Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ten Bold Predictions for the 2015 NCAA Football Season

Why even bother watching college football this year? I tell you the Power Five Conference Champions, the big Bowl Game outcomes and, of course, this year's National Champions four months in advance. 


By: Jimbo X
@Jimbo__X


Folks, are you ready for (some kind of) FOOTBALL? Of course you are, and thankfully, the college football season kicks off next week. To be fair, I've never really been that big of a college pigskin fan (thanks in part to attending a college that didn't field a team until recently), but there's no denying the high-scoring amusement of Saturday 'ball. 

So, which Power Five Conference will lose out when it comes playoff team selection time, you're probably wondering? Furthermore, just how well can a non-Power Five team do this year? Are 'Bama and Ohio State really on an inevitable collision course at AT&T Stadium in mid-January? And hey -- what are the odds that those offensive juggernauts out in the Big 12 actually make it to the big dance this time around? 

Well folks, for your miscellaneous inquiries, I've got answers. Using my super-secret college football prognostication formula (hint: it involves both sabermetrics and a Magic Eight Ball), I've gone on ahead and ran calculations for the outcomes of every Division I college football game of the fall. Or maybe, I just kind of skimmed the schedule on ESPN and made a few seat-of-the-pants calls. Like there's that much of a difference, no? 

Wanna' know if your team is bound for glory or destined for failure? Wonder no more, fellas: here are ten bet-your-kids-college-fund locks for the 2015 NCAA Football season...

PREDICTION NUMBER ONE:
Ohio State will falter early and late in the season

You better bookmark this page, folks, ‘cause in a couple of days, you people are going to think I’m some kind of oracle. Right now, THE Ohio State University is the nigh universal consensus pick for this year’s National Champions. They are a stacked team, no doubt, but I expect Urban Meyer’s juggernaut to suffer colossal book-end losses that sinks the team’s odds of even playing for the Big Ten Championship this year.

Last year, Virginia Tech upset the Buckeyes, and on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, I fully expect the Hokies to do it again. It’ll be a seismic shock to everybody except us, but I’m just feeling it in my bones -- it ain’t easy winning games in Blacksburg, and with so much hype piled on the team, I just think there’s all the makings for a gargantuan week one collapse. From there, I see the Buckeyes righting the ship, winning their next nine games (although Penn State will make it a nail-biter.) Still eyeing a playoff berth, I see Michigan State shocking the Buckeyes at home, a big, wet, proverbial French Kiss of Death that’ll keep THE Ohio State from even thinking about playing for THE National Championship. And to add insult to injury? A deflated Buckeyes squad will go on to lose against arch-rivals Michigan, in an iteration of “The Game” that has no real bearings on the National Championship hunt.

As for the Big Ten Championship game? I have a one-loss Michigan State squad (who stumbles in week two against Oregon) running roughshod over a one-loss Wisconsin team, whose sole loss during the regular season happens week one against ‘Bama.

And some quick projections for a few other Big 10 teams before we move along: Penn State will drop just two games all season (week 7 against OSU and week 13 against Michigan State), while the new look Wolverines win seven or fewer games -- including the aforementioned just-for-funsies tilt against the Buckeyes.

PREDICTION NUMBER TWO:
Louisville will win a surprisingly competitive ACC

With so many ongoing distractions in Tallahassee in conjunction with the loss of Jameis Winston, it’s not really a surprise that the Seminoles won’t go undefeated in the regular season like they did last year (for the record, I have them dropping five games, including an effortless loss against the Gators on Nov. 28). What may be surprising, however, is just how contentious the battle for the ACC crown will be in 2015, in the absence of any one true “dominant” team.

With Florida State on a downward trajectory, the ACC Atlantic is Louisville’s to lose. While a week one loss against Auburn is all but inevitable, I see the team running the table all the way up to a shock-loss against UVA on Nov. 14. Still, that’s more than enough to put them in the ACC Championship Game, which I project them winning.

I’ve got Georgia Tech winning the Coastal division, but it won’t be easy. They’ll slink by Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, but their “perfect season” comes to an end in a Thursday night  game against the Hokies. They will drop next week’s game against Miami, but they rebound with a decisive win against arch rivals UGA. Miami will also be a two-loss team, giving up games to Nebraska and Florida State early in the season. Virginia Tech will ALSO be just a two-loss team, with an Oct. 17 loss to Miami and an inexcusable Halloween loss to Boston College. Miami and VT fans alike will be pissed a plenty that their teams didn’t get in, but alas, that’s how the NCAA mathematics work, I am afraid.

As for the rest of the conference, we’re dealing with mostly junk teams. Duke had an aberrationly good year last year, but I’d be surprised if they win more than 6 games this time around. The big shock, however, is going to be how bad Clemson performs this year, as the team with the third best defense in the country in ‘14 winds up dropping five consecutive games from Sept. 17 to Oct. 24, with three more disastrous losses (including one at the hands of conference basement dweller Wake Forest) before the season painfully wraps up.

PREDICTION NUMBER THREE:
The Big 12 will be a three-team shootout, with TWO representatives making the National Championship Playoffs

Last year, TCU and Baylor missed the playoffs, despite their respective one-loss records. Both teams will once again find themselves in the National Championship title hunt, but what might surprise a few folks is who they will have as company in the race to the Big 12 Championship.

As was the case last year, I expect Baylor -- with their potent, No.1 ranked offense -- to best TCU in a shootout on Nov. 27. The rub there is, the week before, the Golden Bears will drop yet another game at Oklahoma State, which will effectively keep them from winning the conference.

The Horned Frogs will lose just one game all season -- an Oct. 10 double-digit loss to Kansas State. After a Nov. 5 loss to Baylor, the Wildcats will remain potential National Champion contenders all the way up to a shock loss against West Virginia on Dec. 5. As the Big 12 doesn’t have an official championship game of their own, that’s going to brew a LOT of controversy over who should be deemed the champs. While TCU gets the official nod, a lot of folks will consider Baylor the real champions. And -- much to the delight of high-scoring football game fans across America -- this year, we WILL get to see Baylor and TCU face-off twice.

Regarding the rest of the 10-team Big 12 this year? I’ve got West Virginia and Oklahoma State dropping four games each, Oklahoma dropping six and Texas losing at least eight games. Oh, and beginning in 2016? They will most definitely have their own Championship Game, or else I will eat my own hat.

PREDICTION NUMBER FOUR:
The Pac-12 will be atrocious, with two three-loss teams battling for the conference championship 

With no Marcus Mariota, I’ve got Oregon taking a precipitous plunge in 2015. By November's end,  I expect them to have at least three losses on the record. Obviously, that puts them out of National Championship consideration, but -- speaking to the abject dreadfulness of the Pac-12 as a whole this season -- they'll still make a return trip to the conference championship game.

