Rankings Review: Heavyweight shake-up

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It might be an understatement to say the UFC has some questionable rankings.  You would expect rankings to be questionable as they are subjective; however, in this column, I will point out rankings that I think are glaring mistakes.

Editorial Commentary by Peter Parsons

This past Saturday was a big night for heavyweights in the UFC with a heavyweight main event that was one of four heavyweight fights in total. It was clear that Derrick Lewis would move up two spots to take the No. 2 ranking from Curtis Blaydes, whom he knocked out viciously in the second round in the main event. Blaydes dropped just one spot to No. 3 after being on a roll in the UFC, having only previously lost to No. 1 ranked Francis Ngannou.

When this week’s UFC rankings were released, it is from 10 through 15 in the heavyweight division where the questions arise. Should Chris Daukaus move all the way up to No. 10 after beating Aleksei Oleinik, who has dropped out of the rankings? Should Oleinik have dropped out of the rankings? Should Tom Aspinall be ranked after going 3-0 in the UFC with 3 finishes after choking out Andrei Arlovski? Should Sergei Spivac be ranked after winning his second straight?

Sergei Pavlovich moves up one spot from No. 14 to No. 13

Even with the above-mentioned heavyweight fights, the ranking change that stood out to me was Sergei Pavlovich moving up a spot in the rankings, despite not having fought since 2019.

After losing his UFC debut by first-round TKO in November of 2018 to Alistair Overeem, Pavlovich had an impressive 2019, winning both of his fights by first-round TKO. Marcelo Golm, the first fighter Pavlovich defeated in the UFC, was 1-2 in the UFC going into the fight and was cut from the roster after the fight. The win that catapulted Pavlovich into the rankings was his last fight against Maurice Greene, who was ranked 13 at the time after winning three straight. Greene has since lost 3 out of his last 4, including the Pavlovich loss. The 28-year-old Pavlovich is 2-1 in the UFC and has not fought since his win against Greene in October of 2019, which is why I find it surprising that his ranking has held up.

Should Chris Daukaus move all the way up to 10th after beating Aleksei Oleinik?

I don’t have a problem with Chris Daukaus entering the rankings at No. 10. I don’t think he should be above Augusto Sakai at No. 9. I can see him being ahead of No. 11 Junior Dos Santos, who lost four in a row, albeit against elite competition in Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane. I might not have Daukaus ranked that high, but his No. 10 ranking is not glaring to me.

UFC Vegas 19 results - Chris Daukaus stops Aleksei Oleinik
Chris Daukaus unloads on Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 19

Should Aleksei Oleinik have dropped out of the rankings?

Here’s the thing, I don’t think he should be ranked ahead of No. 15 Marcin Tybura, but I think he should be ranked ahead of No. 13 Sergei Pavlovich.

The loss to Daukaus was Oleinik’s second loss in a row. However, his previous loss was a second-round TKO to Derryck Lewis, which was his third fight of 2020. While Pavlovich was inactive, Oleinik won his first two fights in 2020, including his first win, a submission victory over Maurice Greene, the opponent that catapulted Pavlovich into the top 15.

Oleinik then went on to defeat former UFC heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum. The Brazilian showed signs of ring rust after more than two years away, but still it was a solid victory for Oleinik in a battle of all time great heavyweight grapplers. Werdum showed he still had it in his next fight, submitting Alexander Gustafsson in the first round.

Should Tom Aspinall be ranked after after choking out Andrei Arlovski?

Again, I don’t think he should be ranked ahead of No. 15 Marcin Tybura, but I think he should be ranked ahead of No. 13 Sergei Pavlovich.

Tom Aspinall made his UFC debut in July on Fight Island with a TKO win over Jake Collier in just 45 seconds. The British prospect then scored another first-round TKO over Alan Baudot in October. On Saturday night, Aspinall stepped up in competition facing former champ and legend Andrei Arlovski. Aspinall won by second-round submission. Arlovski is past his prime and no longer a title contender, but he had previously won two in a row and was briefly ranked No. 15 after his most recent victory against Tanner Boser.

UFC Vegas 19 results - Tom Aspinall defeats Andrei Arlovski
Tom Aspinall punches Andrei Arlovski at UFC Vegas 19

Should Sergei Spivac be ranked after winning his second straight?

For the final time, I don’t think he should be ranked ahead of No. 15 Marcin Tybura, but I think he should be ranked ahead of No. 13 Sergei Pavlovich.

Spivac opened the show on Saturday night with a second-round TKO over Jared Vanderaa. This was the Moldovan’s second straight victory after defeating Brazilian prospect Carlos Felipe in July of 2020. Spivac is 3-2 in the UFC with losses against currently ranked fighters in Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura. Spivac’s biggest win came against then No. 14 ranked Tai Tuivasa in October of 2019, which happens to be the same month that Pavlovch last fought. This was four fights ago for Spivac.

What about Marcin Tybura?

Tybura’s name has come up a number of times. I expected Tybura to unrightfully drop out of the rankings after Daukaus’ win over Oleinik. Tybura has been active, going 4-0 in 2020. Remember, Pavlovich hasn’t fought since 2019. Three out of the Polish fighter’s four wins in 2020 have come against top 20 opponents in Sergei Spivac, Ben Rothwell, and Greg Hardy. How is Tybura not ranked ahead of Pavlovich?

Marcin Tybura

A fight between two heavyweight prospects to watch for

Alexander Romanov vs. Juan Espino is scheduled for a UFC Fight Night on April 17. Both heavyweights are 2-0 in the UFC. The Moldovan Romanov is 13-0 and the Spaniard Espino is 10-1 overall. The winner of this fight will likely be on the verge of a spot in the heavyweight top 15.

Rankings Conclusion

When deciding if a fighter is deserving of a ranking, do voting panelists look at the fighter in question and decide if they should be ranked ahead of the No. 15 fighter? Do they compare the fighter in question to the other ranked fighters? Maybe this is the problem here, as Oleinik, Aspinall, and Spivac don’t deserve to be ranked ahead of Tybura. However, I would argue that they clearly should be ranked ahead of the No. 13 ranked fighter Sergei Pavlovich. Instead, Pavlovich moves up one spot, which really stands out to me.

Out of Oleinik, Aspinall, Spivac, or any other top 20 heavyweight, who do I think should be ranked instead of Pavlovich? I think Tom Aspinall should be ranked after going 3-0 in the UFC with three finishes, including his recent submission victory over Andrei Arlovski. Aspinall has been on a very similar path to No. 10 ranked Chris Daukaus.

Aspinall vs. Daukaus is a fight I would love to see. There are many intriguing potential heavyweight match-ups to be made with ranking implications.

The heavyweight division is heating up. For the second weekend in a row, we have a heavyweight main event coming up as No. 4 ranked Jairzinho Rozenstruik faces No 7. ranked Cyril Gane.

TRENDING > UFC Vegas 19 recap: Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis

My rankings would look different than any other writer or fan who follows the sport closely.  This is to be expected, as rankings are subjective.  However, the above examples are rankings I strongly disagree with.  Rankings should be based primarily on results and not perceived potential or popularity.

Some people think rankings do not matter.  Rankings do matter.  They matter when it comes to matchmaking.  They matter when it comes to contract negotiations.

Let’s keep the rankings conversation going.  Do you agree or disagree that the above examples are glaring ranking mistakes? Which UFC rankings do you strongly disagree with? Express your thoughts in the comments below.

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