Happy New Year, fight fans! To kick off our 20th anniversary, we will be rolling out the MMA News Top 100 UFC fighters of 2021 throughout the month of January as voted on by our panel.
This list is NOT solely based on fights and performances of 2021. Being active in 2021 is what QUALIFIES one to make the list. Instead of only considering performances of the year, we are taking a holistic look at who is the better overall fighter exiting 2021 based on our selected criteria. A full explanation of the criteria can be found below.
1: Career Trajectory/Recent Performances (50%)
Where are the fighters trending right now? How much evidence-backed momentum do they have?
2: Career Success/Body of Work (25%)
Championships, wins, résumé, etc.
3: Likelihood To Be The Betting Favorite In Any Fight In 2021 (25%)
This was determined using past betting history, betting lines during 2021, and the projected odds moving forward as determined by the panel. This category is being used to get a gauge of the talent level the public feels the fighter is/was at.
Be sure to keep checking back right here at MMANews.com for frequent updates to this list throughout the month of January as we continue to update this list!
You can view Part 1 here.
You can view Part 2 here.
You can view Part 3 here.
Part 4 begins right now!
#70: Jack Hermansson
Jack Hermansson, Credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Reasoning Behind Ranking: With 17 of his 22 wins by finish, Jack Hermansson has been a constant reminder of how to make men panic. The last time Hermansson put the squeeze on his opponent was at UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 when he submitted Kelvin Gastelum in the very first round.
“The Joker” most recently defeated middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Garbrandt. Hermansson is capable of being ranked higher on our list, but he’s had mixed results as of late, going 2-2 in his last four fights.
Heading Into 2022: Entering 2022, Jack Hermansson is the #6-ranked middleweight in the world. In his next bout, he’ll be facing the surging Sean Strickland on February 5.
#69: Dominick Reyes
Reasoning Behind Ranking: It wasn’t too long ago that Dominick Reyes was 12-0 with seven wins by finish. Then, he gave the great Jon Jones arguably the closest fight of his career at UFC 247. Whenever you can say that, even when you’ve lost three straight, you’re going to get some respect from our panel, especially considering the fact that his latest defeat to Jiří Procházka was ultra-competitive and won Fight of the Night.
Heading Into 2022: Dominick Reyes will be in need of a win if he wants to reaffirm his relevancy at 205. “The Devastator” will undoubtedly have the support of California behind him as he looks to remind the world how the West Coast does it. The 32-year-old is currently ranked #7 in the light heavyweight division.
#68: Sean Brady
Reasoning Behind Ranking: Standing at 15-0 at 29 years old, it may not be too long until Sean Brady is greeted by Brotherly love when he hits the top of the lightweight stairs. Brady is currently 5-0 in the promotion, but it was his one-sided victory over Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Night: Vieira vs. Tate that really put Brady on the map and in a firm spot on our list. He also won Performance of the Night in his victory over Christian Aguilera last year with his guillotine submission win.
Heading Into 2022: It will be fun to see where Brady winds up on our list next year. In terms of the UFC rankings, he enters 2022 at #9 in the welterweight division and hopes to be facing Stephen Thompson the next time he steps in the Octagon.
#67: Tom Aspinall
Reasoning Behind Ranking: Tom Aspinall is on a seven-fight winning streak and has yet to taste defeat in the UFC. But what really stands out about Aspinall isn’t just that he’s winning but the way in which he’s doing it. Three of Aspinall’s four UFC victories have won Performance of the Night, and every single one of the wins has been finishes. His last two wins over proven names Andrei Arlovski and Sergey Spivak show that Aspinall will be ready to test himself against the big boys in the heavyweight rankings his next time out.
Heading Into 2022: As Tom Aspinall continues his move up the heavyweight ladder, what’s his ultimate destination? How far will this 28-year-old ascend this year? We’ll get a better idea of the answer to this question when he faces top-10 heavyweight Shamil Abdurakhimov on March 19.
#66: Mateusz Gamrot
Reasoning Behind Ranking: Mateusz Gamrot fought three times in 2021, and he just kept on lighting up the win column. First up, he knocked out Scott Holtzman in April. Three months later, he won his second consecutive Performance of the Night when he submitted UFC veteran Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens.
Last up, he earned a TKO win over Carlos Diego Ferreira as the UFC said farewell to 2021.
Heading Into 2022: Will Gamrot extend his streak in 2022? If he is able to follow his pattern of activity, winning, and finishes, then we may very well be looking at a legitimate lightweight title contender by year’s end.
