ESM’s Men’s UFC Pound-for-Pound rankings ahead of Saturday Night

One of the things that never seems to make sense to the world is the UFC rankings. If you go over to the UFC’s official rankings page, the pound for pound rankings make you scratch your head. At ESM, we have decided to throw our hat into the ring to create our own rankings that we will keep updated following every major UFC/MMA event.

Men’s Pound-For-Pound Rankings

  1. Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC)
  2. Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0)
  3. Israel Adesanya (19-0)
  4. Kamaru Usman (16-1)
  5. Stipe Miocic (19-3)
  6. Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1 NC)
  7. Alexander Volkanovski (21-1)
  8. Justin Gaethje (22-2)
  9. Conor McGregor (22-4)
  10. Francis Ngannou (15-3)

To me, Jon Jones is still the best to ever do it inside the octagon. In reality, the man is 28-0 just like Nurmagomedov but due to an elbow rule and a picogram, he’s got two blemishes on his record. Still when “Bones” is on his game, he’s the best in the world possessing elite skills in all aspects of MMA.

In comparison to the UFC‘s official rankings you’ll notice some differences. I personally left Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway outside of the top ten. Holloway is 1-2 in his last three fights which hurts his case. Poirier was a tough call, but I went with Gaethje and McGregor from that division. I think if Poirier were to rematch both men especially the new and improved Justin Gaethje, it could be a long night for him.

Francis Ngannou is the one who needs to be ranked higher in the UFC‘s rankings. The Predator is currently ranked 14th, but he belongs in the top ten. The most prolific knockout artist in UFC history is on a Mike Tyson like tear right now. His last four fights have gone a combined 2:42 against top heavyweight competition.

UFC 251’s Potential Impact

There are a couple of fights that will have an impact on the P4P UFC rankings this Saturday. The main event of the evening features Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal (35-13). Masvidal has won three fights in a row, but if he’s able to defeat Usman, he will finally launch into the top ten pound for pound rankings. Usman will likely hold in the fourth spot with a win on Saturday night.

Alexander Volkanovski can jump in the rankings even more if he’s able to defeat Holloway for a second time. The Australian has won 18 fights in a row including all eight of his UFC fights. If he’s able to retain his title on Saturday night and do it impressively, you could make the argument that he belongs in the top five.

Holloway could get back into the top ten if he’s able to regain his title. 2019 was not a great year for the former champion losing two fights. However, the Blessed Era can make an emphatic return if he’s able to dethrone Vokanovski on Saturday night. Fight Island definitely has the potential to shake up our UFC men’s pound for pound rankings.

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father Abdulmanap dies after battle with COVID-19

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, father of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, has died, according to multiple reports coming out of Russia Friday morning. Abdulmanap was 57 years old.

Back in April, Abdulmanap was admitted to the hospital due to complications with the COVID-19. Abdulmanap was taken to military hospital for observation and treatment. Abdulmanap was induced into a medical coma a couple of times while he battled.

While in the hospital, Abdulmanap also suffered a heart attack which led to a bypass surgery. Recently it was reported that the Abdulmanap was in stable but serious condition. Khabib Nurmagomedov was said to be training twice a day and was using this as more motivation for his UFC title defense later this year.

Friday morning, it was announced by Ramzan Kadyrov via his telegram channel that Abdulmanap had died after his long battle with COVID-19. The UFC is currently scheduled to have Khabib defend his title against Justin Gaethje in September, but you have to think this will be a very difficult camp for Khabib.

UFC 242 just became even more special

For the first time in his UFC career, Khabib had his father Abdulmanap in his corner last September when he fought Dustin Poirier at UFC 242. Abdulmanap had always been Khabib’s head trainer. UFC 242 was the first time he was actually able to travel for the fights because of visa issues in the US. Khabib put on an incredible performance that night. He mentioned how much it meant to him that his father was there to see him defend his UFC title.

Khabib has mentioned that he could not be where he’s at if it had not been for his father. He gives all the credit to his father for developing him into the UFC‘s undisputed lightweight king. This is a devastating time for the Nurmagomedov family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

UFC: Halfway through 2020, what has been the FOTY so far?

