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MMA Pound-For-Pound Rankings, December 2021 update: Who can dethrone Kamaru Usman?

Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound rankings, where every month our esteemed panel of experts sort through the noise to answer one question: Who are the best overall male and female mixed martial arts fighters in the world?

After a month where seemingly every major MMA result went chalk, stability was the name of the game atop our latest pound-for-pound update. So ahead of the final stretch run of 2021, let us look back at how the November rankings cycle affected the global landscape in MMA.

(And don’t forget to check out the latest edition of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show, where our rankings panel rang in the holiday season with its first annual Airing of Grievances.)

First, a refresher on some ground rules before we dive in.

  • Our eight-person voting panel consists of MMA Fighting staffers Shaun Al-Shatti, Alexander K. Lee, Guilherme Cruz, Mike Heck, E. Casey Leydon, Steven Marrocco, Damon Martin and Jed Meshew.
  • Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
  • Updates to the rankings will be completed at the start of every month.
  • Should a fighter announce their retirement, our panel will decide whether that fighter should immediately be removed from the rankings or maintain their position until further notice (let’s put it this way: we’d have taken Khabib Nurmagomedov out of our rankings a lot quicker than the UFC did).
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.
  • Regarding all the above rules, any possible exceptions will be discussed internally and noted in the article.

As a reminder, the notion of pound-for-pound supremacy is always going to inherently be subjective. When you’re debating whether someone like Stipe Miocic should be ranked below someone like Max Holloway, there is no true right answer. So while our MMA Fighting Global Rankings serve an actual functional purpose, the following pound-for-pound lists are just here for a good time. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.

In case you missed it, last month’s MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings can be seen here.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.

UFC 268: Usman v Covington 2 Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images


Kamaru Usman still reigns supreme. Can anyone dethrone the pound-for-pound king?

The UFC welterweight champion added yet another scalp to his collection in November’s marquee event, defeating rival Colby Covington for a second time at UFC 268. Usman has now won 19 consecutive bouts, defended his welterweight strap five times, and his 15-0 UFC record is just one win away from tying the legendary Anderson Silva for the most impressive undefeated start to an octagon career we’ve ever seen.

If the whispers are true, Usman’s next fight will likely come in 2022 in another rematch against Leon Edwards, but in the interim, “The Nigerian Nightmare” is sure to be on the short list for 2021 Fighter of the Year when year-end award season rolls around at the end of December.

The only other two ranked male fighters to compete last month were No. 6 Max Holloway and No. 15 Justin Gaethje, both of whom defended their positions with epic back-and-forth wins over Yair Rodriguez and Michael Chandler in dueling Fight of the Year candidates.

Looking ahead to December, just one men’s matchup matters on a pound-for-pound scale, but it’s a doozy: No. 4 Dustin Poirier and No. 7 Charles Oliveira collide in the main event of UFC 269 to finally determine, once and for all, who is truly the world’s best lightweight.

November results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington, No. 6 Max Holloway def. Yair Rodriguez, No. 15 Justin Gaethje def. Michael Chandler

December bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 4 Dustin Poirier vs. No. 7 Charles Oliveira (UFC 269, Dec. 11)

Fighters also receiving votes: Adriano Moraes, Colby Covington, Ciryl Gane, Ryan Bader, Gilbert Burns, Deiveson Figueiredo, Jose Aldo, Sergio Pettis, Yaroslav Amosov, T.J. Dillashaw, Corey Anderson

Rose Namajunas vs Zhang Weili, UFC 268 Women’s Strawweight Set Number: X163858 TK2


Rose Namajunas had a year to remember.

“Thug Rose” proved her 78-second knockout of Zhang Weili in April was no fluke by dispatching an even more improved version of the former UFC strawweight champion in a riveting war of attrition at UFC 268. Following a 2-0 campaign in 2021, Namajunas will now ride into the new year as the undisputed best 115-pound fighter in the world — and locked into her spot inside the top 3 of our women’s pound-for-pound list.

Joining Namajunas this month is Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, who added yet another victim to her esteemed résumé with a 92-second trouncing of Sinead Kavanagh at Bellator 271. Cyborg has been unstoppable since her 2018 loss to No. 1-ranked Amanda Nunes, winning five straight bouts and ending all four of her Bellator appearances via brutal stoppages. Her latest handiwork propelled her into a tie at the No. 3 spot with Namajunas.

Similar to the men’s side of the game, what lies ahead in December for the women is just one bout of pound-for-pound significance, but it’s a major one, as Nunes returns to her bantamweight stomping grounds and looks to defend her 135-pound title — and her No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking — in a co-headlining matchup against Julianna Pena at UFC 269.

November results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 3 Rose Namajunas def. No. 5 Zhang Weili, No. 4 Cris Cyborg def. Sinead Kavanagh, Ketlen Vieira def. No. 20 Miesha Tate

December bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena (UFC 269, Dec. 11)

Fighters also receiving votes: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Yan Xiaonan, Xiong Jing Nan, Julianna Pena, Larissa Pacheco, Michelle Waterson, Leslie Smith, Alesha Zappitella, Denise Kielholtz, Amanda Ribas

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