#65: André Muniz
André Muniz, Image Credit: Copyright: Troy Taormina
Reasoning Behind Ranking: Ever since his UFC arrival, André Muniz has been fighting as if every scrap battle is his one shot. You need not look any further for evidence of this than his last three fights, where the grappling force submitted each of his opponents in the very first round, including fellow black belt and MMA legend Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Muniz has an impressive record of 22-4 and is on an eight-fight winning streak. His UFC record currently sits at 4-0.
Heading Into 2022: Muniz comes into 2022 ranked at #13 at middleweight, but if the first four fights are any indication, then that number could be much higher at some point in 2022. One name Muniz has identified as a potential next opponent is Darren Till, with his native Brazil being the preferred destination.
#64: Sean Strickland
Sean Strickland Saying Lord Knows What
Reasoning Behind Ranking: After having mixed results at welterweight, Sean Strickland’s career has experienced a strong surge in the middleweight division. When he’s not making headlines for some of his comments, the eccentric fighter is marching to the beat of his own drummer to victories, five straight to be precise, with the last four being in his new home of 185. Most recently, Strickland defeated Uriah Hall in his first main event with a unanimous decision victory.
Heading Into 2022: Strickland will now face his stiffest middleweight test to date when he faces former top-5 contender Jack Hermansson in February. At the moment, Strickland is ranked #7 in the division.
#63: Marina Rodriguez
Reasoning Behind Ranking: Another high-level striker to win a main event in 2021 is Marina Rodriguez. In fact, Rodriguez won two main events, first over Michelle Waterson in May followed by a victory over our #89-ranked fighter, Mackenzie Dern, in a Fight of the Night back in October. She also pulled off what at the time was considered to be a significant upset when she defeated Amanda Ribas at UFC 257.
Based strictly on the year’s results, a case can be made that Rodriguez could be placed within the top 25 or even higher. However, none of her victories came over a highly ranked opponent, and it wasn’t too long ago that she suffered a loss to Carla Esparza and had a draw with Cynthia Calvillo. She also has a draw with Randa Markos on her résumé.
Heading Into 2022: Despite some of her questionable results earlier in her career, there’s no question that Marina Rodriguez has been outpacing the strawweight competition after finding her legs in the division. So much so that she is currently ranked #3 in the division. Who’s next for Rodriguez? None other than the #4-ranked Yan Xiaonan on March 5.
#62: Rafael Fiziev
Rafael Fiziev, Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Reasoning Behind Ranking: Continuing with the trend of strikers who went unrestricted in 2021, Russian swinger Rafael Fiziev comes in at #62 on our list. Fiziev is currently enjoying a five-fight winning streak, capped off by one of the best knockouts of the year over fellow kickboxing threat Brad Riddell.
Fiziev does have one loss on his UFC record, but he’s only human, after all. That may be hard to grasp when you see a kick like the one above, but Fiziev has shown that he can be beat. What has become increasingly uncertain, however, is whether it will ever happen again.
Heading Into 2022: Rafael Fiziev will make his 2022 debut in his first main event against former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. dos Anjos was not eligible for our list this year due to not competing in 2021. Still, dos Anjos remains ranked in the top 10 at #6, so a victory for Fiziev, who currently sits at #11, would be massive.
#61: Anthony Smith
Anthony Smith, Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports
Reasoning Behind Ranking: If you’re among those who have been told that Anthony Smith is done and out of the light heavyweight title picture: they lied to you.
Entering 2020, Anthony Smith showed his bounce-back ability when he defeated Alexander Gustafsson in a Performance of the Night winner right after his loss to Jon Jones at UFC 235. But that was a rocky year for “Lionheart,” dropping back-to-back fights to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakić. Given the success those men have had, those losses have aged well for Smith.
But what has aged even better is Smith himself, who bounced back yet again with three straight wins, including a 2-0 record in 2021, with victories over Jimmy Crute and a Performance of the Night submission victory over Ryan Spann in September.
Heading Into 2022: With 52 professional bouts under his belt, it may be hard to believe that Smith is still only 33 years of age. What is in store in the year ahead for this battle-tested veteran? We’ll have to await the answer to that. But being that Smith is still ranked within the top 5 at light heavyweight, you can expect his next fight to be a big one as he continues to step to his comeback song.
Stay tuned to find out who is next on the MMA News Top 100 Fighters Of 2021 in Part 5!
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