Rankings Review: Sean O’Malley Re-Enters UFC Bantamweight Rankings

It might be an understatement to say the UFC has some questionable rankings.  You would expect rankings to be questionable as they are subjective; however, in this column, I will point out rankings that I think are glaring mistakes.  I will also analyze significant movement in the rankings that I agree with.

Editorial Commentary by Peter Parsons

Sean O’Malley improved his UFC record to 7-1 this past Saturday with a first round TKO over Raulian Paiva.  With the victory, O’Malley re-enters the UFC bantamweight rankings.

Sean O’Malley ranked No. 13 at bantamweight

You don’t often hear mention of O’Malley being previously ranked in the UFC.  He entered the rankings originally after his KO victory over Eddie Wineland at UFC 250 in June of 2020.  The Wineland victory put O’Malley’s UFC record to 4-0.  The Contender Series standout was ranked No. 14 going into the Marlon Vera fight where he suffered his first career defeat which resulted in the loss of his ranking.

O’Malley has now won three in a row and seven of eight in the UFC.  His previous opponent Raulian Paiva was temporarily ranked after defeating previous No. 14 ranked Kyler Phillps.  I wrote in this column that Paiva should not have been ranked because he was only 1-0 in the bantamweight division.  I mentioned six fighters who should have been ranked ahead of him including O’Malley who was 6-1 in the UFC at the time.

Daniel Cormier questioned on the UFC 269 commentary how Paiva could have fell out of the rankings without losing.  The answer to that is simple as Song Yadong had defeated Casey Kenney in August, a month after Paiva defeated Phillips.  Yadong also had a big knockout victory over Julio Arce in November to cement his ranking.

O’Malley’s No. 13 ranking can come into question because of his popularity.  I’ve said in this column before that fighters like Khamzat Chimaev, before his Jingliang fight, should not be ranked based on popularity.  If rankings were based on popularity, O’Malley would be a top 3 bantamweight.  I feel that O’Malley is very worthy of his No. 13 ranking in the bantamweight division based on his performances inside the octagon.  The 27-year-old is still yet to fight a ranked opponent, however, going 7-1 in the stacked UFC 135-pound division is very impressive.

O’Malley is likely to get a ranked fighter next.  It will be interesting to see how “Suga” does against the top bantamweights in the world. 

Tai Tuivasa ranked No. 11 at heavyweight

Tai Tuivasa is another star coming out of the UFC 269 show.  The 28-year-old Australian also re-entered the UFC rankings with a KO victory this past Saturday night.  “Bam Bam” defeated the previous No. 11 ranked Augusto Sakai by second round KO.

Tuivasa started his UFC career going 3-0 which included a victory over Andrei Arlovski at UFC 225 in June of 2018.  Tuivasa was ranked No. 11 going into a main event fight against Junior Dos Santos in December of 2018.  The former champ Dos Santos handed Tuivasa his first career defeat.  Tuivasa went on to lose three in a row, including his last loss against Serghei Spivac at UFC 243 In October of 2019.  The Spivac loss put Tuivasa out of the rankings.

I wrote in a past column in July that Tuivasa should have been ranked after knocking out Greg Hardy at UFC 264.  Tuivasa had won three in a row at the time, with all three wins coming by way of first round knockout.  I wrote that Tuivasa should have been ranked ahead of Sergei Pavlovich who was inactive for nearly 21 months at the time.

With his knockout over Augusto Sakai, Tuivasa has now won four in a row by KO or TKO.  The No. 11 ranked Tuivasa should be ranked No. 10 at the least, only because I feel that Shamil Abdurakhimov, who currently sits at No. 8, should not be in the top 10.  Before his recent loss to Chris Daukus in September, Abdurakhimov had went over two years without fighting.  The Russian heavyweight lost to Curtis Blaydes in September of 2019.  His last win was against current No. 9 ranked Marcin Tybura.  However, the Tybura fight was back in April of 2019.

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Sergei Pavlovich ranked No. 15 at heavyweight

If you are a regular reader of this column, you would have read about why I feel Sergei Pavlovich should not be ranked, not only because of his inactivity, but also because of the level of opponents that he has defeated in his 2-1 UFC career.  I continue to scratch my head as to how he could still be ranked.  Hopefully this is the last time I write about this, but I will continue to as long as Pavlovich is ranked while being inactive, as we watch the months of his inactivity pile up.  It has now been nearly 26 months since Pavlovich last fought.  He was scheduled to fight Tanner Boser on December 4.

So, who should be ranked instead of Pavlovich?

With Tuivasa entering the rankings, the man who last defeated him, Serghei Spivac, left the rankings.  I’m not saying that Spivac should be ranked ahead of Tuivasa because he defeated him a few fights ago.  What I am saying is that Spivac should be ranked ahead of Pavlovich.

In the same month that Pavlovich last fought (October 2019), Spivac defeated Tuivasa.  Since Palvovich’s last fight, Spivac has fought five times.  The Moldovan has gone 3-2 during this stretch, having lost to current No. 9 Marcin Tybura and current No. 10 Tom Aspinall.  Spivac has had notable victories over top Brazilian heavyweight prospect Carlos Felipe and veteran Aleksei Oleinik.  The ground specialist Oleinik was ranked No. 15 at the time of their fight this past June.

Spivac’s countryman Alexander Romanov is another heavyweight who should be ranked ahead of Pavlovich.  Undefeated in his MMA career at 15-0, the Moldovan is 4-0 in the UFC with notable victories over Marcos Rogerio de Lima and TUF 28 winner Juan Espino.  The de Lima win is aging well as the Brazilian heavyweight has since had victories over Maurice Greene (Pavlovich’s best victory) and Ben Rothwell.

My rankings would look different than any other writer or fan who follows the sport closely.  This is to be expected, as rankings are subjective.  Rankings should be based primarily on results and not perceived potential or popularity.

Some people think rankings do not matter.  Rankings do matter.  They matter when it comes to matchmaking.  They matter when it comes to contract negotiations.

Let’s keep the rankings conversation going.  Do you agree or disagree with the above Ranking Review? Express your thoughts in the comments below.

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