The pro lightweight division is still ruled by Joe Giannetti (10-4), but he's got some very worthy competition that is nippy at his heels. Giannetti also ruled the roost back in the summer of 2020 when we put out our last rankings, but he dropped 2 decision losses to high-caliber competition in one of the most prominent regional promotions in the country in LFA. After those 2 losses in late 2020, Giannetti returned to home to Plymouth Memorial Hall and dispatched a very tough Darius Estell (8-4) in impressive fashion at Cage Titans 49 for the Cage Titans lightweight belt. Giannetti is now training at American Kickboxing Academy out in California as he prepares to defend his Cage Titans lightweight belt against a very tough and experienced Jacob Bohn (10-8) who is currently the 7th ranked lightweight in New England. It is slated to be the main event on February 5th, and is another opportunity for "Skeletor" to pave is path back to the UFC.
The #2 ranked Ali "VIP" Zebian (7-2) may have had one of the best years of any lightweight in the region though, and he came in a very close second to Giannetti when all of the votes were counted. In a 10 month timespan, Zebian beat Piankhi Zimmerman (5-5) at Bellator 251, eeked out a close decision win over #3 ranked Peter Barrett (12-6), and then went on to win the Premier FC lightweight championship by beating 3 fighters in one night. These impressive feats allowed Zebian to jump from the unranked to the #2 slot in our lightweight rankings, and has possibly setup a showdown between him and Giannetti in the near future. Zebian infamously called out Giannetti in the Cage Titans cage after his victory over Barrett, and Giannetti has also had some choice words for Zebian on social media. There is some fire brewing around this matchup, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw these two battle it out to see who the real #1 lightweight is in New England in 2022.
The aforementioned Peter Barrett locked up the 3rd spot in our 155 rankings after going 1-1 in 2021. Barrett was cut from the UFC after going 0-2 as a contracted fighter with the organization, although he was destined for victory over Chase Hooper before he was caught in a heel hook that forced him to tap with less than 2 minutes to go in the fight back in December of 2020. Barrett bounced back after his loss to Zebian by impressively dispatching a gritty veteran in Spencer Higa (7-13) at Cage Titans 50 in November. Barrett is looking to keep the momentum, and could easily find himself fighting Giannetti or Zebian in the coming months. The top 3 fighters in this division make for a great story line, with each of them potentially holding the top spot with a big win in the early part of 2022.
Maine's own Josh "Hook On" Harvey (8-1-1) grabs the 4th spot in the rankings, but he also has a shot to keep rising the ranks with a few more impressive victories in the region. The Vision Quest Muay Thai product is coached by Primo Bellarosa in Newport, Maine, and is a long-time veteran of New England Fights. Harvey lost in shocking fashion at NEF 42 to Jesse Erickson (10-8) via submission, but he bounced back nicely at NEF 45 when he took out a very experienced Aguilando Brandao via TKO at :43 of round 1. In that last fight Harvey was scheduled to defend his NEF featherweight belt, but after missing weight (which has been an issue for Harvey in the past), the bout was contracted at a catchweight. We've made the decision to keep Harvey in our Lightweight rankings versus our featherweight rankings due to these previous mishaps with weight. He seems to be a 155er at this point in his career, and hopefully we see him continue to compete in the lightweight division moving forward. With 1 or 2 more quality wins under Harvey's belt, he could easily find himself competing for a UFC contract on the Contender Series next summer/fall.
Other notable fighters in this very deep division are Zach Disabatino (8-2), Eddy George (4-0), and Caleb Hall (4-0). Disabatino, ranked 5th, is a massive 155er who is on a 3 fight win streak. The South Shore Sport Fighting product is a Cage Titans regular, and he without a doubt notched his most impressive win at Cage Titans 50 when he submitted Chance Beck (5-2) in front of the hometown crowd. A few more quality wins and DiSab may also be finding himself fighting for a UFC contract under the bright lights.
Two 4-0 fighters hold down the #6 and #8 positions. Fighting Arts Academy fighter, Eddy George, has been on a tear as of late, and has shown vast improvement in his game. After starting his amateur career at 0-2, George ripped off 4 wins in a row before turning pro. Since making the leap to the professional ranks, George has rattled off another 4 wins in a row. If you're counting at home, that's 8 wins in a row spanning both the amateur and professional ranks. Although George really hasn't been tested against tough competition as a professional, the way that he has ran through his 4 opponents with finishes in the 1st round (none of his pro fights have gone past 2:21), has turned many heads, and has placed George in the middle of the pack in a very deep division here in the region.
Caleb Hall is that other 4-0 fighter that you should keep an eye on. The New England Fights veteran is now living in Las Vegas and training at Syndicate MMA, one of the best MMA gyms in the world. Hall started his pro career off with quality wins over John Ortolani and CJ Ewer, and most recently has quickly ran through Jay Ellis and Shaun Ray under the NEF banner. Hall is now prepared to take on Jerome Mickle (4-11) at NEF 46 on February 12th in Portland. Built like a brick shithouse, Hall possesses some high-level grappling that is based on power and technique. If Hall gets you to the mat, there is a good chance that the fight will be ending very soon. Keep your eye on this kid as he looks to improve to 5-0 in just under a month.
The professional lightweight rankings is filled with storylines and potential matchups in 2022. Giannetti, Zebian, Barrett, and Harvey could all face one-another to shake up these rankings further, but you also can't sleep on the two up-and-coming undefeated fighters in Eddy George in Caleb Hall. 2022 should be a very interesting year for the professional lightweight division here in New England!