Photo: Ian McCall, Credit: Jeff Sherwood, Sherdog.com
This is the second part of my rankings of the top 40 flyweights, here is the first part which has my rankings of 21-40 flyweights.
Now we are on to the top 20 flyweights, better known as the part with fighters that people with regular lives might know or the part where you call me a moron and my rankings stupid.
Either way, the rankings should illustrate some of the many disagreements I have with how some of the top flyweights are being perceived.
The top 20 flyweights after the break.
20. Will Campuzano (10-4)
The UFC's inclusion of the flyweight division couldn't have a come at a better time for Will Campuzano. Despite being released from the organization after winning only two of his last five fights at bantamweight, Campuzano can now work his way back to the UFC in his natural weight class of flyweight. After submitting Joshua Randy Hinds and knocking out Joshua Sampo in his first two fights at the new weight class, Campuzano can move up the rankings with a quality win over Jimmy Flick at LFC 13.
19. Sean Santella (10-3-1)
Sean Santella's flyweight campaign will go as far as his striking skills go. He is a great wrestler, and he's going to beat a lot of the top flyweights by putting them on their backs and grinding on them for a submission or decision win. The problem is how raw he is on the feet, his stand-up is okay, but it isn't up to par with the fighters ahead of him.
18. Tadaaki Yamamoto (8-1-2)
If you're looking for the next top Japanese flyweight, Tadaaki Yamamoto is your guy. Granted he's a natural strawweight at 5 foot 3 in, but his speed would serve him well on the stand-up at 125. His lone loss to Masayoshi Kato in 2010 was due to a close, debatable split decision. Yamamoto is a talented and aggressive striker, but his Achilles heel may be his aggressiveness as he leaves himself open for serious counters. I'd also like to see his defensive wrestling improve, but that should come for the 26 year old.
17. John Lineker (19-6)
John Lineker's fighting style is like an angry Tasmanian devil on steroids. He comes at you with barrages of punches, then more barrages of punches, and then more barrages of punches. His fighting style is entertaining, but the important question is it is effective? To an extent it is, he's going to run through a lot of fighters, and he's not lost when the fight hits the ground. His striking defense is going to hold him back as effective counter strikers who don't get flustered should have a lot of success against him.
16. Dustin Ortiz (8-2)
A recent loss to Josh Robinson hurt Dustin Ortiz's chances of cracking the top ten. It wasn't a definitive loss, Josh Robinson won via split decision, but that loss showed Ortiz's inability to improve on the holes Ian McCall showed. Like McCall, Josh Robinson was able to keep the fight on the feet and out strike Ortiz. Ortiz has a lot of upside and will find a home in the UFC eventually, but he needs to improve on the explosiveness on his shot and his stand-up.
15. Josh Robinson (7-4)
It's a cliché, but the most important fight in Josh Robinson's career is his next one. An impressive victory will solidify Robinson as a top flyweight, but a loss will send him the way of Nam Jin Jo, who lost after beating Shinichi Kojima. In his fight against Dustin Ortiz, Robinson exhibited that he has the tools to compete with the best in the weight class. He is a technical striker that works the right angles and doesn't over commit, and his wrestling is solid.
14. Jonathan Mackles (11-2)
Don't count Jonathan Mackles out, he'll make a fool out of you. His flyweight career kicked off with a win over Chad Robichaux with a first round guillotine choke in a fight that Mackles was considered an underdog in. Mackles has great length at 125 which makes his submission game that much more dangerous. He is a bit awkward on the feet, but his reach advantage over his opponents should offset that weakness.
13. Tim Elliot (8-3-1)
Even though he lost to John Dodson, Tim Elliot impressed a lot of his doubters who counted him out against the TUF winner. Elliot proved that he's a serious threat in the flyweight division. His reach helps him land his power shots, and his grappling is above average. Elliot also has a dangerous clinch game, and at 25 years old he can go nowhere but up.
12. Haruo Ochi (9-2-1)
Haruo Ochi is currently on a five fight win streak thanks to his aggressive stand-up and ground and pound. What his stand-up and ground and pound both have in common is power. Ochi is a flyweight with a lot of power, and he's not afraid to use it. In his last fight against Kiyotaka Shimizu, he was able to oust the counter striker by pushing forward and defending take-downs.
11. Louis Gaudinot (6-2)
Let's forget the Gaudinot/Bedford fight ever happened because that fight was a complete physical mis-match. Gaudinot is a talented fighter, and the flyweight division is the perfect environment for Gaudinot to showcase that fact. In his last fight against Lineker, Gaudinot was able to keep up with Lineker's pace and still have plenty of gas in the tank. Louis Gaudinot is an well-rounded fighter. He has speed on the feet along with great accuracy with his punches, and he has the ability to take his opponents down and submit them.
