The UFC's Return To London Saturday Will Soon Shake Up The Rankings. Here's What That Might Look Like When The Final Bell Has Sounded At The O2 Arena Saturday Night.
(C) Leon Edwards vs (No. 1) Kamaru Usman
Upside With Win: Minimal. Edwards is already the champion, but the pride of being the only man to defeat Kamaru Usman—not once, but twice—would sweeten the honor. It would also prove useful in the pound-for-pound rankings should any of the three men above him suffer a loss.
Downside With Loss: Also minimal. It would be the first loss by “Rocky” in twelve fights dating back to 2016. His stellar run would certainly keep him in the upper reaches of the division.
Upside With Win: Big. One of the most dominant welterweight champions in the history of the promotion would regain his crown and edge his way back up the pound-for-pound rankings.
Downside With Loss: Minimal. The man ranked just below Usman, No. 2 Colby Covington, is a fighter Usman has defeated twice.
(No. 3) Justin Gaethje vs (No. 6) Rafael Fiziev
Upside With Win: Almost none. He’d retain his ranking, but owns losses to two of the men ranked just above him: Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira.
Downside With Loss: Significant. He holds a win over No. 5 Michael Chandler, so his drop would likely still keep him in or near the top five. But a loss would put him at 2-3 out of his last five bouts, and in the game of inches that is the lightweight division, it could seriously stall a title run in 2023.
Upside With Win: Big. The seventh straight win for “Ataman” would land him in the middle of the top five and present champion Islam Makhachev with a name he hasn’t faced yet.
Downside With Loss: Moderate. Fiziev owns a win over No. 9 Rafael Dos Anjos, so he’d remain in the top ten, albeit the hungriest section of the shark tank.
(No. 8) Jennifer Maia vs (No. 12) Casey O’Neill
Upside With Win: Not much. She doesn’t have wins over anyone ranked above her, so she would need one of them to fall in order to move up.
Downside With Loss: Significant. That would put Maia at 1-3 in her last four (albeit all against top-shelf competition). She’s in the rare position of not having wins against anyone else currently ranked, so where she would fall remains to be seen. The reemergence of Joanne Wood—back from hiatus and also fighting on the UFC 286 card—could be a factor in which number is next to her name on Monday.
Upside With Win: Big. One of the division’s brightest hopefuls would continue her undefeated ascent into the top ten just five fights into her UFC career.
Downside With Loss: Moderate. Like her opponent, the Australian doesn’t have wins against anyone else currently ranked. A loss here could knock her to the lower end of the top fifteen or out of the rankings altogether.
(No. 4) Marvin Vettori vs (No. 9) Roman Dolidze
Upside With Win: Minimal. Two of his losses are to men ranked above him (Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker), so there’s no chance to move up. But if he can start putting a run together, he might be a name that interests No. 3 Jared Cannonier or the winner of UFC 287’s main event.
Downside With Loss: Significant. He owns a win over the man just below him, Paulo Costa, but he would clear the runway for fighters like his opponent or Dricus Du Plessis to start making their own title shot cases.
Upside With Win: Huge. The streaking Georgian would notch his fifth straight and find himself in the middleweight top five, looking at a title eliminator or a title shot next time out.
UFC 286 FREE FIGHTS: Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal 2 | Rafael Fiziev vs Brad Riddell | Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler | Kamaru Usman vs Leon Edwards 1 | Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 2 | Leon Edwards vs Donald Cerrone
Downside With Loss: Nominal. He’d likely fall into the No. 10 – No. 12 range. His last victory was an emphatic TKO victory over No. 10 Jack Hermansson. He remains one of the most promising talents at 185 pounds.