We are officially halfway through 2020. The UFC has put on some incredible cards, and the UFC has overcame a worldwide pandemic over the last two months to bring sports back to the world. There have been some incredible fights so far in 2020, but what has been the fight of the year?

Best of the Rest

This year has been so much fun when it comes to the UFC. We have seen the return of Conor McGregor, we’ve seen highlight reel knockouts, and we’ve seen some unforgettable fights. I have come up with a list of the three best fights of 2020, but there are several fights beyond my list that have brought many to their feet. Some of the fights that come to mind are: Emmett/Burgos, Felder/Hooker, Yadong/Vera, and many more. However, the three fights I have picked, I believe stand above the rest.

Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson – UFC 249

When this fight was announced in April, did you expect anything else? Tony Ferguson (25-4) was the boogieman of the lightweight division, and Justin Gaethje (22-2) lives up to his name in being the highlight of the lightweight division. After UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was pulled from his fight with Ferguson due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gaethje stepped up.

The UFC booked Ferguson/Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. The smart money was on Ferguson leading into the fight. Ferguson hadn’t lost in eight years, and many believed that he was the best lightweight in the world. Gaethje might have been the most exciting fighter in the world, but his reckless style has caused him to drop a few of his bigger fights. However, it became very apparent from the beginning, this was not the old Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje immediately took the center of the octagon throwing sharp and crisp combinations at Ferguson. “El Cucuy” was fully prepared to go to war firing back. The first round was action packed with Gaethje hitting Ferguson often. However, most got the sense that Gaethje would slow down as the fight went on. In the second round, Ferguson picked up his pace and dropped Gaethje near the end of the round.

Personally, I thought Ferguson was going to assume control, but that wasn’t the case. Gaethje came right out in the third with the same pace he started with. However, he was much more calculated. Gaethje was smart and picked his shots wisely against the former UFC interim champion, Ferguson. After putting on a clinic in the later rounds, Gaethje smashed Ferguson’s nose which caused Ferguson to turn away. The referee stopped the fight giving Gaethje the interim title. Both men threw everything they had at the other in an absolute war for five rounds, but on May 9th, Justin Gaethje was the better man.

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker – UFC on ESPN 12

Man, I think I’m still recovering from this one. This past Saturday at UFC on ESPN 12, Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) and Dan Hooker (20-9) put on an absolute show. The fight was booked earlier in the summer after Hooker had called Poirier out back in February. Poirier was coming off a title shot against Nurmagomedov, and was looking to get back to victory. A win for either man would put them squarely in title contention.

There was really no feeling out process with this fight. After throwing big kicks early, both men looked to focus completely on the other man’s face. In the first two rounds, Hooker did a fantastic job of landing clean and precise shots. Poirier was landing his shots too, but Hooker seemed to have the cleaner lands. Several times early, both men ended up in close quarters just throwing reckless power shots at the other.

Late in the second round, Hooker unleashed a combination that would have put most lightweights down. In fact, if it wasn’t for the cage, I’m not sure Poirier would have stayed on his feet. Poirier went back to his stool down to rounds to the contender from New Zealand. At this point, I thought we were looking at the next UFC title contender in Dan Hooker.

Starting in the third round, Poirier drastically turned the tables. Both men were still throwing all they had at the other, but it was Poirier who was now landing the cleaner shots on Hooker. Both men really started to fatigue in the middle rounds, but Poirier seemed to have just a little more in the tank.

The last two rounds were where Poirier really won the fight. Hooker had slowed massively, and Poirier was taking advantage. Despite getting caught a few times coming in, Poirier’s relentless pace took over in the later rounds. Both men were absolutely battered coming down the stretch of this one.

The fight went to the scorecards and all three judges gave the fight to Poirier. Hooker had won the first two rounds on all scorecards, but Poirier won the final three rounds. A tremendous back and forth battle that will go down as one of the better fights in UFC history.

Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk – UFC 248

You really can’t get much better than the fight between UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (22-1), and former champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). A few years ago, Jedrzejczyk was known as the best female fighter in the sport. Since losing the title back in 2017, Jedrzejczyk has desperately tried to get back to UFC gold. UFC 248 gave her the chance.