My predictions for the outcomes of the Power
Five Conference Championships. Just, uh,
overlook the flip-flopped Big 10 and Big 12
labels, please.
The South will be better than the North, but not by much. Both Arizona and Arizona State had some fluky success last year, and similarly, I see the two squads in Washington having some unexpected success this season.

As expected, USC will crash and burn after some early success. After going 3-0, they will drop four games in a row and almost lose to Cal. Expect them to drop at least two more games before the season’s end. That leaves UCLA and, unbelievably, Utah battling for the division, with a three-loss Utes squad barely squeaking past a four-loss Bruins squad .

In the end, I’ve got Utah taking out Oregon in a relatively meaningless conference title game. And -- not surprisingly -- no one will consider the Utes worthy of a shot at the National Championship after they scoop up the Pac-12 crown.




PREDICTION NUMBER FIVE:
Auburn will win the SEC West and Tennessee will win the SEC East

EVERYBODY is picking Alabama to win the National Championship this year (and by proxy, the SEC crown), which is more than enough reason to pick against them. Oh, Nick Sabin’s squad is going to be good, all right -- I’ve got the Tide dropping just one game (an Oct. 24 loss to a resurgent Vols squad) en route to the 2015 Iron Bowl. Alas, I’ve got the Tigers winning that one (and thus, the SEC West), although I do expect them to drop one game before then -- I don’t know why, but that Nov. 7 game at Texas A&M just rubs me the wrong way.

Over in the SEC East, I’ve got a one-loss Tennessee team running roughshod over the rest of the division -- this, despite a pretty inexplicable loss against Florida in late September. Expect the UGA defense to fare much worse than it did last season, while Missouri’s already piss-poor offense gets even sloppier. The downward trajectories for Florida and South Carolina will continue -- I see both teams dropping at least five games a piece this season.

The SEC Championships ought to be a barn burner, a high-offense hootenanny remarkably similar to that Auburn/Missouri shootout in 2013. Alas, I reckon Auburn’s defense is just a smidge better, which ought to give them enough of an edge to squeak by the Vols -- I’m calling a 34-31 finish here, complete with a dramatic last minute TD from the Tigers.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State were twin surprises last year, but I don’t see them having anywhere near as much luck in 2015. Arkansas just doesn’t have the offense to get past half the teams in the SEC, and while A&M and LSU will pull off some upsets, I’d be really shocked if those squads managed to do better than four losses this upcoming season.

PREDICTION NUMBER SIX:
Boise State and Notre Dame will make strong cases for playoff berths, but neither team will get in

Outside the Power Five, I see quite a few interesting things happening. The Broncos are pretty much guaranteed the MWC Championship, but I’m not quite sure they’ll be able to run the table. Although the team most certainly has a shot at a perfect season,  I think they’ll wind up dropping at least one game, with the most likely loss being their week 2 showdown with BYU. Sorry, Idahoans, but I just can’t imagine an undefeated Boise State squad earning an invite to the final four, let alone a team with a sole “L” in their win-loss column.

Speaking of Mormon country, I see BYU being one of the big surprises of the 2015 college football season. They’ll do very well against Top 25 competition (they will knock off Nebraska, Michigan and UCLA, for sure) but at the same time, it’s pretty hard to imagine them finishing the season better than two losses. The Missouri game on Nov. 14 has “trap game” written all over it, and for reasons that I just can’t rationalize, something tells me they’ll choke against Fresno State or Utah State.

I’ve got Notre Dame dropping just two all-year-long; a week 3 double-digit stomping at the hands of Georgia Tech and a “you’ve got to be shitting me” loss against Boston College just before Thanksgiving. They’ll do well enough for a New Year’s Day Bowl bid, but alas, this ain’t their year to win a National Championship.

Every year, there seems to be that one over-achieving non-Power Five team that makes a run at an improbable playoffs berth. Last year, it was Marshall, and this year, I’m putting my money on Navy. Defensively, they need a lot of work, but they averaged the third most rushing yards of any Division I college team in the nation last year. That, and as new recruits to the AAC, they have a fairly easy field to plow through; outside of an Oct. 10 contest against Notre Dame (and maybe the Nov. 28 match-up against Houston), I just don’t see the Midshipmen losing to anybody this season.

PREDICTION NUMBER SEVEN:
A lot of teams expected to do well this year will suck…

Looking at the US Today Coaches Preseason Poll, I’m seeing a TON of overrated squads with unreasonably high rankings.

For starters, two teams who made the final four last year (fifth-ranked Oregon and eighth-ranked FSU) will almost certainly wind up dropping at least three games a piece.

With a super-tough schedule, the overrated Georgia Bulldogs (ranked ninth) could easily drop five games, if not more. Similarly, number 10 USC and number 12 Clemson are both likely to drop four games each, as is number 13 LSU.

UCLA (number 14), Arizona State (number 16) and Ole Miss (number 15) are definitely going to be four-loss minimum squads. Oklahoma, Arkansas and Stanford (numbers 19 through 21, respectively), are probably going to drop at least five games throughout the season. Arizona and Missouri did pretty good last year, but I see them doing much worse this year -- both teams, feasibly, are five-loss squads, at best.

PREDICTION NUMBER EIGHT:
…while a lot of teams expected to suck will do surprisingly well. 

My predictions for the "Big Seven" Bowl
Games in January. 
Heading back to the Coaches Poll, both Boise State and Tennessee -- who occupy the 24th and 25th slots -- are going to finish the season in the top 10. Along those same lines, I see both Georgia Tech and Wisconsin (ranked 17th and 18th) making it all the way to their respective conference championships.

Of course, the teams who are really going to shock the shit out of people in 2015 aren’t even ranked in the so-called “Top 25” right now. Kansas State, Utah, and Louisville all have the makings of conference champions, while Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Miami, BYU and Washington are all guaranteed to finish above .500.

While I wouldn’t call them championship caliber squads, I wouldn’t sleep on Virginia Tech or West Virginia, either. While neither team will make a real run for their conference titles, I predict both teams will play spoiler and keep other highly ranked teams from making the playoffs.

Oh, and for those looking for the upset of the year? I’ve got two games to mark on your calendars: Sept 12. (when Cal Poly shocks Arizona State) and Oct. 10 (when Eastern Michigan will go into Death Valley and utterly stun the LSU Tigers.)

PREDICTION NUMBER NINE:
For the most part, this year's bowl games will be relatively close.

We'll do the four-team playoffs later. For the time being, I want to focus on the big four non-playoff bowl games. In the Rose Bowl, I'm guessing it's going to be Utah against Ohio State. The Buckeyes, on paper anyway, are clearly a better team, but having lost their opportunity to make another National Championship run in late November, I figure they'll just phone it in here. I've got the Utes winning it, 38-21

Louisville and Boise State are my selections for the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals are going to be mighty pissed about being named the fifth best team of the regular season, and they definitely have a lot to prove against a similarly unheralded Broncos squad. This one has all the makings of a shootout classic, which is exactly why I'm prognosticating this one will be a defense-oriented, low-scoring affair. I've got Louisville wining a nail-biter here, 21-19. 

