweight division is not only the best but the most talent stacked within the UFC.
The division is ruled by former flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, who has yet to defend the belt since winning it last June. His arrival into the 135-pound division only added more fuel to the fire, with the top 5 arguably being the best in the promotion today.
This present day, Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen (both ranked within bantamweight’s upper echelon), are two of the most skillful and exciting fighters on the roster. Yan has amassed six fights in less than two years, all of which he has won spectacularly. He’s building a resume that is nothing short of championship material and rumours of a potential number one contender bout with fellow competitor Aljamain Sterling have been brewing for some time. I thoroughly believe Petr Yan will one day reach the summit of the bantamweight division. When? Only time will tell.
As for Sandhagen, an eye-opening win over Raphael Assuncao elevated his status within the UFC, edging him one step closer to gold. His fluidity and awareness on the feet combined with a tricky ground game, especially off of his back, makes him a difficult test for anybody in the bantamweight division. He has yet to taste defeat in the big leagues.
One aspect of the weight class that continues to amaze me is its wide array of uniqueness; look towards the outskirts of the rankings, and you’ll still stumble upon a considerable amount of flair. Rob Font as well as Marlon Vera sit on these outskirts and are slowly but surely picking up momentum, establishing themselves perilous dark horses.
As for the champion, Henry Cejudo, his first official title defense is expected to take place at UFC 250 on May 9. Despite the ongoing global pandemic that is COVID-19, UFC President Dana White remains adamant that events will resume as normal, and that includes UFC 250, which was originally scheduled to take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil. White recently confirmed in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he is working on securing a private island as a means to facilitate the fights, claiming that the UFC will be “pumping out fights every week.”
If true, and the promotion indeed produce a card every weekend, we could be seeing Cejudo defend his strap against Dominick Cruz, arguably the divisions greatest fighter, since it was recently announced that Jose Aldo withdrew from the bout due to visa issues. This fight is intriguing for various reasons. How will Cruz look considering it’ll be his first bout in over two years, and he’s coming off of a loss? Will his takedown defense hold up against the wrestling faculty of Cejudo? Will Cejudo get the better of the exchanges on the feet?
In spite of the outcome, this fight is going to have huge ramifications for the division as a whole, as the victor will likely handpick the next challenger, a now unfortunate yet common theme amongst today’s champions.
The 135-pound division sustains exceedingly popular athletes with ‘fan-friendly’ and vicious styles. Topped off by a man with a highly underrated yet foreboding set of skills, bantamweight is looking more and more valuable by the minute. An abundant amount of talent merged with the ability to sell fights equals dollar signs for the UFC.
Furthermore, this once again proves that the lower weight divisions doubtlessly take the crown.
Honorable mentions: Flyweight and Middleweight.