Weili Zhang is the first UFC champion to be born in China. She is turning into a superstar, but she needed an opponent that could truly shine a light on her greatness. She found that opponent back in March when she took on the former champion, Jedrzejczyk.

This fight was so special because it was on the highest of levels, and the action was non-stop. From the opening bell, both ladies threw precise combinations at the other. The pace was unlike anything that I had ever seen in a title fight. Both women were putting everything on their shots, but it wasn’t wild.

This was a striking match on the highest of levels. Jedrzejczyk was really light on her feet throughout the entire fight landing great shots from the outside. Zhang did a tremendous job at stepping in and countering as Jedrzejczyk threw. Both women hit the other frequently, and they hit each other clean. Watching this fight you just had to keep wondering when someone was going to get tired.

All the way into the championship rounds, the women never slowed down. Both ladies pushed forward throwing everything. You had spinning attacks, leg kicks, head kicks, straights, uppercuts, hooks, you know it. It was a striking clinic put on by both women. Both women were visibly beat up, and the fight was razor close.

Entering the final round, I don’t think anyone knew who was winning. The fight was dead even at all times. Every time one woman would land, the other would land a counter. The UFC fans were getting spoiled back in March. In the end, two of the three judges gave the fight to the champion, Weili Zhang. The fight was truly one of the best fights I had ever seen, and it was at the highest level of the sport for a UFC title.

The UFC’s FOTY in 2020 (So far)

All three of these contenders are excellent fights, but if I’m going to give the award, it’s going to Zhang and Jedrzejczyk. The fight was truly a thing of beauty. The perfect balance of technique and violence. It never turned into a brawl where technique went out the window, but you would think with the damage that both women suffered, it was a massive brawl with no defense on display. Also the fact that it was for the title puts it over the top. Women’s MMA has come so far over the last few years, but the fight that Zhang/Jedrzejczyk put on back at UFC 248 is the greatest female fight of all time, and it’s not close in my opinion.

UFC: Khabib Nurmagomedov-Justin Gaethje title fight targeted for UFC 253 on Sept. 19

Arguably the most anticipated UFC title fight of 2020 is getting closer to being official. Combate is reporting that the UFC is close to finalizing the lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) and Justin Gaethje (22-2). The anticipated matchup would headline UFC 253 on September 19th. UFC President, Dana White, has recently said that they were targeting this matchup for September.

Nurmagomedov looks to overcome a tough 2020

For champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, 2020 has not been the best of years. He was scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, but was forced to pull out of the event due to travel restrictions in Russia. Following that, his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, was diagnosed with COVID-19. He’s been in critical condition for a significant portion of time. Despite all of this, Khabib has been in the gym and said to be more motivated than ever to defend his UFC lightweight title. He’s said to be using everything from this year as motivation for him to put on the best performance of his career.

Nurmagomedov has been one of the more dominating fighters the UFC has ever seen. His record is almost confusing because you never see someone reach a record like 28-0 in MMA. Nurmagomedov’s last two performances were the best of his career. At UFC 229, Nurmagomedov smashed bitter rival, Conor McGregor, then submitted him in the fourth round. After being suspended due to a post-fight brawl, Nurmagomedov made his return last September against Dustin Poirier. Poirier had won the interim lightweight title in Khabib’s absense. The fight was very similar to the McGregor fight in that Nurmagomedov had his way before submitting Poirier in the third round. Nurmagomedov might be facing his biggest challenge yet in the form of current interim champion, Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje looks to continue his run to the undisputed UFC title

Back in April of 2018, Justin Gaethje was knocked out in the fourth round by Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fox 29. It was the second straight knockout loss for Gaethje, and he realized he needed to make a big career change. Gaethje said that he would start to have fun in the middle of a brawl which would leave him susceptible to counters which would hurt him badly. Gaethje and coach, Trevor Wittman, started working on Gaethje being more technical and patient inside the octagon. Since the mental change, there has been nobody more impressive in the UFC‘s lightweight division than Gaethje.