You know, you could possibly make a better match-up than Alabama and Miami (not of Ohio) for the Peach Bowl, but come on. This game is held in SEC territory, so you know the best leftover team from the Cotton Belt is a lock for this one. Expect it to be a points-heavy affair, with the Tide's defense coming up big in the fourth. I see 'Bama taking it, 42-35. 

And lastly, we come to the Fiesta Bowl. Really, there's a goulash of teams that deserve a shot in the game (Navy, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Penn State, among others), I figure this one will wind up being a fairly random tussle between Notre Dame (gotta' get the Catholics glued to the boob tube, you know) and Kansas State. The idea is that, of the remaining two-to-three-loss teams remaining, KSU is the one the Irish have the best shot of beating. Which, as we all would have guessed, means they actually end up dropping the game to the Big 12 also-ran, 20-14. 

PREDICTION NUMBER TEN:
Auburn will best TCU in a nail-biter to win the National Championship

In order, I've got the selection committee choosing the following four teams for the playoffs: Auburn, Baylor, TCU and Michigan State. 

The second go-at-it between TCU and Baylor will be every bit as entertaining as their regular season score-fest. Alas, this time around, I expect a flip-flopped outcome in the Cotton Bowl;  with a minute to go, TCU marches down the field and connects on a late touchdown, securing a 48-44 victory for the Horned Frogs. 

The Orange Bowl contest between Auburn and Michigan State will be every bit as exciting. While they won't put up a combined 90 points like the Big 12 schools, the Spartans and Tigers will nonetheless make it a compelling game, with Auburn's defense making a huge fourth and goal stop to punch their tickets to the National Championship. Final score: Auburn, 24, Michigan State, 21. 

That leaves us with an SEC on Big 12 grand finale at Jerry World. Throughout the better part of the season, Auburn has been able to do just enough to squeak by, and even against TCU's potent offense, I think that will remain the case. Inconceivably, I imagine this one being a low-scoring affair, with the Tigers secondary shutting down the Horned Frogs aerial attack. Since Auburn does a better job of running the ball, I see them using the clock to push their way to a slim 21-19 victory, complete with a last second TCU Hail Mary coming up unbearably short in the game's final seconds. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quarterly MMA Rankings (August 25, 2015 edition)

An all-new, less than reverential, semi-regular feature quantifying the best the world of mixed-martial-arts has to offer!

HEY! LOOKING FOR PREVIOUS RANKINGS? YOU CAN CHECK 'EM OUT IN THE LINKS BELOW:
By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo__X

Eh, what a summer to be an MMA fan, huh, kids? There were upsets and all-time-classic beatdowns and fluky finishes and failed drug tests galore over the last four or so months, and I -- for one -- couldn't be happier. Heading into the breezy fall months, there seems to be a suspicious dearth of new fight card details emerging, with a rather considerable number of top-tier fighters sans bouts on the books until at least Christmas or beyond. Alas, with so much shaking up since our last installment in the series, there remains much to discuss, dissect and, in some cases, deconstruct in the world of mixed martial arts. Now, who's ready to get this ten division trolley chugging down the rails? That's right ... everybody

Heavyweight Division

1.) Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1-0)
     Last Bout: Win, vs. Cain Velasquez (June 13, 2015)
     Next Bout: T.B.D.
     Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (+1)

The Brazilian veteran shocked the MMA world earlier this summer, when he submit Heavyweight title holder Cain Velasquez in the fourth round of their championship tilt in Mexico City. With much, much improved boxing, the noted BJJ expert is arguably the most versatile heavyweight fighter in the UFC at the moment; all of those offensive weapons, certainly, do not bode well for Mr. Velasquez in their championship rematch. 

2.) Cain Velasquez  (13-2-0-0)
     Last Bout: Loss vs. Fabricio Werdum (June 13, 2015)
     Next Bout: T.B.D.
     Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (-1)

Although he rattled off some sound shots early, Velasquez just didn't have the gas in his tank to muster much of a battle against Fabricio Werdum in June. Suffering just the second loss of his career, "The Terminator" definitely has some key cardio deficiencies to work on before he faces Werdum again. Nonetheless, his ferocious striking and excellent wrestling makes him an imposing fighter, and a man who is unlikely to fall out of title contention for a long time. 

3.) Junior dos Santos (17-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Stipe Micoic (December 13, 2014)
Next Bout: T.B.D
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (0)

Sidelined due to injury, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion has looked pretty damn good against everyone he has faced not named Cain Velasquez. That includes current title holder Fabricio Werdum, whom "Cigano" infamously KO'ed back in 2009. Whenever he gets back into fighting shape, you best bet dos Santos will be looking to score a second headshot victory -- that is, if he isn't befallen in an eliminator trap bout before he gets to a rematch. 

4.) Andrei Arlovski (24-10-0-1)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Travis Browne (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Frank Mir (Sept. 05, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional  Ranking: 4 (0)

"The Pitbull's" unlikely resurgence epitomizes the unpredictability of MMA. Considered washed up just five years ago, the 36-year-old Belarusian now finds himself once again in the thick of the UFC Heavyweight Championship hunt. Arlovski looked very impressive against Travis Browne in his last match-up; one assumes that he can't be more than one  or two wins away from yet another crack at the belt he last held way back in 2006.

5.) Stipe Miocic (12-2-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Mark Hunt (May 10, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Ben Rothwell (Oct. 24, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 8 (+3)

The 32-year-old brawler set a UFC record for most punches thrown in a single fight in May, outstriking the notoriously hard to put down Mark Hunt 361 to 48 over the course of 22 minutes. With just two losses on his record, Miocic is definitely one of the top-tier fighters in the UFC's heaviest weight class; with one more quality victory on his record, and its hard to imagine him not being placed in a title eliminator tilt. 

6.) Ben Rothwell (34-9-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Matt Mitrione (June 06, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Stipe Miocic (Oct. 24, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 7 (+1)

Don't look now, but the former IFL standout has chalked up three wins in a row, finishing the likes of Alistair Overeem Brandon Vera and Matt Mitrione in spectacular fashion. Despite some bad losses on his record (a nasty TKO at the hands of Cain Velasquez and a perplexing submission loss to a way-past-his-prime Gabriel Gonzaga, namely), Rothwell has nonetheless shown he has the diverse arsenal needed to achieve success in the division. Whether that's enough to thrust him from top-tier gatekeeper to potential title contender, however, is yet to be determined. 