10. Mamoru Yamaguchi (26-6-3)
I had a lot of trouble ranking the man with the coolest afro in MMA. He has the talent of a top ten flyweight, but he's been inactive in MMA, is coming off a loss, and is 35. I decided to keep him barely inside the top ten, but he could fall out as other flyweights outside of it find more success. Yamaguchi's striking is dangerous, but his take-down defense and bottom game on the ground is what is holding him back.
9. Jose Maria Tome (29-3, 2 NC)
I'm a big believer in Jose Maria Tome. After being choked out by Jussier da Silva in 2008, Jose Maria Tome has gone on quite a run. He hasn't lost a single fight in his next seventeen fights. Tome has outclassed his opponents with his ground game. Tome is calm veteran who is strong mentally. He also has some powerful and unorthodox stand-up that makes him one of the best Non-UFC/Tachi flyweights in the game.
8. Yasuhiro Urushitani (19-5-6)
Yasuhiro Urushitani's glory days at flyweight may be over. In his last fight against Joseph Benavidez he was dominated, and he looked very much like a 35 year old. Losing to Joseph Benavidez is going to happen to a lot of guys, but Urushitani was beaten on the feet which isn't good for a fighter whose strongest attribute is his striking. Urushitani may be past his prime, but he still has enough experience and talent to be a tough out against the majority of the 125 pounders.
7. John Dodson (13-5)
The fighter that moved up and down the most throughout the rankings process was John Dodson. I don't know what to think about Dodson. He ran through the TUF tournament, but he had a tough time against Tim Elliott. I'm willing to let the Elliott fight slide because of the left hand injury he suffered during the fight. The more I watch Dodson fight, the more I like him. His strongest attribute isn't his speed, striking or wrestling, but his raw athleticism and ability to grow so much from fight to fight.
6. Darrell Montague (11-2)
The flyweight that has been lost in the shuffle amongst the Ian McCall's and Jussier da Silva's is Darrell Montague, and I don't know why. His loss to McCall at TPF 10 was a tough loss, but Montague was game in that fight with his striking. Montague is one of the best pure strikers at flyweight. What he needs to work on his take-down defense and cardio. Working on those two things will lead to great things in the 24 year-old's bright future.
5. Chris Cariaso (14-3)
I'm probably higher on Chris Cariaso then most people, but I think the praise is well-deserved. Ever since bantamweight phenom Michael McDonald began to fight under the ZUFFA banner, the only fighter to make him look human was Chris Cariaso. Cariaso is a scrappy, well-rounded fighter that rarely finishes his opponents, but his success is based on his take-down defense that allows him to win his fights with his stand-up that is based around his power left.
4. Jussier da Silva (14-1)
The best news I heard all day yesterday was that the UFC signed Jussier da Silva. Da Silva is one of the best flyweights on the world, and he has some unfinished business with Ian McCall. Da Silva has more than adequate striking skills, but his sole mission once the first bell starts is to take his opponents down and submit them. Da Silva has an underrated shot, and his ability to completely dominate his opponents on the ground is remarkable.
3. Ian McCall (11-3-1)
Before the genesis of the flyweight division, Ian McCall was the guy at 125. He defeated all challengers in Tachi Palace: Jussier da Silva, Dustin Ortiz, Darrell Montague etc. McCall is an unorthodox striker, but like Da Silva, his primary focus is take his opponents down and dominate them from the top position. McCall is clearly one of the elite at flyweight, but he's just not better than Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez at this point in time.
2. Demetrious Johnson (15-2-1)
In his last fight, Demetrious Johnson showed vast improvements in his game, but that still wasn't enough for me to put him number one. The reason Johnson isn't number one is more because of who is number one rather than because of Johnson. Johnson is a strong wrestler and a versatile striker who will be a fixture in the flyweight division for a long time.
1. Joseph Benavidez (16-2)
The only reason why Joseph Benavidez isn't the bantamweight champion is because Dominick Cruz exists. Benavidez is an exceptional fighter, and the best thing to ever happen to him was the introduction of the flyweight class. His toughest challenge awaits him at UFC 152 against Demetrious Johnson, but if he is victorious against Mighty Mouse then the sky is the limit for Benavidez. Benavidez could have a stranglehold on the flyweight division much like Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre, Jose Aldo, and Dominick Cruz have on their own.
So there it is, the top twenty flyweights. I just have a couple of notes/questions. Is there any interest in me doing a top 100 bantamweight rankings? I'd like to do it, just don't know if the interest is there. And the final thing before I sign off is that the flyweight division is going to change rapidly in a year's time. A lot of fighters are going to improve, get exposed, and get noticed, but that's par for the course.