UFC 225 is being billed as "the deepest card of the year." We have a title fight, an interim title fight, former MMA champions, former wrestling champions, former kickboxing champions, and everything in-between.
With 26 fighters on the card, it's important to know who you should pay attention to and who you can skip over. This is the definitive UFC 225 rankings. Order is determined by a number of factors. Skill level, drawing power, entertainment factor, whose interview with James Lynch I liked the best, and other hidden factors that I cannot reveal to you. But it's mainly just personal preference.
26. Mike Santiago - I could not pick this guy out of a lineup. He's 20-11, has no Wikipedia page, and is in the curtain jerker. Maybe he's exciting. Who knows. I'm convinced he's never had an actual fight and he's simply a figment of our imagination.
25. Chris de la Rocha - He's a 4-2 heavyweight. All of his fights have ended in the first or second round. If nothing else, he'll probably get knocked out or do the knocking out.
24. Rashad Coulter - See above. But double his record.
23. Anthony Smith - This poor guy is going to lose even if he wins.
22. Dan Ige - I'm invested in Dan Ige because he has six letters, none repeating, in his name. Things like that are cool to me.
21. Rashad Evans - Why does Rashad keep fighting? He's 38-years-old and having boring fights with Daniel Kelly and Sam Alvey. Now he's fighting Anthony Smith. Sooner or later, they are going to run out of guys with two first names for him to fight.
20. Mike Jackson - He's only here because of his opponent. But he's ranked higher than a former champion, so that must be a good feeling for him.
19. Andrei Arlovski - Somehow, he's won two fights in a row. Maybe Arlovski is good again? Probably not.
18. Ricardo Lamas - This is an interesting bout for Lamas. Either he proves the Josh Emmet fight was a fluke or he loses his second straight and is left without a clear path back to a title shot as a 36-year-old. I'd be more invested if I didn't hate his nickname.
17. Clay Guida - I've always had a soft spot for Guida. I once named a weekly column after him. He'll forever be one of my favorites and I'm looking forward to his bout the guy ranked just ahead of him.
16. Charles Oliveira - I've also always had a soft spot for Oliveira. My body has a lot of soft spots. I'd be a terrible MMA fighter.
15. Claudia Gadelha - She has exciting fights and seems like a nice person.
14. Carla Esparza - This is a big fight for Carla. A win and she probably gets a title shot against Rose Namajunas, who she beat to become the inaugural strawweight champion.
13. Misrad Bektic - He's a 27-year-old prospect searching for the biggest win of his career.
12. Holly Holm - Holm is 1-4 since beating Ronda Rousey. She managed to stay conscious against Cyborg, so that was a victory. I'm looking forward to her fight, largely due to her opponent, and she does bring a certain "feel" into her fights due to her reputation. But seriously. 1-4 since beating Rousey. She's dangerously close to being Buster Douglas.
11. Joseph Benavidez - Poor Joseph Benavidez. He's the second best flyweight of all-time and he'll never get another title shot because the best flyweight of all-time has two wins over him. Benavidez is 33. He's not even old or declining. He's just a bridesmaid.
10. Alistair Overeem - He typically delivers a highlight reel KO or is on the wrong side of a highlight reel KO. Those are always fun.
9. Sergio Pettis - The loss to Henry Cejudo was either a set back or proof that he can hang with the best. A win over Benavidez could earn him a title shot because he's one of the few guys Demetrious Johnson hasn't beat.
8. CM Punk - Love him or hate him, there's intrigue with Punk. He's fighting someone who appears to be closer to his skill level and maybe he'll land a punch in this fight. It's in Chicago and the crowd will be behind him. There are more deserving fighters who should be on the main card. But Punk brings attention and if you're upset he's in this spot, tune in to watch him get beat up.
7. Colby Covington - I don't "get" Covington. His morphed Diaz/Sonnen impression does nothing for me. I don't fall into the category of, "I can't wait to see him get his ass kicked." I fall into the category of, "Why is he thing?" I'm not even sure he's all that great of a fighter, although he has a chance to really prove me wrong on Saturday.
6. Curtis Blaydes - Blaydes is an intriguing heavyweight prospect. On paper, his wrestling should be good enough to put Overeem on his back. But if he's caught standing too long, it could be lights out. He has a chance to make a statement and take the torch from the old guard.
5. Megan Anderson - Is Anderson the next great challenger for Cyborg? Maybe. She's certainly been hyped enough and she is a legitimate featherweight and not a blown-up bantamweight. Despite her recent string of fights, Holm is a tough out. She's going to answer a lot of questions on Saturday.
4. Rafael dos Anjos - Probably the most talented fighter on the card. There aren't many holes in dos Anjos' game and he's looked outstanding at welterweight. I also just feel bad for him because his career could have been so much different had he not pulled out of the McGregor fight.
3. Tai Tuivasa - I just want this man to get his $50K
2. Robert Whittaker - It's been nearly a year since he fought. He proved to be the better fighter against Yoel Romero a year ago, but he's been out of the spotlight. Thus, Romero is ahead of him. I also find Romero to be the the intriguing fighter, even if Whittaker is better.
1. Yoel Romero - He's 41-years-old and possibly at the peak of his career. How, Sway? Everything about Romero fascinates me. Will he make weight? How will he cheat? Will his drug test come back clean? Can he keep up the pressure for five rounds? I'm all in on Romero.