A collective shudder made its way down the spine of the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division following Brian Ortega’s latest performance.
Already one of the sport’s most dangerous submission artists, Ortega showed off his developing standup skills in a first-round knockout of future hall of famer Frankie Edgar in the UFC 222 headliner on March 3 in Las Vegas. “T-City” froze Edgar with a stepping elbow, hunted the finish and then lifted the former lightweight champion off his feet with a devastating right uppercut. Two hammerfists later, Ortega became the first man to ever stop “The Answer” and cemented himself as the clear No. 1 contender at 145 pounds. The win moves the Rener Gracie protégé into the second spot in our latest divisional rankings and puts him in prime position to challenge Max Holloway for the undisputed UFC featherweight championship later this year.
Ortega was not the only up-and-coming star to shine at UFC 222. Undefeated Nova Uniao export Ketlen Vieira moved to 10-0 with a split decision over Cat Zingano, utilizing takedowns and a suffocating top game to spoil the return of the former title contender. Though the nails-tough Zingano had her moments, the bout was not as close as the scores indicated. Vieira has put herself on the short list of possible challengers for women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and rises to No. 3 in our 135-pound rankings.
Meanwhile, Kings MMA’s Beneil Dariush continued his spiral in the lightweight division, as he was victimized by promotional newcomer Alexander Hernandez in a 42-second knockout at UFC 222. Dariush, 28, is now winless (0-2-1) in his last three starts. As a result, he falls out of our 155-pound rankings, clearing the way for James Vick’s entry at No. 10 and Bellator MMA lightweight champion Brent Primus’ arrival on the list of contenders.
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