Photo - Mitsuhisa Sunabe, Credit - Taro Irei, Sherdog.com
Still in its infancy, the flyweight division is finally beginning to be introduced to the national MMA audience. Although it has decided to include the flyweight division, the UFC certainly hasn't gone head-first into it. That's a shame because a lot of the top fighter in the division aren't getting the credit and attention that they deserve.
To those that think the division is shallow, they are wrong. Granted it isn't even half as large the lightweight division, but there are still plenty of talented fighters currently fighting in the weight class. In order to illustrate that point, I decided to do rank the top 40 flyweights in the world.
The rankings aren't perfect, I'll admit that. The reason being is that the lack of evidence in fights fought in the weight class, natural flyweights fighting at bantamweight or featherweight, and lack of exposure to some of the unknown flyweights that I am sure will be dominating the game in a couple of years. Nonetheless, I hope you find my rankings enjoyable and informative.
I don't want to destroy your bandwidth, so I separated the rankings into two parts. I'll post the top 20 flyweights at a later point, but for now here are the guys that I ranked 40-21.
Just to clarify the following fighters aren't ranked as flyweights because at this point they are bantamweights, but it's reasonable for them to make the cut to 125 if need be: Alexis Vila, Ulysses Gomez, Sergio Pettis, Dileno Lopes, and Kyoji Horiguchi.
The flyweights that are ranked 40-21 are revealed after the break.
40. Matheus Nicolau Pereira (5-0)
The nineteen year-old Nova Uniao product is one of the top prospects in the weight class. His most recent win over Gilberto Dias at Shooto - Brazil 31 is the biggest victory in his young career. He is exceptional on the ground where he has collected three submission victories. What Pereira lacks in striking offense and takedown defense, he makes up for with his quick reflexes and double-leg takedown.
39. Allamurad Karayev (9-0)
There is major upside and downside with Allamurad Karayev. The upside is being one of the top flyweights on the planet, and the downside is being a complete bust. Thus far in his MMA career, he has run through his competition. Nine fights, nine dominating finishes. The only problem is he is yet to record a quality win, and it'll be interesting to see how his explosive stand-up fares against a legitimate test.
38. Alexandre Pantoja Passidomo (10-2)
We are only three flyweights in, and we already have fighters who fight under the Nova Uniao banner. Despite his loss to Jussier Da Silva a couple of years ago, Pantoja is one of the top flyweights in Brazil. Although his muay-thai styled stand-up receives a lot of praise, Pantoja's greatest win is a submission victory over Bruno Azevedo. Pantoja was able to sweep Azevedo using an arm-bar attempt, and he was able to choke Azevedo out shortly after.
37. Mike Davis (8-3)
Alongside his brother, Tyler, Mike Davis is becoming one of the hottest Canadian prospects in some of MMA's lighter weight classes. Recently winning a flyweight titled in at the Unified - MMA 11 event where he submitted Corey Lautischer in the third round. At 5 ft 8 in. tall, Davis is one of the taller flyweights in the division. Davis is comfortable on the feet, but where he thrives is on the ground where he is relentless from the top position with ground and pound and submission attempts.
36. Junji Ito (9-3)
Japan will be well represented on this list, and Ito is one of the many talented strawweights that are ranked here because of default. Ito's landmark win has to be his last one over strawweight mainstay Yuki Shojo. Ito was able to out strike Shojo on the feet by landing combos while evading Shojo's heavy artillery with his footwork. Junji Ito shows great maturity on the feet for a fighter that has yet to enter his athletic prime.
35. Jessie Riggleman (11-2)
The first American that is ranked is Jessie Riggleman. A word that comes to mind when describing Riggleman is scrappy. He's one of those well-rounded fighters who are always in a dog fight. Riggleman a dominant top position wrestler, but he can hold his own on the feet. His most notable wins are a pair of split decision victories over Farkhad Sharipov and Brian Goldsby.
34. Jimmy Flick (5-0)
Another top prospect on this list is Jimmy "The Brick" Flick. "The Brick" has a nice double-leg shot that would put a lot of fighters in the division on their backs, and he's able to control the ground game once it hits the floor. Three of his victories come by way of arm triangle submission, and the reason for his three submission wins is because of the openings he creates with his nasty ground and pound.
33. Hector Sandoval (4-1)
Like the majority of his teammates at the Team Alpha Male camp, Hector Sandoval puts the pressure on his opponents. Sandoval's punches are accurate, but his success derives from his ability to dominate his opponents with wrestling. Sandoval has shown natural athleticism and great potential for the weight class. If he continues upon his three straight wins in 2011, Sandoval could be regarded as one of the top flyweights by the end of the year.
32. Phil Harris (21-9, 1 NC)
One of the UK's top flyweights, Phil Harris is riding a five fight win streak. Even though he didn't compete in 2011, Harris has already won two fights this year under the Cage Warriors banner. Harris likes to close the space, and fight on the ground. He's comfortable there as he can work from the top position, and look for a submission. Harris is a crafty veteran that would capitalize on mistakes made against some of his younger peers.