7.) Vitaly Minakov (14-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Adam Maciejewsk (July 31, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 6 (-1)

The undefeated judoka and Sambo specialist took time off from defending the Bellator Heavyweight Championship to pound no-name Adam Maciejewsk in the dirt late last month. In a very, very thin division, you really have to wonder how long the talented Russian will remain in the company; ever in need of more heavyweight brawlers, I'd imagine Dana White will be looking to give Minakov a call as soon as his contract with that other promotion is up for renewal. 

8.) Alexey Oleinik (50-9-1-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Jared Rosholt (November 22, 2014)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 9 (+1)

Riding high on an 11-fight winning streak (made all the more impressive considering it only stretches back to 2012), the veteran grappler has gone undefeated since joining the UFC in 2014. As dominant as he was in those two fights, however, you really have to wonder how the 38-year-old would fare against tougher divisional competition. Is Oleinik just an overachiever against lackluster fighters, or does he truly have what it takes to make an improbable UFC title run? Methinks that will be solved much sooner than later, folks.

9.) Ruslan Magomedov (13-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Josh Copeland (Nov. 22, 2014)
Next Bout: vs. Shawn Jordan (Oct. 3, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Rank: Not Ranked

Currently on an eight-fight winning streak, the Chechen brawler certainly shows a lot promise. While guys like Josh Copeland and Viktor Pesta are far from the cream of the divisional crop, Magomedov nonetheless turned in impressive performances against both competitors, and has shown some serious potential in previous battles with the likes of Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez. The 28-year-old gets his first true test in October, when he's set to do battle with Shawn Jordan at UFC 192. 

10.) Tony Johnson (9-2-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Alexander Volkov (April 10, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: (4-1)
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

To be frank, there aren't that many marquee fighters in Bellator's Heavyweight Division, but the 29-year-old ex-King of the Cage champ is certainly one of its few bright spots. Besting former company champ Alexander Volkov last spring, "Hulk" would seem to be the obvious pick for the next man in line against Vitaly Minakov -- that is, if he isn't swayed over to the UFC before a fight agreement can be inked. 

Fighters Falling Out Of The Rankings: Travis Browne (5), Matt Mitrione (10)

Light Heavyweight Division

1.) Jon Jones (21-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Daniel Cormier (January 3, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

Thanks to some bone-headed behavior -- the one two-combo of fleeing the scene of an accident and testing positive for cocaine after a title fight -- "Bones" ended up being stripped of the title shortly before UFC 187. It may be a while before we see Jones back in the Octagon, but shenanigans or not, there's still no denying that he's the most impressive 205 pound fighter on the planet -- if not the most impressive fighter on the planet, period

2.) Daniel Cormier (16-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Anthony Johnson (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Alexander Gustafsson (Oct. 3, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (+1)

With Jon Jones suspended just days before his Light Heavyweight Championship defense against Anthony Johnson, former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier stepped in for a crack at the interim 205-pound belt. The exceptional wrestler managed to evade Johnson's dangerous striking, tiring him out en route to a third round submission victory. Up next, he defends the placeholder belt against lanky Swede Alexander Gustafsson, the man who has come closest to solving the Jon Jones enigma, at UFC 192 in Houston. 

3.) Anthony Johnson (19-5-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Daniel Cormier (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Jimi Manuwa (Sept. 5, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (-1)

Johnson put on the performance of his career in January, pummeling top contender Alexander Gustafsson in front of his countrymen. Alas, "Rumble" didn't look quite that good when he battled Daniel Cormier for the interim Light Heavyweight Championship five months later, gassing early and putting up little resistance against ground-and-pound specialist Daniel Cormier. Although his stamina is a HUGE question mark, there's no denying just how dangerous Johnson's striking is -- expect that dynamic offense to keep him a player for the 205-crown for the foreseeable future. 

4.) Alexander Gustafsson (16-3)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Anthony Johnson (Jan. 24, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Daniel Cormier (Oct. 3, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (0)

Following a crushing home-country loss in January, Gustafsson gets a second whiff at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against interim belt holder Daniel Cormier this October. Stylistically, the man some have labeled as "Black Fedor" offers some very unique challenges for "The Mauler." Will the same ranged attack and quick takedown approach that almost scored him an upset over Jon Jones work against Cormier, or will D.C.'s phenomenal takedown defense and smothering offense dash Gus's championship dreams for a second time?

5.) Ryan Bader (19-4-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Phil Davis (January 24, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Rashad Evans (Oct. 3, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (0)

Bader has had an up-and-down career in the UFC, but he's never been on a higher trajectory than he is at the moment. On a four-fight win streak, it's safe to assume Bader isn't too far removed from a Light Heavyweight title shot, just as long as he can keep up his winning ways. In a potential title eliminator, Bader will square off against former 205-pound champ Rashad Evans in early October; the fight will be the first for "Sugar" in almost two years. 

6.) Phil Davis (13-3-0-1)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Ryan Bader (January 24, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 6 (0)

Talk about woeful inconsistency. At certain points in his UFC career, "Mr. Wonderful" has resembled a future Light Heavyweight champion (see his victories over Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixiera for validation of this claim) but in other fights -- especially his dreadful performances against Anthony Johnson and Rashad Evans -- Davis has looked like a fighter completely out of his league. Following his January loss at the hands of Ryan Bader, Davis decided to get out of the league, literally, signing a contract with Bellator in April. Although a first fight hasn't been announced, with Davis's pedigree, one would assume he would be thrust into a title bout immediately. 

7.) Liam McGeary (10-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Emanuel Newton (Feb. 27, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Tito Ortiz (Sept. 19, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 7 (0)

Conor who? The undefeated Limey Liam is quite possibly the best fighter in the world hailing from the U.K. at the moment -- certainly, he's the finest non-Zuffa contracted 205-pound brawler anywhere. Last seen drubbing Emanuel Newton for 25 minutes, the 32-year-old Norfolk native is set to defend his belt against the ageless wonder Tito Ortiz next month; will it be a walk in the park for McGeary, or will he reluctantly wind up playing the Tm Sylvia to The Huntington Beach Bad Boy's Randy Couture?


8.) Glover Teixeira (23-4-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Ovince St. Preux (Aug 18, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Patrick Cummins (Nov. 7, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 10 (+2)

Despite some bad losses to Jon Jones and Phil Davis, Tex rebounded with an impressive Aug. 18 submission victory over OSP. Having chalked up wins over top-tier fighters like Ryan Bader and Rampage Jackson, Tex isn't waiting long to re-enter the Octagon; he next tests his mettle this November against Patrick Cummins in Sao Paolo


9.) Quinton Jackson
Last Bout: Win, vs. Fabio Maldonado (April 25, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 8 (-1)

The 37-year-old Hall of Fame bound legend is certainly in the twilight of his career, but rattling off four victories in a row, he's still a legitimate light heavyweight threat. Recently besting the likes of King Mo, Fabio Maldonado and Joey Beltran, it's apparent "Rampage" still has what it takes to bring it in the Octagon; in a division with a dearth of talent at the moment, Jackson may not be as far removed from a potential championship bout as it may appear. 


