There were some wild changes made to the UFC’s official pound-for-pound rankings following UFC 248. UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and women’s strawweight champ Zhang Weili each seemed to receive the benefit of the doubt from the voting panel following divergent performances in Las Vegas. Both champions moved up a spot despite there being clear arguments against that happening in both cases.
Israel Adesanya Now Ranked Over Daniel Cormier
Adesanya is now ranked No. 5 on the men’s pound-for-pound list.
Nevermind how sleepily he and Yoel Romero performed in the main event of UFC 248 last weekend. The UFC’s voting panel, which consists of various members of the media, seemed to reward Adesanya for what basically amounted to outpointing a 42-year-old Cuban leg-kick statue in Romero in the main event of UFC 248.
The panel’s decision displaced previous No. 5 Daniel Cormier, one of only four fighters ever to have simultaneously held two UFC’s titles at the same time. The remainder of the men’s pound-for-pound top 10 list was unchanged.
1. Jon Jones
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov
3. Henry Cejudo
4. Stipe Miocic
5. Israel Adesanya (up 1 spot)
6. Daniel Cormier (down 1 spot)
7. Kamaru Usman
8. Alexander Volkanovski
9. Conor McGregor
10. Tony Ferguson
Zhang Weili Leapfrogs Valentina Shevchenko
Zhang Weili’s epic five-round war against former women’s strawweight champion and No. 5 pound-for-pound women’s star Joanna Jedrzejczyk helped Zhang climb all the way to No. 2 on the women’s list.
That move seems reasonable in a vacuum (perhaps) considering how excellently both Zhang and Jedrzejczyk performed at UFC 248. But Zhang’s ascendance moved former pound-for-pound No. 2 Valentina Shevchenko down a spot to No. 3 despite the women’s flyweight champion having appeared as dominant as ever in her last fight at UFC 247.
Moreover, Zhang’s victory was a painstakingly close contest that could have been scored either way. So voters rewarded Zhang in the coinflip fight and not Jedrzejczyk somehow, even though judges could have just as easily tabbed her as the big winner.
The rest of the women’s pound-for-pound rankings were as follows, with only Holly Holm moving down a notch among the top 10 ranked fighters for what appears to be no reason.
1. Amanda Nunes
2. Weili Zhang (up 1 spot)
3. Valentina Shevchenko (down 1 spot)
4. Jessica Andrade
5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
6. Rose Namajunas
7. Tatiana Suarez
8. Holly Holm (down 1 spot)
9. Germaine De Randamie
10. Aspen Ladd
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Wild Moves Cause Major Concern
There are some obvious concerns about the voting panel’s wild decisions following UFC 248.
First, voting panels such as the UFC’s seem to suffer from recency bias. That means the most recent action is being rewarded over other efforts simply because they are fresher in voters’ minds. That’s human nature, perhaps, but it isn’t very logical.
Next, Zhang’s jump over Shevchenko is sure to be an unpopular decision. Shevchenko has won five straight since moving down to her more natural weight class, and some believe she even deserved the nod over Amanda Nunes in her last loss. While Zhang’s performance was stellar, it would have been less wild to see Jedrzejczyk move up after giving the champion all she could handle than it is to see Zhang narrowly escape with the win and leapfrog Shevchenko.
Finally, Adesanya didn’t seem very impressive against Romero. Sure, he won the fight against Romero, but that one seemed like a battle of who wants it less than what’s typically seen in championship fights. In the end, Romero wanted it less, so Adesanya was the winner.
Does a win like that mean Adesanya should move up in the pound-for-pound rankings? According to the UFC’s voting panel, it does.
But it probably shouldn’t.