January Combat Sport Power Rankings (Boxing & MMA Combined) | Bleacher report

0 out of 10

    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    The martial arts world is hot in one word.

    The UFC is once again packing buildings for its monthly pay-per-view extravaganzas, while the coming months also see a tasty selection of high-profile matchups on tap in the boxing ring.

    And at the top of the violence industry are a handful of budding superstars.

    Those whose recent battles have generated buzz. Those whose next fights will generate PPV money.

    The ones that are, at least for now, at the top of the mid-January water cooler discussion heap.

    The B/R martial arts team got together to discuss which fighters fit those descriptions to put together a final top-10 list, in power rankings style.

    Read on to see what we came up with, and feel free to drop a point or two in the comments.

1 of 10

    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    Is she a champion in the double weight class? New.

    Is she the greatest female fighter of all time? New.

    But if you’re Julianna Pena and just finished off the person who wore both crowns in the cage at UFC 269 in Las Vegas, you’re sure to ride the top of a wave of power rankings.

    Venezuelan Vixen was a credible mixed martial artist long before she entered the T-Mobile Arena, but the courage she showed in surviving a first round barrage and then plunging on Amanda Nunes’ competitively depleted carcass already offers the evidence needed to justify a summit. 10 position.

    Will she be a favorite to do it again when there’s a rematch? Probably not.

    But even if Pena never wins another fight, she deserves her moment in the spotlight.

2 of 10

    Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

    Okay, we know.

    While it’s true that purists hear Jake Paul’s name and immediately turn their noses up, it’s no less true that he brought a lot of eyes, clicks and dollars with him during three fights in 2021.

    The crowd for December’s rematch with Tyron Woodley in Tampa, Florida, was packed with Gen Z fans drawn in by his social media street cred, not to mention a handful of players from the venue’s full-time resident – the NHLs. Tampa Bay Lightning – and potential UFC rivals Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz.

    While they may cringe as they do so, a host of potential 2022 enemies are already lining up for their turn to share a tent with the sport’s reigning and defending lightning rod. And if you don’t think his gravitas had anything to do with Amanda Serrano’s rise to a spring date in New York City, you’re wrong.

    No one with any sense is suggesting that he is a threat to the world title or even a major challenge to those who have spent a lifetime in the ring, but whether attracting attention is a valuable criterion for a position in the power rankings.-and we say it is— then Paul definitely belongs here, if not even higher.

3 of 10

    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    Charles Oliveira has been a UFC professional since 2010.

    He has won far more than he has lost, setting records for finishes and performance bonuses along the way.

    But it wasn’t until his early thirties that he finally got the required level of respect.

    The affable Brazilian was an underdog as he battled for the vacant lightweight title against Octagonal newcomer Michael Chandler in Houston last spring, and then, even after a grinding second-round KO, he was just as big a contender en route to a game. with PPV brave Dustin Poirier in December.

    As it turned out, Poirier didn’t last much longer than 10 minutes before tapping a choke.

    And while those two wins don’t guarantee a multi-year title reign for Oliveira, they did put him on the UFC’s pound-for-pound list, not to mention the prospect of a jaw-dropping showdown with Conor McGregor. , Justin Gaethje and even Khabib Nurmagomedov.

    It’s good to be the king, even if it takes a while for everyone to bow.

4 out of 10

    Andy Brownbill/Associated Press

    Let’s face it, Israel Adesanya can strongly advocate for a higher spot based on skills.

    He lost once in 22 UFC career fights, and that defeat came in a daring challenge from then light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz, against whom he held out for 25 minutes without sustaining significant damage.

    At middleweight, however, he has shown nothing short of superiority.

    Adesanya won the 185lb belt in 2019 with a second round from Robert Whittaker and has made three successful defenses in which he lost barely a minute, let alone a round.

    In fact, he’s so good in his weight class that it’s hard to see a viable threat.

    His next fight is a repeat of the title win against Whittaker in February, which the UFC seems to recognize as an outright threat, but not one for whom it has a ton of ideas.

5 out of 10

    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Oleksandr Usyk had something funny going on.

    He was an Olympic gold medalist as an amateur then turned pro and had his way with an entire boxing weight class while winning all four widely recognized championship belts.

    His problem? That weight class was cruiserweight.

    That’s the competitive equivalent of the best ice hockey player in Costa Rica.

    So Usyk put on a few pounds and jumped to heavyweight, where he won his first two fights but failed to impress the masses who took on the once-defeated British star Anthony Joshua’s challenge in September.

