Friday, January 21, 2022

The MMA News Top 100 UFC Fighters of 2021 Part 1: #100-91

Happy New Year, fight fans! To kick off our 20th anniversary, we will be rolling out the MMA News Top 100 UFC fighters of 2021 throughout the month of January as voted on by our panel.

This list is NOT solely based on fights and performances of 2021. Being active in 2021 is what QUALIFIES one to make the list. Instead of only considering performances of the year, we are taking a holistic look at who is the better overall fighter exiting 2021 based on our selected criteria. A full explanation of the criteria can be found below.


1: Career Trajectory/Recent Performances (50%)

Where are the fighters trending right now? How much evidence-backed momentum do they have?


2: Career Success/Body of Work (25%)

Championships, wins, résumé, etc.


3: Likelihood To Be The Betting Favorite In Any Fight In 2021 (25%)

This was determined using past betting history, betting lines during 2021, and the projected odds moving forward as determined by the panel. This category is being used to get a gauge of the talent level the public feels the fighter is/was at.

Be sure to keep checking back right here at MMANews.com for frequent updates to this list throughout the month of January as we continue to update this list!

#100: Erin Blanchfield

With Montana De La Rosa out, Erin Blanchfield steps in to face Maycee  Barber at UFC 269 - MMA Fighting
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Reasoning Behind Ranking: With a Cold-Blooded performance over Miranda Maverick and five straight wins overall, the career trajectory category was the strongest reason behind her placement in the top 100.

Heading into 2022: At only 22 years old, Erin Blanchfield is arguably the biggest prospect at flyweight and perhaps all of the UFC’s women’s divisions, not just for the year ahead but for far beyond. Sitting at #100, the stage is set for Blanchfield to continue marching straight ahead with ice in her veins before possibly making the biggest jump of any fighter from this year’s placement to the next.

#99: Casey O’Neill

Casey O'Neill vs. Antonina Shevchenko in the works for UFC event on Oct. 2  - MMA Fighting
Casey O’Neill

Reasoning Behind Ranking: “King” Casey O’Neill has big plans to rule the fight game, and after going 3-0 in 2021 with three finishes, the 24-year-old may be well on her way. With a composure far beyond her years, O’Neill seems to welcome the pressure without folding a single crease and has been a blueprint of what a true MMA prospect looks like.

Heading Into 2022: O’Neill (#15) is in no hurry to rise up the ranks and is taking it one step at a time. Her next fight is scheduled against Roxanne Modafferi on February 12.

#98: Jack Shore

Jack Shore | UFC

Reasoning Behind Ranking: Undefeated after 15 professional fights and a 4-0 UFC record, Jack Shore looks like he has it all. Former UFC champion Michael Bisping has compared Shore to Georges St-Pierre himself, which is some high praise coming from a high place. At 26 years old, we’ve only caught a whiff of Shore’s potential, so his number could be much higher in the 2022 MMA News rankings.

Heading Into 2022: Shore was originally slated to face fellow undefeated fighter Umar Nurmagomedov in his first bout of 2022 but will now be tasked with another Russian, Timur Valiev. This will be a stiff test for Shore, as he looks to shift his hype train into a Supersonic helicopter.

#97: Tyron Woodley

Tyron Woodley
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Reasoning Behind Ranking: As will often be the case in these rankings, body of work and résumé plays a role in ranking position over prospects still on the rise, not only because they are more proven but because if they were placed against similar competition as most prospects, someone like Tyron Woodley would still be expected to win despite his decline.

However, that decline is very real and noticeable, with “The Chosen One” losing four consecutive bouts, not counting the Paul boxing losses. This losing streak and rapid fall from grace are why the former champion only barely made the list.

Heading Into 2022: Tyron Woodley may or may not compete in MMA this year, but he has expressed an interest to do so and to have an active 2022. And even if it does not and cannot come against Jake Paul, Woodley will no doubt be entering the new year with Revenge on his mind.

#96: Lerone Murphy

Lerone Murphy was shot in the face TWICE before spitting out the bullets -  now 'The Miracle' is aiming to be the next British UFC star
Lerone Murphy, Getty Images

Reasoning Behind Ranking: Lerone Murphy is undefeated and has maintained his flawless record after four UFC fights against some stiff competition. In 2020, Murphy earned Performance of the Night with his TKO win over formerly ranked featherweight Ricardo Ramos. In 2021, he defeated proven veteran Douglas Silva de Andrade as well as earned a KO win over Makwan Amirkhani.

Heading Into 2022: Thus far, Murphy has given no indication that he will be denied heading into 2022. He is likely one win away from finding himself in the featherweight rankings and could very well be deep in the top 10 by the end of the year and earn himself a much higher place on next year’s MMA News Top 100 list!

#95: Sodiq Yusuff

After losing his brother, Sodiq Yusuff continues his fight for family back  in Nigeria - MMA Fighting
Sodiq Yusuff, Image: James Elsby-USA TODAY Sports

Reasoning Behind Ranking: “Super” Sodiq Yusuff has a UFC record of 4-1, with the one loss coming against a fighter in Arnold Allen who has not lost in eight years. In two of his four UFC wins, Yusuff displayed just how much power this one man has.

