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UFC Fighter Rankings for 2021 – Rating the Best Male Fighters in All Divisions

| November 11, 2021 12:04 pm PDT

Who are the best fighters in the UFC in 2021? I’m sure ranking them might cause a few headaches.

Of course, I can do one of two things before listing the top male fighters tearing things up in the world’s greatest mixed martial arts promotions.

I could head over to the UFC website and do a copy and paste job. Or I can provide you with an alternative rankings list from heavyweight to flyweight.

To be honest, I never was one for copying homework. I prefer to look at things my own way.

So, on that basis, here’s a list of my honest UFC fighter rankings for every division in 2021.

Heavyweight

Francis Ngannou
  • Champion: Francis Ngannou
  • Reign Started: March 2021
  • Next Fight: Cyril Gane (TBC)

At one time, boxing’s heavyweight champion of the world was known as the “Baddest Man on the Planet.”

Then, Francis Ngannou came along.

The Cameroonian is a devastating power puncher who has refined his core skills over the years. Now a smarter competitor, “The Predator” is looking to establish himself as the world’s premier heavyweight.

Can the giant African create a legacy that goes unmatched in UFC history?

Best UFC Contenders at Heavyweight

Here’s my list of the top contenders as of November 2021.

  • Ciryl Gane
  • Stipe Miocic
  • Curtis Blaydes
  • Derrick Lewis
  • Jairzinho Rozenstruik

In my 2021 UFC rankings for the heavyweight division, Ciryl Gane sits atop a list of the contenders.

The interim champion is set to take on the king of the division in a gargantuan unification bout in 2022. If you’re keen to place wagers on that one, make sure to cast an eye over the early odds for Ngannou vs. Gane with a little analysis of the fight.

Gane is a special fighter that has still yet to taste defeat in the division. Incredibly athletic, the Frenchman moves like a middleweight, belying his large frame.

Behind Gane is Stipe Miocic in 2nd place. 

Miocic is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest heavyweight we have seen in UFC history.

Having schooled the Cameroonian in their first fight back in 2018, he was unceremoniously shot into the shadow realm in the rematch, losing his title while simultaneously earning a place on the list of the best Ngannou knockouts of all time.

Blaydes comes in at third for me, despite being knocked out by Derek Lewis earlier this year. You could make an argument for either man to be a good fit for #3, but I’d wager Blaydes in a rematch.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has more to offer, and I think we’ll see that as time goes on. Thus, he gets my vote for #5.

Light Heavyweight

Glover Teixeira
  • Champion: Glover Teixeira
  • Reign Started: October 30, 2021
  • Next Fight: TBC

Once the glamor division of the promotion, the UFC light heavyweight stable has been thin on talent for years.

Perhaps that explains why 42-year-old Glover Teixeira — once considered nothing more than a gatekeeper at 205-pounds just a few years ago — is now the king.

Teixeira stunned fans by submitting Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267 to take the title. What an achievement that was.

You can’t take anything from Glover. The dude is a gangster. But that doesn’t change the fact that this division is one of the weakest on the roster.

Top UFC Light Heavyweight Challengers

My top light heavyweight contenders are as follows.

  • Jiri Prochazka
  • Magomed Ankalaev
  • Jan Blachowicz
  • Aleksandar Rakic
  • Thiago Santos

As you can see, I rate Jiri Prochazka as the #1 challenger in the division.

This is in stark contrast to the official UFC light heavyweight rankings that have Jan Blachowicz at #1.

In fact, those rankings look very different from mine.

For a start, I have Magomed Ankalaev as the 2nd contender to the title while the UFC doesn’t even rate him in the top five.

Aleksandar Rakic makes fourth place. He does have some work to do before he gets a title shot, but I would not be surprised to see him fighting for gold at some point in 2022.

Thiago Santos proved his doubters wrong against Johnny Walker in October. SBG Ireland hasn’t quite led to the great heights he had hoped, meaning the Dublin-based gym will be replaying Conor McGregor’s best knockouts until he steps up his game.

Middleweight

Israel Adesanya
  • Champion: Israel Adesanya
  • Reign Started: October 6, 2019
  • Next Fight: Robert Whittaker – UFC 271

Israel Adesanya.

What can you say about this guy that hasn’t been said a million times before? Not much.

Izzy will defend his middleweight title against Robert Whittaker in February at UFC 271. The same guy that he took the title from, of course.

Here’s a look at who else is looking to boss it up at 185-pounds.

Main Contenders to Adesanya’s UFC Crown

  • Robert Whittaker
  • Jared Cannonier
  • Sean Strickland
  • Paulo Costa
  • Alex Pereira

There’s no doubt that Whittaker is the number one contender to the crown.

Thus, my top rankings for UFC fighters at 185-pounds continues with “Bobby Knuckles,” who — at least as of the time of writing — remains the only clear and present danger to the title reign of “The Last Stylebender.”

Robert Whittaker’s UFC Record from his Last Four
Opponent Result Event Date
Kelvin Gastelum Decision Win UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Gastelum April 17, 2021
Jared Cannonier Decision Win UFC 254 October 24, 2020
Darren Till Decision Win UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Till July 26, 2020
Israel Adesanya KO Loss UFC 243 October 6,2019

 Jared Cannonier is a beast. He’d definitely ask a few questions of Adesanya or Whittaker.