Since the loss to Poirier, Gaethje has gone 4-0 with four knockouts including three in the first round. Gaethje’s last performance against Tony Ferguson was truly the “Highlight” of his career. Despite Nurmagomedov being the champion, many people believed that Tony Ferguson was the best lightweight in the world. The two were scheduled to fight before Khabib couldn’t leave Russia. Gaethje decided to step in, and he put on the best performance of his career. Outside of getting dropped in the second round, Gaethje controlled the entire fight before stopping Ferguson in the fifth round to win the UFC‘s interim lightweight championship. These two lightweight superstars are on a collision course, and only one man will leave the undisputed lightweight champion.

The Takedown

This is a very fascinating matchup to breakdown when you think about it stylistically. To date, nobody has been able to stop Nurmagomedov from taking them down. Gaethje is a tremendous wrestler, but in college, he was known for his defensive wrestling. He was incredibly hard to take down. Looking at the two, Gaethje definitely has the advantage on the feet. Gaethje has incredible hands and arguably the best leg kicks in the business. This fight will truly come down to the takedown. If Nurmagomedov can get Gaethje to the ground, it will be just like another Khabib fight. If he can’t, it could be a long night for the Russian. I cannot wait to break this fight down as we get closer to UFC 253.

UFC: Who will Conor McGregor fight next?

Conor McGregor, UFC

UFC fans all around the world have been pondering the question, “Who is Conor McGregor going to fight next?” The former two-division champion made his triumphant return to action back in January, where he starched fan favorite Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds with a devastating combination of shoulder strikes and a high kick. It was a great way to kick off the year, and Conor made the statement that he would love to fight several times in 2020.

Well, the world encountered a global pandemic that has really thrown a wrench in McGregor’s original plans. It’s becoming clear to me that the UFC was going to have Conor fight the winner of the Tony Ferguson/Khabib Nurmagomedov fight that was originally scheduled for April. That fight, of course, fell through, and Tony Ferguson fought Justin Gaethje instead. Of course, Gaethje spoiled the party by upsetting Ferguson to be crowned Interim Lightweight Champion of the UFC.

Conor McGregor has been extremely active on Twitter, calling out people and saying he is ready to fight. With that in mind, let’s look at four men who could be a possibility for the Notorious one’s next fight.

Nate Diaz

You just had to know that we were starting with this. Imagine a Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz trilogy fight with nobody in the stands on the UFC’s Fight Island. You could hear every word that these two rivals would be saying to each other. To me, this is the fight that makes the most sense from a business perspective for Conor McGregor. It is clear that Conor McGregor would like to get back to UFC gold, but there’s a roadblock at 155. Interim Champ, Justin Gaethje, is currently waiting for his shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Those two are not likely to fight until September, and it’s highly unlikely that McGregor will sit out until the winter to get his shot at the belt. That is where Nate Diaz comes into the equation.

The two rivals have a history, and it needs to be settled once and for all. Nate Diaz shocked the world back in 2016 when he took a fight against Conor McGregor on short notice. After getting touched up early, Diaz found his groove and took it to a tired McGregor. Diaz would go on to submit McGregor in the second round via rear-naked choke. The two immediately ran that fight back a few months later, and it was a back and forth classic. McGregor took that close fight by Majority Decision. With the two fan favorites currently 1-1 in their series, it would just make the most sense to run this one back a third time. There are no easy fights for Conor McGregor right now, but arguably the most winnable option for him would be Nate Diaz. He has the blueprint for beating Nate Diaz, and I think he would if they were to fight a third time. Conor could make the most amount of money in this fight, and it would be another big win for him as he awaits the winner of the Nurmagomedov/Gaethje fight in September.

Jorge Masvidal

Who would not want to see this fight happen? This was the hot fight that everyone was talking about after Conor McGregor stopped Donald Cerrone back in January. Jorge Masvidal was in the front row for that fight wearing a robe that matched the robe Conor McGregor wore in his fight with Floyd Mayweather. Masvidal was coming off of his victory for the BMF Title over Nate Diaz.

Nobody in the sport had a better year in 2019 than Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal knocked out Darren Till in England, knocked Ben Askren out in 5 seconds, then beat Nate Diaz and had The Rock wrap a BMF title around his waist to cap it off. Masvidal has a personality that would sell, and I bet he’d be willing to put that BMF title up for grabs in a fight with Conor McGregor. Masvidal used to fight at 155, so there wouldn’t be a huge size discrepancy between the two men. It’s a tougher fight for Conor than Nate Diaz would be, but it’s another fight that Conor could win. This fight would be a standup war, and one thing people can’t deny is how good Conor McGregor is on his feet. He’s one of the best in the business at gauging the range and timing shots when he’s on top of his game. Not sure if either man would get a finish in this fight, but it would be a fun war to watch.