10.) Ovince St. Preux (18-7-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Glover Teixeira (August 18, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 9 (-1)

Being choked out by Tex certainly put OSP out of any title shot contention talks for awhile, but St. Preux still looks to have a fairly promising future in a star-deficient weight class. With quality wins over Shogun Rua and Patrick Cummins -- not to mention some fairly close decision losses against Ryan Bader and Gegard Mousasi -- it would be more than unwise to count OSP out as a 205-pound threat, in spite of his most recent loss. 

Middleweight Division

1.) Chris Weidman (13-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Vitor Belfort (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Luke Rockhold (Dec. 12, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

The top-tier wrestler made short wake of "The Phenom," finishing off Vitor Belfort in the first round of their May 23 championship scuffle. Having bested Anderson Silva twice -- not to mention polishing off the likes of Lyoto Machida, Mark Munoz and Demian Maia -- the undefeated grappler is definitely one of the best all-around fighters in any weight class. Before year's end, The "All-American" will do battle with former Strikeforce standout Luke Rockhold, who is no doubt looking to do what Weidman did to the "Spider" back in the summer of 2013. 

2.) Luke Rockhold (14-2)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Lyoto Machida (April 18, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Chris Weidman (Dec. 12, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (+1)

Riding a four fight winning streak, the ex-Strikeforce stand-out has recently choked out both Lyoto Machida and Michel Bisping and outpointed legit title contenders Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy. Although promised a title shot by Dana White, no date has been set for a showdown against Chris Weidman. Rest assured, however, that the American Kickboxing Academy is eagerly counting down the days before his championship clash against Chris Weidman in December. 

3.) Yoel Romero (20-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Lyoto Machida (June 27, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Ronaldo Souza (Dec. 12, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 6 (+3)

His bizarre post-fight rant against gay marriage in broken English aside, it's hard to not be impressed by the Afro-Cuban's stellar dissection of former Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida earlier this summer. Before 2015 wraps up, Romero will do battle against Ronaldo Souza; a win there, and he's all but guaranteed to be next in line for a Middleweight Championship shot. 

4.) Ronaldo Souza (22-3-0-1)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Chris Camozzi (April 18, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Yoel Romero (Dec. 12, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (0)

The victor in his last eight tussles, "Jacare" has gone undefeated since jumping ship from Strikeforce to UFC. In fact, the BJJ wonder hasn't been bested in a bout since a 2011 decision loss to Luke Rockhold, and he hasn't been finished in an MMA contest since 2008. Following his second submission win over middleweight non-contender Chris Camozzi last spring, Souza will face off against multi-faceted threat Yoel Romero later this year in a UFC 194 title eliminator. 

5.) Anderson Silva (34-6-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Nick Diaz (January 31, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D. 
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (0)

Once considered the greatest MMA fighter of all-time, "The Spider" can hardly be considered the best fighter within his own weight class anymore. Although his career had a brief resurgence following his back-to-back losses to Chris Weidman when he beat Nick Diaz earlier this year, whatever momentum he had gained went up in a puff of smoke when he tested positive for some performance enhancers. Facing a lengthy suspension, there's no telling when we'll see him inside the Octagon again ... or whether or not we'll see him inside the cage ever again, to be frank.  

6.) Vitor Belfort (24-10-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Chris Weidman (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Dan Henderson (Nov. 7, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (-4)

The 38-year-old MMA pioneer got absolutely wrecked by Chris Weidman, getting KTFO in less than three minutes in their UFC 187 Championship bout back in May. Father Time, obviously, is looking to sink in a rear naked choke on Belfort's career -- he's still a world-class fighter, but how much longer he can remain competitive in the UFC is a big question mark. How he fares against Hendo in their third go-at-it in November will no doubt tell us a lot about "the Phenom's" future in the sport. 


7.) Mamed Khalidov (30-4-2-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Brett Cooper (December 6, 2014)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 8 (+1)

On a 10-fight tear, the Chechen submission specialist has absolutely dominated KSW, the MMA powerhouse of Poland (and really, Eastern Europe.) Strangely enough, the man nicknamed "Cannibal" isn't even the promotion's Middleweight Champion -- that belongs to some dude who doesn't even have a Wikipedia profile. Alas, with quality wins over Melvin Manhoef, James Irvin and Kendall Grove, he shouldn't have to wait too much longer for a title shot -- or, a phone call from Dana White.

8.) Tim Kennedy (18-5-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Yoel Romero (September 27, 2014)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 9 (+1)

Despite a vicious stoppage loss to Yoel Romero in his last bout, Kennedy has otherwise looked pretty damn good in the Octagon, scoring big wins over Michael Bisping and Rafael Natal. There are still plenty of good match-ups remaining in the division for Kennedy, including a rematch against Ronaldo Souza and Luke Rockhold -- and yes, maybe even a second tilt against Romero, who may very well be the company's Middleweight Champion by the time their second throwdown transpires. 


9.) Brandon Halsey (9-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Kendall Grove (May 15, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

Although stripped of the Bellator Middleweight Championship for failing to make weight for his fist title defense, this Halsey fella' still has plenty of potential. With a stellar 9-0 record and some impressive victories over the likes of Alexander Shlemenko and Brett Cooper, however, Halsey definitely has everything it takes to be a longtime title holder -- you know, pending he can keep his snacking down, of course. 

10.) Michael Bisping (27-7-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Thales Leites (July 18, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Robert Whittaker (Nov. 15, 2015)
Lat Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

Bisping's victory over Thales Leites on July 18 was a fairly big upset, immediately thrusting 

the Brit back into serious contender talk. Facing Robert Whittaker at UFC 193, a victory 

there might just net "The Count" a gatekeeper melee against a top five Middleweight foe --     

heaven knows he'd certainly like to get his hands on Luke Rockhold and Tim Kennedy again.


Fighters Falling Out Of The Rankings:  Thales Leites (7), Kelvin Gastelum (10)

Welterweight Division

1.) Robbie Lawler (25-10-0-1)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Rory MacDonald (July 11. 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Carlos Condit (Nov. 15, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)


"Ruthless" Robbie didn't just beat Rory MacDonald at UFC 189, he absolutely smashed him, leaving the skilled wrestler looking more like Voldermort than an MMA fighter. Chalk that impressive performance is yet another unbelievable twist in Lawler's unlikely comeback -- not only did he look astonishingly good against one the sport's premiere up-and-comers, he turned in arguably the finest performance of his entire MMA career. Next up for Ruthless? A mid-November title defense against Carlos Condit, who is no doubt looking forward to starting an unlikely championship reign of his own.