There’s no doubt in my mind that “The Killa Gorilla” has time left to cause some damage to the status quo.

I’ve opted for Sean Strickland next.

This guy is about as real as you can get and has not shied away from anyone he has faced in his career to date.

On a five-fight win streak, Strickland looks in his prime.

The American, who has admitted to being a former neo-Nazi and indulging in murderous fantasies, might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I mean, hopefully, the guy has addressed his problems and can continue to fight and compete as a respectful mixed martial artist.

Paulo Costa has seen his stock tumble in recent times. He’s still young enough to get back on the saddle and make good of his talents, however.

Alex Pereira might be a controversial entry, given that he has done nothing but win his first UFC fight. But come on — who doesn’t want to see Izzy and Pereira run this one back?

Welterweight

Kamaru Usman
  • Champion: Kamaru Usman
  • Reign Started: March 2, 2019
  • Next Fight: TBC

The pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC. Period.

Usman is terrifyingly good. I mean, it’s not even fair at this point, right?

Whatever you think of “The Nigerian Nightmare,” I’ve been sold on his legitimacy for years now.

Who can challenge him?

Leading UFC Welterweight Challengers in 2021

  • Colby Covington
  • Leon Edwards
  • Gilbert Burns
  • Khamzat Chimaev
  • Vicente Luque

Ready for more controversy? Just strap yourself in…

As it stands, Colby Covington is the only fighter that can beat Kamaru Usman. Even with two losses, he’s the #2 welterweight on the planet. And by some distance.

Leon Edwards is the second-best contender there is at 170 right now. The Englishman, who just saw a fight with Jorge Masvidal fall apart recently, deserves the next title shot.

Gilbert Burns can still do it at the top level. But beat Kamaru Usman? I don’t think so.

How about these odds for Usman vs. Chimaev? I know you might be pissed to see Khamzat ranked so highly here, but don’t you dare tell me that fight would not be fun!

Or maybe Edwards vs. Chimaev?

Vicente Luque is the dark horse at 170. Don’t count him out!

Lightweight

Charles Oliveira
  • Champion: Charles Oliveira
  • Reign Started: May 15, 2021 
  • Next Fight: Dustin Poirier – UFC 269

Charles Oliveira is king. For now.

The Brazilian faces the best UFC lightweight in 2021, in my opinion, in his first title defense at UFC 269 in December.

Can Oliveira hold on to that strap?

Best UFC Lightweight Challengers

  • Dustin Poirier
  • Justin Gaethje
  • Islam Makhachev
  • Michael Chandler
  • Beneil Dariush

Poirier is a monster.

I believe the Lousiana-native is the premier fighter at 155-pounds and will prove it when he steps in with Oliveira at the end of the year.

Poirier became the first man to both knock Conor McGregor out and break one of his bones in the UFC in 2021. He also got paid a boatload of money for his troubles. Could that have an effect on his performance on the night?

If Oliveira manages to get past Poirier, he will run straight into the path of the psychotic Justin Gaethje. This guy is fireworks and it’s great to see his hard work pay off.

Islam Makhachev looks like a great bet to become a UFC champion over the next couple of years. The Dagestani rates high on my UFC fighter rankings in 2021.

Michael Chandler is fourth on the list, while Beneil Dariush takes #5.

You can keep looking all you want, but Conor does not make my top five.

Ranking the Best UFC Fighters (2021) – The Lower Weight Classes

No disrespect intended to the lower divisions, but I’ve been running this list from heaviest to lightest and here we are.

One of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC is Alexander Volkanovski.

The Aussie is just unreal, and I can’t wait to see him run it back with Max Holloway for the third time.

Here are my rankings for the top UFC fighters in 2021, where the smaller weight divisions are concerned.

Featherweight Bantamweight Flyweight
Alexander Volkanovski (C) Brandon Moreno (C) Aljamain Sterling
Max Holloway Deiveson Figueiredo Petr Yan
Brian Ortega Askar Askarov T.J. Dillashaw
The Korean Zombie Alexandre Pantoja Cory Sandhagen
Calvin Kattar Alex Perez Rob Font
Yair Rodriguez Deiveson Figueiredo Merab Dvalishvili

Petr Yan is the best at 135.

Still, he will have to prove that when he steps in against Aljamain Sterling in 2022.

At flyweight, Brandon Moreno rules the roost. But some fans’ think the 2020 Fighter of the Year, Deiveson Figueredo, can change that.

Final Words on My UFC Fighter Rankings for 2021

UFC logo

If you’ve been following this sport for more than a minute, you’ll know that things can change very quickly.

The best UFC fighters in 2021 might not even feature on a similar list at the end of 2022. That’s how quick MMA moves.

Make sure to follow the developments of the top UFC fighters by checking in on our mixed martial arts betting blog every now and again.

I’ll leave you with a look at the best fighters in Bellator. Enjoy!

Top MMA Fighters in Bellator in 2021

One of the “big three” mixed martial arts promotions, Bellator’s top fighters are up there with the very best on the planet. While the UFC undoubtedly has the richer talent pool, the California-based promotion has been trying to even...

Read More
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

More Posts by Adam Contact Adam

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