With his measured approach and calculated cruelty, the 28-year-old Yusuff has proven to be one of the top prospects at featherweight.

Heading Into 2022: Yusuff enters the year ranked #12 at featherweight. There are currently rumblings that Yusuff will be making his first Octagon appearance of the year against “Bruce Leeroy” Alex Caceres.

#94: Cody Garbrandt

Cody Garbrandt
Cody Garbrandt (Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Reasoning Behind Ranking: While it is no secret that Cody Garbrandt has had his share of struggles as of late, there is also no denying that he’s made a big noise during his seven-year UFC run. This includes becoming bantamweight champion after a career-defining victory over arguably the greatest bantamweight of all time, Dominick Cruz.

Additionally, Garbrandt was able to make the cut due to his most recent victory being only two fights ago in a devastating KO over Raphael Assuncao that won him performance of the night. Garbrandt also made the list due to him being the betting favorite in two of his last three fights (category #3).

Heading Into 2022: Entering 2022, Garbrandt has lost five of his last six fights, which definitely makes his placement on the list up for debate. However, Garbrandt is always one win or KO away from showing that it’s not too late for this 30-year-old to recapture his glory days. And if he has it this way, that KO will come against “Suga” Sean O’Malley.

#93: Pedro Munhoz

Rise of Pedro Munhoz - YouTube
Pedro Munhoz vs. Cody Garbrandt, UFC 235

Reasoning Behind Ranking: Pedro Munhoz remains a top-10 bantamweight in the UFC, but he only falls at #94 due to the Brazilian losing two consecutive fights via unanimous decision (José Aldo, Dominick Cruz) and losing four of his last fight fights.

However, Munhoz does have a victory this year over Jimmie Rivera in what was a Fight of the Night winner. He also holds an impressive KO victory over our #94-ranked fighter, former champion Cody Garbrandt on his résumé as well as a win over another fighter who will appear later in these rankings, Rob Font.

Heading Into 2022: Coming off a loss to Dominick Cruz at UFC 269 to end 2021, the 35-year-old Munhoz will fight to keep his spot in the bantamweight top 10 and prove that he’s still a Young Punisher who is ready to start killin’ ’em again. There is currently no word yet on who the first man in that potential murder lineup will be.

#92: Darren Till

UFC News: Darren Till Out Of Jack Hermansson Fight | FIGHT SPORTS
Darren Till, Image Credit: 2018 Alex Livesey – Zuffa LLC

Reasoning Behind Ranking: Darren Till has lost four of his last five fights and narrowly made the top 100 due to holding two wins over other fighters ranked on this list and his likelihood to be the betting favorite in 2021 compared to others. Additionally, Till has a very high unlikelihood to ever be a heavy underdog due to his technical fighting style, which often has opponents fighting at his pace.

If you need another reason for Till making the list at #92, one need only look at the night he gave former champion and pound-for-pound ranked Robert Whittaker all he can handle just one fight ago, taking two rounds on all three of the judges’ scorecard. Not many fighters have the ability to do that or the potential for greatness that still remain within this 29-year-old.

It’s also worth remembering that Till has only fought the best of the best over the past three years, which leaves him more open to setbacks than many prospects who’ve seen more recent success but against lower competition.

Heading Into 2022: Darren Till enters the year still ranked as the #8 middleweight in the UFC. His next fight remains unclear at this time, but there have been informal talks of a potential fight against Uriah Hall.

#91: Tony Ferguson

Tony Ferguson Discusses His Title Loss And His Aspirations
Tony Ferguson

Reasoning Behind Ranking: It wasn’t too long ago that a #91 placement for Tony Ferguson would seem blasphemous. Today, after suffering three bad losses in a row, the ranking will likely warrant some explanation and be considered too high by some readers.

Tony Ferguson’s recent struggles are clearly behind the low ranking, but how did Ferguson make the list at all? Well, in category #2, which factors in career body of work and résumé, Ferguson remains tied for the most consecutive victories in lightweight history. In terms of category #3, which factors in respect from bettors and oddsmakers, Ferguson was a betting favorite against current champion Charles Oliveira in December 2020, and he was only a +130 underdog against #3-ranked Beneil Dariush in his most recent fight.

Finally, in terms of the most heavily weighted category of recent performances, while it’s true Ferguson’s defeats were one-sided, they came against the current champion, the current #1 contender (Justin Gaethje), and the current #3 contender (Beneil Dariush).

Furthermore, a strong case can be made that Ferguson’s fight against Gaethje was more competitive than the prevailing narrative would have you believe. After all, Gaethje may very well have been saved by the bell after a devastating uppercut to close out the second round.

Heading Into 2022: Tony Ferguson is still ranked at #7 in one of the deepest divisions in the UFC despite his recent struggles. Far from considering retirement, El Cucuy is eying a potential bout against Michael Chandler to kick off 2022 and get back in the win column to prove that the Boogeyman’s party has just begun.

Stay tuned to find out who is next on the MMA News Top 100 Fighters Of 2021 in Part 2!

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