2.) Johny Hendricks (16-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Matt Brown (March 14, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Tyron Woodley (Oct. 3, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (+1)

The bearded Texan with the lethal left hand is one of the few fighters who can lay claim to out-wrestling GSP. After a rather facile romp with Matt Brown in spring, Hendricks seems poised to face off with arch-rival Robbie Lawler for a third -- and decisive? -- contest in the future. Needless to say, he will be looking to avenge a last winter's controversial split-decision loss in the most spectacular way imaginable. Of course, "Big Rig" does have one big obstacle en route to a rematch -- he's slated to take on Tyron Woodley in a dangerous title eliminator bout this October. 

3.) Rory MacDonald (18-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Robbie Lawler (July 11, 2015)
Next Bout:  T.B.D. 
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (-1)

Yeouch! What Robbie Lawler did to the 26-year-old Canuck at UFC 189 was one of the grisliest things we've ever seen in the Octagon. Despite running out of gas in the later rounds of that fight, MacDonald remains one of the most promising young fighters on the planet. And considering his previous performances against BJ Penn, Nate Diaz, Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley, I think it's safe to assume that won't be MacDonald's last chance to fight for the Welterweight strap, either. 


4.) Ben Askren (15-0-0-1)
Last Bout: No Contest, vs. Luis Santos (April 24, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D
Last Five Bouts: 4-0-0-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (+1)

The Olympic-level NCAA-Champion wrestler cleaned out Bellator's 170-pound division and now he's making mincemeat out of ONE Fighting Championship's even weaker Welterweight weight class. With the UFC's division in dire need of an influx of new talent, one has to wonder if we're closer to seeing Askren in the Octagon than we've ever been previously. 

5.) Andrey Koreshkov (18-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Douglas Lima (July 17, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

The Russian pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year when he outpointed Douglas Lima to win the Bellator Welterweight Championship in mid-July. Riding high on a five-fight win streak, the talented Ruskie's sole loss to date came at the hands of Ben Askren. As with the only man to ever best him in battle, you have to think the UFC is looking mighty hard at Koreshkov right now, especially with so few new match-ups to make in the 170-pound weight class. 


6.) Rousimar Palhares (17-6-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Jake Shield (August, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 10 (+4)

For a few hours, at least, Palhares held the World Series of Fighting Welterweight Championship. That is, until the WSOF stripped him of the title for holding on to a leglock too long. Now, the feared submission specialist finds himself staring down a lengthy ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. With a UFC return highly doubtful, there aren't many places for Palhares to haul stakes, although as talented as he is, One Fighting Championship and Bellator will likely at least mull the possibility of picking him up. 

7.) Matt Brown (20-13-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Tim Means (July 11, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Kelvin Gastelum (November 21, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 8 (+1)

After making short work of Tim Means, "The Immortal" finds himself facing off against another up-and-coming brawler in Kelvin Gastelum this November. Over his last two fights, his sole losses have come at the hands at the last two Welterweight Champions -- and even then, neither Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler had what it took to finish Brown off for good. 


8.) Tyron Woodley (15-3-0-0)

Last Bout: vs. Kelvin Gastelum (January 31, 2014)

Next Bout: vs. Johny Hendricks (Oct. 3, 2015)

Last Five Bouts: 4-1

Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (-4)

Woodley has had few hiccups in his career, having been finished just once (and by, of all people, Nate freaking Marquardt.) Going 5-2 since joining the UFC, Woodley has looked more impressive than unimpressive thus far. At UFC 192, he's scheduled to go toe-to-toe against Johny Hendricks -- a win there, and it's pretty much a given that Woodley will be in line for a title shot by spring 2016. 

9.) Hector Lombard (34-4-1-2)

Last Bout: No Contest, vs. Josh Burkman (January 3, 2015)

Next Bout: T.B.D.

Last Five Bouts: 3-1-0-1

Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (-4)

Things were definitely looking up for Lombard. Off to a slow start in the UFC, he assembled some impressive wins over Palhares, Shields and Marquardt, with his most recent win being a decision victory over Josh Burkman at UFC 182. Alas, his W was overturned following a piss test. Now sidelined for at least a year, Lombard will monkey around in Judo tournaments 'til he's given the green light to fight professionally in the States again. 


10.) Demian Maia (21-6-0-0)

Last Bout: Win, vs. Neil Magny (August 1, 2015)

Next Bout: T.B.D.

Last Five Bouts: 3-2

Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

The BJJ virtuoso has had lots of ups and downs over his career, but with three victories in a row, it seems like Maia is experiencing something of a mini-career resurgence. He earned performance of the night honors after subbing Neil Magny early in the second round at UFC 190, but expect him to face stiffer competition in his next match-up.

Fighters Falling Out of the Top 10: Ben Henderson (7), Douglas Lima (9)

Lightweight Division

1.) Rafael dos Anjos (24-7-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Anthony Pettis (March 14, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Donald Cerrone (Dec. 19, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

The multi-faceted Brazilian fighter scored one of the biggest upsets in recent MMA history when he pounded on Anthony Pettis for five rounds to win the UFC Lightweight Championship earlier this spring. Currently waiting for the title picture to clear itself up, there is no denying that dos Anjos has all the skills necessary for a lengthy title reign -- no small feat, seeing as how the 155-pound division is arguably the most talent-packed in all of mixed martial arts. 

2.) Anthony Pettis (18-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Rafael dos Anjos (March 14, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (0)

An injury forced him out of a comeback bout against Myles Jury in July, but expect "Showtime" to enter the cage for at least one more fight before 2015 wraps up. The loss to dos Anjos was no a tough one, but considering Pettis's outstanding skillset -- not to mention his commanding wins over Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Gilbert Melendez over the last few years -- he undoubtedly poses a threat to anyone in the division.


3.) Donald Cerrone (28-6-0-1)
Last Bout: Win, vs. John Makdessi (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Rafael dos Anjos (Dec. 19, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (0)

"Cowboy" showed everybody just how dangerous his striking is when he broke John Makdessi's jaw back in May. With recent victories over Ben Henderson, Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza, there is no denying that Cerrone -- currently riding an eight-fight winning streak -- is more than worthy of a crack at dos Anjos's belt. Look for he and dos Anjos to put on a late fight-of-the-year candidate when they tussle at the last UFC show of the calendar year.

4.) Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Rafael dos Anjos (April 19, 2014)
Next Bout: vs. Tony Ferguson (Dec. 11, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (0)

The undefeated Russian grappler hasn't fought in over a year, but his last bout certainly makes your ears prick up -- it was a decision victory over current Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. Battling a serious knee injury, however, you have to wonder if this promising fighter will be the same dominant force whenever makes his return to the cage. We'll find out on Dec. 11, when it re-enters the cage to do battle with Top Ten Lightweight Tony Ferguson.