Justin Gaethje

This would be the most personal of all the options for Conor McGregor. McGregor recently turned to Twitter to call out Gaethje where he mentioned Gaethje’s comments about McGregor’s skills as a father. This is a fight that Conor wants really badly, and it would be a fight that would give him at least some gold if he’s able to win. As mentioned above, Gaethje is currently waiting for his shot against Khabib for the Undisputed Lightweight title. However, there is one factor that could throw everything off. There have been many reports out of Russia on the condition of Khabib’s trainer and father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. Khabib is a very private person when it comes to his family, but one thing that isn’t private is his love for his father. The elder Nurmagomedov is currently battling for his life due to Covid-19. Recent reports have suggested he’s either in a medically induced coma or he’s on life support. With everything going on with his father, I’m not sure Khabib is going to be fighting anytime soon. If that turns out to be the case, you will likely see the UFC move to book Conor McGregor vs Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title.

On paper, this would seem to be a fight that would give Conor McGregor trouble with Gaethje’s ability to wrestle, but that is just not Gaethje’s style, which will play right into Conor McGregor’s hands. Justin Gaethje has insane power, and he’s very fast, but Conor McGregor is not Tony Ferguson when it comes to striking. In a pure striking match, I do not believe Justin Gaethje could beat Conor McGregor unless he knocks him out. I think the diversity of Conor’s striking techniques, along with his ability to time straight counters, would give Gaethje fits throughout the evening. Eddie Alvarez, who fought both men, believes that McGregor would finish Justin Gaethje. Styles make matchups, and this is not a matchup that would excitement as a Gaethje fan unless he said he would mix in his wrestling, which we all know he wouldn’t.

Kamaru Usman

Wouldn’t this be something? Conor McGregor getting a shot to become the first man in UFC history to hold a title in three different weight divisions, would be huge business for the UFC but a nightmare of a fight for Conor McGregor. Khabib Nurmagomedov is a nightmare matchup for Conor McGregor, and it showed in their first fight. To be fair, I don’t believe we saw the best version of Conor McGregor in that fight, but either way, it’s a tough matchup. Kamaru Usman is like Khabib except much bigger and stronger.

This would be one fight where even the die-hard Conor McGregor fans would have to look at it and question the odds. The Nigerian Nightmare would immediately shoot once the opening bell sounded. If he couldn’t take Conor down, he’d likely lean on him by the cage and engage in some dirty boxing. We’ve seen Conor McGregor gas in fights before, and this is a fight that would have the potential to zap his energy exceptionally quickly. I’m not sure there’s a worse matchup for Conor in the UFC right now than Kamaru Usman.

Would it be a huge fight for the legacy of Conor McGregor? Absolutely, because no man has ever held a title in three weight classes, but the mountain he’d have to climb is a steep and tall one. The only way McGregor wins the title in this fight would be to stop Usman early with a clean shot. Does Conor have the pop to take out Usman at 170? There is no question that Conor McGregor is a better striker than Kamaru Usman, but this isn’t a kickboxing match. In the world of MMA, this is a fight I do not like if I’m a Conor McGregor fan.

Who will it be?

Thinking through everything, it still makes the most sense for Conor McGregor to fight Nate Diaz in his next fight. The history is there, and it’s the fight that makes the most sense. Let’s hope and pray that Khabib’s father recovers so his life can get back to normal and as fight fans we get to see the Nurmagomedov/Gaethje fight in September. If Conor can beat Nate Diaz, he can turn his attention to the winner of the September title fight. Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal need to fight for the 170-pound title. It’s the fight that makes the most sense at that weight class, and it’s a fight that needs to happen. If Conor McGregor is able to capture the 155-pound title before 2021, the UFC could then turn their attention to doing a champion versus champion fight in Q1 of 2021 with Conor McGregor facing off against whoever is the welterweight champion.