Khamzat Chimaev is one of the most exciting fighters in recent memory to enter the Octagon, but does he deserve to be a ranked UFC welterweight?

An editorial by Peter Parsons

When the UFC rankings were updated last week, Khamzat Chimaev was ranked 15th at welterweight, where his ranking currently holds for the second consecutive week.  The movement was a result of two spots becoming open in the welterweight rankings with the removal of Nate Diaz for inactivity, and Rafael dos Anjos, who returned to lightweight.

If rankings were based on who we think would beat whom, Chimaev’s ranking would make sense. In fact, one could argue that he should be ranked in the top 5 based on that logic.  Look no further than the odds in his upcoming fight against third ranked UFC welterweight Leon Edwards, where Chimaev is the favorite.

Rankings are not about perceived potential though. The main criteria with rankings should be results, including quality of opponents.  Yes, dominant performances should be a factor, but not before quality of opposition.  If fighter A had a dominant first-round stoppage over a top 50 opponent, that should not carry near as much weight as Fighter B who had a close decision victory over a top 15 fighter.

Khamzat Chimaev has one win at welterweight. That being against Rhys McKee, who was making his UFC debut.  McKee recently lost his second UFC fight before last week’s rankings came out.

Chimaev made his UFC debut in impressive fashion at middleweight, dominating John Phillips with ground and pound before getting the D’Arce Choke early in round two.  In his next fight, Phillips was easily ground and pounded by Jun Yong Park to a 30-25 unanimous decision on all three scorecards. Phillips was 1-3 in the UFC going into the Chimaev fight.

Chimaev’s last fight was against his most credentialed opponent in his young UFC career, in middleweight Gerald Meerschaert, who was 6-5 in the UFC.  However, Meerschaert was not a top 20 middleweight.  Chimaev once again looked amazing, this time on his feet, as he scored a 17-second knockout that started with a devastating right cross that dropped the veteran middleweight fighter.

Although he has not faced the highest quality of opposition, Chimaev has been dominant in his three UFC bouts. Chimaev should actually be ranked higher right now at middleweight than welterweight with two of his three wins, and his highest profile and most recent win, coming at 185 pounds.

Who should be ranked ahead of Chimaev in the welterweight division?  In no particular order, here are 10 fighters who I feel should be ranked higher than Chimaev in the UFC 170-pound division.

James Krause 

Krause has won four in a row at welterweight and 7 of his last 8 overall.  His lone defeat during that period was a split decision loss to middleweight Trevin Giles that won Fight of the Night honors in a bout that he took on one day’s notice.  Just last month, Krause handed Claudio Silva his first UFC defeat.  Silva was previously 5-0 in the UFC.  Krause also holds a notable victory over another top Brazilian welterweight in Warley Alves.

Rocco Martin

Martin has gone 5-2 since moving up to welterweight in 2018 with decision losses to current top 10 welterweights Neil Magny and Damian Maia and notable victories over Jake Matthews and Ramazan Emeev

Gunnar Nelson 

Nelson was previously ranked before losing his last two to current top three fighters Gilbert Burns and Leon Edwards.  Nelson has notable second-round submission victories over Alex Oliveira and Alan Jouban in the last three years.

Jake Matthews

The Australian, Matthews, has gone 6-1 since moving up to welterweight in 2017 with notable victories over Li Jingliang and Diego Sanchez and a notable loss to Rocco Martin.

Niko Price

Price is 6-4-1 in the UFC with six stoppage victories.  He has notable knockout victories over James Vick, Tim Means, Randy Brown and Alan Jouban, all of which he received Performance of the Night bonuses for.  He has two losses in exciting fights with Vicente Luque, who is currently ranked No. 10 at welterweight.  He also has a loss to Geoff Neal, who is currently ranked No. 11.  In his last fight, Price fought to a draw with Donald Cerrone, a fight that he won 2 out of 3 rounds, but had a point deducted, which cost him the victory.

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

“Capoeira” won seven fights in a row before losing two of his last three.  His last fight was a split-decision loss to Muslim Salikhov in July. His other notable loss was to Li Jinliang.  Zaleski dos Santos has notable victories over currently ranked middleweight Omari Akhmedov, Lyman Good, Sean Strickland, Max Griffin and Alexey Kunchenko.

Muslim Salikhov

After losing his UFC debut, Salikhov rallied off two-straight knockout victories.  He is on a four-fight win streak with his most notable win being in his last fight against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

Sean Brady

Undefeated at 13-0 overall, Sean Brady is 3-0 in the UFC.  He made his UFC debut against former Ultimate Fighter winner and veteran Court McGee.  Brady then won another unanimous decision over Ismail Naurdiev.  Brady is coming off of his first finish in the UFC in August with a Performance of the Night submission victory over Christian Aguilera, who was coming off of his own Performance of the Night with a first-round knockout in his UFC debut in June.

Li Jingliang

Before losing his last fight to current No. 9 ranked Neil Magny, Jingliang had won 7 out of 8 dating back to 2016 with the one loss to Jake Matthews in a Fight of the Night.  During that stretch, he won three Performance of the Night bonuses, including his last victory, a third-round TKO over Elias Zaleski dos Santos.

Khaos Williams

There’s no doubt that we haven’t seen three dominant performances to start a UFC career like we have seen with Chimaev.  However, here’s a fighter in Khaos Williams, who has had two dominant victories to start his UFC career and against a higher level of competition in the welterweight division than what Chimaev has faced.  Khaos Williams has only fought for 57 seconds to go 2-0 in the UFC.

Williams knocked out Alex Morono in 27 seconds in his UFC debut in February.  He then knocked out Abdul Razak Alhassan in 30 seconds earlier this month.  Morono was on a three-fight winning streak and 6-2 in the UFC going into the Williams fight.  Morono happens to be coming off a recent win over Chimaev’s only welterweight opponent, Rhys McKee.  Alhassan was 4-2 in the UFC going into the Williams fight with three first-round knockouts of his own.  I don’t think Williams should be ranked higher than most of the fighters on this list, but I do think he should be ranked higher than Chimaev at welterweight based on his dominant wins against higher quality opponents than what Chimaev has faced.

The winner of Miguel Baeza vs. Takeshi Sato this Saturday, Nov. 28

Baeza is 9-0 overall and 2-0 in the UFC with two impressive TKO victories, including a Performance of the Night over veteran Matt Brown in his last fight in May.  Sato is 2-1 in the UFC with two TKO victories and his lone UFC defeat came at the hands of Belal Muhammad, who is currently ranked No. 13 at welterweight.

So who would win, one of these guys or Khamzat Chimaev?

Would I pick the above fighters to beat Chimaev?  No.   Does that mean he should be ranked higher than them?  No.

Past results in the division you are ranked in should be the main factor in rankings.  For rankings voters, perceived potential would naturally come into play, however, it should only be a factor when you can’t separate fighters based on their results and quality of opponents.

I’m as excited about Chimaev as any fan, but the fact is he has one win at welterweight over a fighter making his UFC debut and his middleweight wins were against fighters outside of the top 50 and top 20, respectively.

In the last UFC fight of 2020, Chimaev has the opportunity to enter the top 3, and title contention, with a win over Leon Edwards.  I don’t disagree with this booking, as it makes perfect sense from a business standpoint.  However, Chimaev should be going into the Edwards fight as an unranked fighter.  You should have to beat fighters close to the rankings to get into the rankings, especially in a division as deep as welterweight.


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