Nobody wants to be second best, but at least you are still better than just about everybody else. Courtesy of UFC 213, we have two new No. 2s and one other sorely disappointed second banana.
Now 7-0 as a middleweight, Robert Whittaker put on a sterling performance -- on one leg, no less -- in his makeshift headliner with Yoel Romero, becoming the first man to beat the Olympic silver medalist at 185 pounds. The 25-minute unanimous decision earned him the Ultimate Fighting Championship interim middleweight title and hopefully a date with real champion Michael Bisping later this year. Meanwhile, heavyweight rankings staple Alistair Overeem already had a crack at UFC gold last year and wound up knocked out by champ Stipe Miocic. Nonetheless, Overeem's rubber-match win over Fabricio Werdum at UFC 213 gave him a 2-1 lead in their rivalry and our second spot at heavyweight, the highest Overeem has ever appeared on our list.
Of course, the most notable No. 2 at UFC 213 was Valentina Shevchenko, who was to have her day in championship court with Amanda Nunes, the last woman to defeat her, this time with UFC gold on the line. After making weight, Nunes opted to pull out of the contest on fight day due to a bout of sinusitis, nixing the main event and at least temporarily freezing out Shevchenko. “Bullet” will still get her title shot and chance for revenge against the champion, but it will not be until later this year.
International Fight Week, even if marred by the Nunes controversy, has given us other noteworthy changes in this update. Former World Series of Fighting ace Justin Gaethje made his anticipated UFC debut, knocking out Michael Johnson in a “Fight of the Year” candidate to move from No. 10 to No. 7 in our 155-pound rankings; Renato Carneiro reclaims the 10th spot at 145 pounds, as previously sixth-ranked Anthony Pettis exits the division and returns to the lightweight division; and the undefeated Ketlen Vieira sneaks in the back door at 135 pounds, claiming the No. 10 slot due to previously ninth-ranked Cat Zingano's exit due to inactivity.
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