    When you get out of there, it’s no longer a problem to impress the crowd.

    Now in possession of Joshua’s cache of bejeweled title belts, Usyk can pursue a rematch, a few defenses or a full-fledged unification battle with another British behemoth to be named later.

    Regardless of the path, he graduated at the highest level.

6 of 10

    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    Boxing people know it.

    Terence Crawford is the real deal.

    A champion in three weight divisions before his 31st birthday, he reigned in one of the sport’s traditional marquees – welterweight – with barely a push for over 1,300 days and counting.

    But like it or not, he’s still looking for some career-defining validation.

    A 147-pound duel with co-title claimer Errol Spence Jr. is quickly becoming the Mayweather-Pacquiao of this decade, and concern is growing by the day that it won’t happen well past its sell-by date, if at all.

    Other than that, Crawford’s best win at weight is a November hiatus from ex-champ Shawn Porter, who retired after the loss with the suggestion that Crawford was better than Spence, who beat him in 2019.

    Perhaps that’s enough to calm the 34-year-old Nebraskan as he enters the final stages of his career.

    But we hope not.

7 out of 10

    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Francis Ngannou is the latest fighter to claim the “worst man in the world” on high ground.

    And since he weighs six feet and has repeatedly shown that he can make grown men semi-conscious with a single blow, not many people would question his words.

    That’s the rule of a UFC heavyweight champion.

    But with a title defense against compelling foe Cyril Gane approaching Saturday, Ngannou is at a crossroads of sorts.

    Gane is believed to offer the most dynamic challenge the French Cameroonian has faced, and Ngannou has reportedly told ESPN (h/t MMA Junkie’s Farah Hannoun) that, even with a win, he won’t sign a new deal with the UFC unless it states. allowing him to explore options in boxing, which could open up a range of lucrative crossover opportunities.

    Suffice to say there is a lot of commotion so come back next time.

    But for now, Ngannou is in a strong position.

8 out of 10

    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    Speaking of heavyweights looking to extend their reach, we give you Tyson Fury.

    The brash Brit is six feet and weighs in at just under 270 pounds, and has shown exactly no indication that he is likely to lose to someone campaigning in a boxing ring.

    A rivalry with Deontay Wilder ended in his favor with two brutal KOs, leaving a mundane series of mandatory defenses or an association with the aforementioned Usyk the only looming excitement in the ring.

    Unless, of course, he persuades Ngannou to take on the crossover challenge he issued earlier in January.

    Think of a super-sized Mayweather vs. McGregor.

    “You want to come into my world and invite me and Wilder to a boxing match,” he said tweeted. “Which I can guarantee you would be knocked out and also paid your highest pocket to be that! So think about it.”

9 out of 10

    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    This just came in: Kamaru Usman is the best fighter in the UFC.

    He has lost exactly zero of his 15 fights since joining the promotion in 2015.

    Usman won the marquee title – welterweight – three years ago and has successfully defended five times against contenders who rank highly in both fitness and acclaim.

    Jorge Masvidal was vaporized in one of the best KOs of 2021.

    Colby Covington survived one of the best fights of 2021.

    Third-ranked contender Leon Edwards looks set to be next in line, as UFC president Dana White told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, in a rerun of a 2015 duel, which could mean that Usman’s most daunting task in 2022 may simply be the finish. keeping the motivation will be to stay at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings for another 12 months or until a new threat like Khamzat Chimaev comes within reach.

10 out of 10

    Steve Marcus/Associated Press

    You know you’ve made it when you’ve become a one-man item.

    In this case, the only name is Canelo.

    Formally known as Saul Alvarez, the cinnamon-haired Mexican has been cashing hefty pay-per-view checks since he shot a shotgun to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013 as a 23-year-old. drove.

    He is 15-0-1 with nine KOs in 16 fights since he suffered that lone career loss, picking up title belts in three additional weight divisions – middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight – as he rises to the top of The ring‘s pound-for-pound list and become one of the most recognizable figures in the sport.

    And while there’s a laundry list of foes lined up to have a combative crowd at 168 or 175 pounds, Alvarez recently suggested he jump all the way to cruiserweight for yet another out-of-the-box challenge, this one. time against reigning WBC title holder Ilunga Makabu.

    Why? Because he can.

    “Right now I can do whatever I want,” Alvarez said at the WBC convention last fall. “I faced all the 168 pound world champions. I took the title from them all. Now I do what I want.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.