31. Chad Robichaux (14-2)
After his fourteen fight win streak was brought to a screeching halt by Zach Makovsky and Jonathan Mackles, Chad Robichaux regained his composure by defeating Joseph Sandoval. His stand-up isn't the best, but he is a talented grappler. In his victories, Robichaux has submitted all but one of his opponents in the first two rounds. The only thing holding Robichaux back is the fact that he is 36 years old.
30. Josh Rave (18-10)
Josh "The Rage" Rave should change his nickname to the "Gatekeeper" because that is realistically what he has become in the flyweight division. He isn't able to beat some of the higher-ups in the weight class, but he is also a tough out. No matter how tough or talented his opponent is, Josh Rave truly tests their abilities as he is just one tough dude with a nice skill-set.
29. Shinichi Kojima (12-5-5)
Once regarded as one of the top flyweights in the division, BJ Kojima's stock took a big hit with a loss to barely over .500 Nam Jin Jo. At 33 years old, age may start to become an issue for Kojima, but a few victories will put Kojima right back on the flyweight map and possibly for a job in the UFC.
28. Aaron Ely (4-1)
I started to pay attention to Aaron Ely after his submission victory over Owen Evinger, Tonya's brother, at Bellator 56, but he really impressed me with his last win against another flyweight prospect in Matt Manzares at RFA 2. Ely is a strong grappler with a great grip. I'd advise against giving your neck up to Ely because he'll snatch it up and choke you out if given the opportunity, and I'm sure he'll receive quite a few opportunities in his bright future.
27. Rafael de Freitas (5-0)
If Rafael de Freitas had a choice, I'm sure he'd love to have every fight start on the ground. The BJJ black belt is one of the best submission artists in the division, and he'd outclass even some of the top fighters in the weight class on the ground. His striking is a bit awkward and choppy, but it isn't a total abomination. De Freitas still has plenty of time to grow as a complete fighter, but his grappling game makes him a dangerous fighter.
26. Rambaa Somdet (9-2)
Rambaa Somdet has quite a three major things going against. One is his age, he's already 37 years old and is similar to Cung Le in the respect that he'd have been one of the top guys in his weight class had he been born in ten years later. Somdet is also a natural strawweight, and he has been inactive as of late. Nonetheless, I couldn't totally shove him down the rankings, because he has a lot of talent, especially on the feet where his strikes will come at you faster than bullets out of an M16.
25. Roy Docyogen (10-0)
Even though Roy Docyogen regularly fights at the strawweight class, he could hold his own at 125 pounds. Docyogen is one of the more promising fighters out of the Philippines. At first, I really was a big fan of his striking abilities, but he has also made a fan of his grappling as of late. Docyogen is comfortable off of his back and is always a threat to submit his opponent whenever the fight hits the ground.
24. Akira Kibe (16-10-2)
At 35 years old, Akira Kibe is a veteran of the sport, and he has recently gone on quite a run. Kibe has had his hand raised in ten of his last eleven fights. He has shown a real consistency in his game, and his experience is shining through. The flyweight division is filled with young, promising prospects, but Kibe has shown as of late that he is just as good as those young guns.
23. Yuki Yasunaga (9-5)
A saying that comes to mind when discussing Yuki Yasunaga's career is "It's not where you start, it's where you finish". After losing four consecutive bouts to start his career, Yasunaga showed his fighting spirit and won nine of his last ten fights. Yasunaga has come into his own as of late on the Pancrase tour. Yasunaga is a tactical fighter who relies on his takedowns and precise strikes.
22. Mitsuhisa Sunabe (16-7-4)
Recently I've become quite a big fan of Mitsuhisa Sunabe. He's a warrior that loves to scrap. Sunabe is a quick fighter that fights best in brawl situations. Sunabe has a big heart and is the kind of fighter that takes a beating and then delivers one back at you afterwards. He has some wrestling ability, but he'd be best served if he just let his hands ago and fought the majority of his fights on the feet.
21. Danny Martinez (16-4)
Whenever the names of the top non-UFC flyweight fighter are thrown around you hear the names Darrell Montague, Sean Santella, and Dustin Ortiz. Another name that you should hear is Danny Martinez. An ex-bantamweight, Martinez is a fantastic wrestler. Once he's on top of his opponent, he never ceases to stop working for the finish, and that's probably the reason for his 75% finishing rate. Martinez is a guy that can compete in the UFC today.
Those are the flyweights I had ranked 21 to 40. I'll post the top 20 fairly soon. That'll have fighters that people with lives actually know, and so then you can call me a moron and what not. Also, I apologize for grammatical errors and incoherent sentences if there are any. I'd edit it, but I have a pretty bad favor.
Anyways I'm going to go take a peak at ESPN's Body Issue. For the stories of course.