5.) Will Brooks (16-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Dave Jensen (April 10, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Macin Held (November 6, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (0)

The standout wrestler has twice bested former Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler in battle, winning their last fight via a resounding fourth round TKO. Without question a supreme talent, one has to wonder if Brooks will become a more complete fighter or languish in a paper-thin weight class; regardless, if he can keep up his winning ways, expect Zuffa to come calling as soon as his contract expires. 

6.) TJ Grant
Last Bout: Win, vs. Gray Maynard (May 23, 2013)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

Talk about a blast from the past! The talented Canadian striker hasn't fought in the cage since UFC 160. Alas, despite his two-year-plus layoff, he's certainly one of the most talented up-and-comers in the UFC's most-stacked division. Who knows when we will see him in battle again, but when he does return, expect him to make an immediate impact. 

7.) Tony Ferguson (19-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Josh Thompson (July 12, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (Dec. 11, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 9 (+2)

On a six-fight winning streak, it's pretty hard to overlook Ferguson's recent accomplishments in the Octagon. Having dropped just one bout (to Michael Johnson) since 2009, expect Ferguson's stock to climb considerably in 2016 -- that is, if he can survive his early December romp against Khabib Nurmagomedov. 

8.) Myles Jury (15-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Donald Cerrone (January 3, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 10 (+2)

Having lost just one fight thus far in his professional fighting career, Myles Jury is undoubtedly one of the brightest upcoming stars in the 155-pound division. With wins over Michael Johnson, Taknori Gomi and Diego Sanchez, it's safe to assume that his opponent will be a top 10 ranked foe, if not one currently residing somewhere in the Lightweight Top Five.


9.) Al Iaquinta (12-3-1-0)

Last Bout: Win, vs. Jorge Masvidal (April 4, 2015)

Next Bout: T.B.D.

Last Five Bouts: 4-1

Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

On a four-fight winning streak, Iaquinta has collected some impressive TKO victories over top-tier opponents such as Joe Lauzon and Rodrigo Damm. However, many critics feel as if he was gifted a split decision victory over Jordge Masvidal in his last bout. Sidelined by injury, we will just have to wait and see if Iaquinta is the same dominant brawler that pounded out three opponents in a row or the sluggish scrapper who barely got by Masvidal in his next Octagon appearance.

10.) Beneil Dariush (12-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Michael Johnson (Aug. 8, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: (5-0)
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

His split decision victory over Michael Johnson may have irked quite a few fans, but its hard to not get excited about this Assyrian prospect. With only one loss on his record, he has quickly accumulated victories over Jim Miller, Charlie Brennamen and Daron Cruickshank; this is definitely a name to keep an eye on in 2016. 

Fighters Falling Out of the Top Ten: Gilbert Melendez (6), Michael Johnson (7)

Featherweight Division

1.) Jose Aldo (25-10-1-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Chad Mendes (Oct. 25, 2014)
Next Bout: vs. Conor McGregor (Dec. 12, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

Although a rib injury/bitch flu kept him out of the main event at UFC 189, Aldo's reputation as one of the all-time great's remains cemented in place. Riding high on an 18 fight winning streak dating back to 2005, Aldo is considered the last true unconquered MMA god of the old school. Deemed the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Aldo will  eventually put his belt -- and legacy -- on the line against Irish sensation Conor McGregor on Dec. 12. 

2.) Conor McGregor (18-2-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Chad Mendes (July 11, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Conor McGregor (Dec 12, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2(0)

The biggest UFC breakout star since Brock Lesnar made plenty of fans happy this summer when he stopped two-time title contender Chad Mendes at UFC 189. "The Notorious" now has his eyes sat on a unification bout against Jose Aldo, in what very well could be the biggest money fight in UFC history -- you know, pending it actually takes place, at some point.


3.) Frankie Edgar (24-4-1-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Urijah Faber (May 16, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

After briefly flirting with a drop to 135 pounds, "The Answer" appears to be remaining in the Featherweight divisions for the foreseeable future. On a four-fight winning streak, Edgar's storied career may soon be hitting yet another unprobable milestone; a championship tilt with the victor of the much, much anticipated Aldo/McGregor unification bout sometime in 2016. 

4.) Patricio Freire (24-2-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Daniel Wichel (June 19, 2015)
Next  Bout: vs. Daniel Straus (Nov. 11, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (0)

On a 7-fight tear, the current Bellator Featherweight Champion has tasted defeat only twice in his decade-long career, and he's yet to be knocked out or submitted. A versatile grappler with top-tier submissions and striking, "The Pitbull" is unarguably the best non-Zuffa contracted 145-pound fighter on the planet. 

5.) Max Holloway (14-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Charles Oliveira (Aug. 23, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

The Hawaiian native has fought seven times since January 2014, and he hasn't lost any of those bouts. In fact, that last time Holloway tasted defeat was when he got outpointed by Conor McGregor back in the summer of 2013. An all-around tremendous fighter who can submit dudes just as easily as knock them out with one punch, Holloway is definitely a fighter on an upward trajectory. Expect him to be fighting for the championship well before 2016 wraps up.

Fighters Falling Out of the Top Five: Chad Mendes (3)

Bantamweight Division (Male)

1.) T.J. Dillashaw (13-2-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Renan Barao (July 25, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

The Urijah Faber protege absolutely wrecked ex-Bantamweight champ Renan Barao at the last" UFC on Fox" show, battering the Brazilian into a standing TKO early in the fourth round. With impressive footwork, outstanding cardio and a stellar offensive repertoire the new "California Kid" has all the tools at his disposal to be a long-time 135-pound belt holder. Up next? Either a date with the injury prone Dominick Cruz or a rematch against Raphael Assuncao. 

2.) Raphael Assuncao (23-4-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Bryan Caraway (October 4, 2014)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

On a seven-fight tear, the Brazilian slugger has proven himself both a striking and submission wunderkind. Despite some nasty losses to Erik Koch and Urijah Faber, the WEC alum is nonetheless in a strong position to challenge current champ T.J. Dillashaw -- after all, Assuncao did best him via split decision back in October 2013. 

3.) Dominick Cruz (20-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Takeya Mizugaki (Sept. 27, 2014)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (+2)

With quality wins over Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez and Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz is no doubt one of the best 135 pound fighters on the planet. Unfortunately, he's also one of the most injury prone, having set out three years between his last two bouts. Certainly, he is looking to reclaim the Bantamweight belt he technically never lost; also, with a torn ACL, it looks like we won't be seeing Cruz in the Octagon again until at least 2016. 

4.) Renan Barao (35-2-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. T.J. Dillashaw (July 25, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (-2)

Prior to his fateful first fight against T.J. Dillashaw back in May '14, Barao hadn't lost a fight since 2005. Alas, the feared striker got "solved," so to speak, by Dillashaw's lighting fast offense. Unfortunately, Barao didn't fare much better in this summer's rematch, as he got finished on his toes by the versatile Californian. Although a top-tier fighter, it's clear that Renan has much to work on before he can even think about a third tilt. 

