We have a newly minted champion on the move in the latest edition of the Sherdog.com divisional rankings, and no, it is not Tony Ferguson.
In the UFC 216 headliner on Oct. 7, Ferguson showed his determination and versatility against fellow top-10 talent Kevin Lee, outlasting “The Motown Phenom” and locking up a beautiful triangle choke in the third round to win the UFC interim lightweight title. The Lee win and the title itself represent major accomplishments for “El Cucuy,” but just as he does in the UFC promotional structure, Conor McGregor looms large on our lightweight list. Ultimately, whether it is here or inside the Octagon, Ferguson’s road to No. 1 at 155 pounds still runs through “The Notorious” Irishman.
A night before Ferguson took a slice of the gold in Las Vegas, 2009 NCAA Division I national champion Darrion Caldwell made the jump from collegiate wrestling ace to legitimate world titlist, from prospect to bona fide top-10 talent. At Bellator 184 in Thackerville, Oklahoma, “The Wolf” slammed and suplexed Eduardo Dantas around for the better part of 25 minutes to take the Bellator MMA bantamweight crown, moving to 11-1 as a pro. Caldwell moves from our contenders list to the No. 10 spot at 135 pounds. With Caldwell’s emergence, Aljamain Sterling falls out of our bantamweight top 10.
UFC 216 did, however, giv new rankings entrants. Six months ago, even most hardcore MMA fans could not tell you a thing about Italy’s Mara Romero Borella, and if they could, it would not be especially flattering. However, Borella made the most of her Invicta Fighting Championships debut in June -- she beat UFC veteran Milana Dudieva -- and parlayed it into a short-notice Octagon debut against respected and favored Brazilian veteran Kalindra Faria. From there, “Kunoichici” absolutely tore apart Faria, choking her out in less than three minutes and claiming the 10th spot in our women’s 125-pound rankings; she replaces imminent Bellator MMA title challenger Emily Ducote.
While Caldwell and Romero Borella are new to our top 10, we also have a returning entrant: since he was ousted from our 155-pound ranks, Evan Dunham has been been hovering just outside of them on our contenders list. However, in his thrilling brawl against our No. 9 Beneil Dariush, Dunham fought back to salvage a majority draw and while a draw may be an unusual way to sneak back into the top 10, Dunham is more than deserving, remaining unbeaten over his last five bouts and bumping Nate Diaz to our bubble.
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