5.) Bibiano Fernandes (18-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, Toni Tarau (July 18, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: Not Ranked

Currently riding a 10-fight winning streak, Fernandes is without question the best bantamweight fighter in the world not signed to a Zuffa contract. Alas, as impressive as the current ONE fighting Championship Bantamweight belt holder's resume is, the fact that he's beating up less than stellar talents at the moment certainly hurts his reputation. With fewer fresh match-ups to be made in the 135-pound weight class, don't be surprised to see Fernandes testing his meddle against some of the UFC's finest in a year's time. 

Fighters Falling Out of the Rankings: Urijah Faber (3), Frankie Edgar (4)

Bantamweight Division (Female)

1.) Ronda Rousey (12-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Bethe Correia (Aug. 1, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Holly Holm (Jan. 2, 2016)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

It didn't take "Rowdy" long at all to dispatch her latest victim. In less than a minute, Rousey had Brazilian foe Bethe Correia plastered on the canvas face first, drooling all over an ad for "Straight Outta' Compton." It was arguably the most dominant female fighter of all-time's most dominant performance to date. Up next, she'll tussle with undefeated ex-boxer Holly Holm to ring in the 2015 fight year.

2.) Miesha Tate (17-5-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Jessica Eye (July 25, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts:
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (+2)

In late July, Tate turned in one of her best performances yet, mauling Jessica "Evil" Eye for 15 minutes straight. The resounding win, of course, puts her near the forefront of the women's bantamweight championship picture. Alas, she'll have to wait until Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm square off before she gets another crack at the belt. 

3.) Alexis Davis (17-6-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Sarah Kaufman (April 25, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (-1)

Rebounding from a 16-second loss to Ronda Rousey ain't easy, but the Canuck certainly made a statement with her follow-up armbar victory over Sarah Kaufman at UFC 186. Give her about two more wins, and methinks she's a top candidate for a Bantamweight Championships rematch. 

4.) Cat Zingano
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Ronda Rousey (Feb. 28, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (+1)

That 14-second loss to Ronda Rousey at UFC 184 was the sole loss of Zingano's career. Having finished eight out of her last nine foes, however,  she certainly remains a divisional threat to everybody whose nickname isn't "Rowdy." 

5.) Bethe Correia (9-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Ronda Rousey (Aug. 1, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (-2)

After all the trash talk, Correia couldn't last a minute inside the Octagon with Ronda Rousey. It's going to be a long climb back into title contention, but considering her impressive wins over Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke in the past, the possibility of a Rousey/Correia rematch isn't entirely implausible just yet. 

Flyweight Division

1.) Demetrious Johnson (22-2-1-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Kyoji Horiguchi (April 25, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. John Dodson (Sept. 5, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

Undefeated in his last eight contests, Johnson has made six successful title defenses thus far. In a weight division with a real dearth of marketable names, one has to wonder what Johnson's course of actions will be if he bests John Dodson again at UFC 191. Is it time for "Mighty Mouse" to jump back up to the 135-pound division? 

2.) Joseph Benavidez (22-4-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. John Moraga (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Ali Bagautinov (Oct. 3, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (0)

With three resounding victories in succession, it's easy to forget that Benavidez got flatlined by Demetrious Johnson the last time he get a whiff of UFC gold. It may be a few bouts before Benavidez earns his shot at revenge, but with his diverse repertoire, another bout against Mighty Mouse sounds more likely than unlikely at the moment. 

3.) Jussier da Silva (18-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Wilson Reis (May 30, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Henry Cejudo (Nov. 21, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (0)

Currently riding a three-fight win streak, da Silva has two fairly nasty knockout losses on his record which are likely to keep him out of title contention for at least a year or two. That said, as long as he can keep up his winning ways, he shouldn't be too far removed from championship contention.

4.) John Dodson (17-6-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Zach Makovsky (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Demetrious Johnson (Sept. 5, 2015)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (0)

In January 2013, Dodson get KTFO by Demetrious Johnson. Having won a trifecta of fights since, Dodson finally gets his long-awaited shot at revenge Labor Day weekend. Before you count Dodson out of the fight already, just remember: this is the same man who once knocked out T.J. Dillashaw in the first round.

5.) Zach Makovsky (19-5-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. John Dodson (May 23, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 3-2
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (0)

With solid wins over Josh Sampo, Scott Jorgensen and Tim Elliot, Zach is no doubt a top-tier 125-pound fighter. That said, his unimpressive showings against John Dodson and Jussier da Silva indicate Makovsky still has some holes in his game he needs to work on before he can become a true title contender.

Strawweight Division (Female)

1.) Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Jessica Penne (June 20, 2015)
Next Bout: vs. Claudia Gadelha (Jan. 2, 2016)
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 1 (0)

"Double J" ain't nothing to mess with, as demonstrated by her stellar TKO victories over Jessica Penne and Carla Esparza earlier this year. Rehabbing from an injury, expect Jedrzejczyk to be aim for a statement victory when she re-enters the Octagon early next year. 

2.) Claudia Gadelha (13-1-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Jessica Aguilar (August 1, 2015)
Nest Bout: vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Jan. 2, 2016)
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 5 (+4)

Gadelha quickly dashed UFC newcomer Jessica Aguilar's title dreams in her company debut this August. Having only dropped one fight in her career -- to current belt holder "Double J" -- it's no surprise that next time we see Gadelha in action, it's going to be for the women's strawweight crown. 

3.) Livia Renata Souza (8-0-0-0)
Last Bout: Win, vs. Katja Kankaapaa (April 24, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 5-0
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 3 (0)

The current Invicta Strawweight Champ is undefeated in pro MMA contests. Even scarier, the Brazilian has won all but one of those bouts by submission. If she isn't fighting in the UFC this time next year, I'd be shocked a plenty. 

4.) Carla Esparza (10-3-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Joanna Jedrzejzyk (March 14, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 4 (0)

That heinous first round loss to JJ was no doubt a huge setback, but overall, Esparza remains one of the toughest 115-pound fighters in the world. Next up for Esparza? A rematch against Jessica Aguilar seems all but inevitable, with the victor securing the next shot at the UFC Strawweight Championship. 

5.) Jessica Aguilar (19-5-0-0)
Last Bout: Loss, vs. Claudia Gadelha (August 1, 2015)
Next Bout: T.B.D.
Last Five Bouts: 4-1
Last Update Divisional Ranking: 2 (-3)

The highly-touted ex-WSOF champion get upset by Claudia Gadelha at UFC 190, snapping what had been a double-digit win streak for the Mexican-American standout. A second tilt against Carla Esparza seems a given at this point, although a date and venue for the clash has yet to be announced.