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MMA Pound-For-Pound Rankings, January 2022: Charles Oliveira ascends, women’s ranks crown a new No. 1

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?

Since the introduction of these rankings last summer, there has not been a moment when the top spots on our men’s and women’s pound-for-pound lists were both undisputed.

Until now. The roller-coaster ride that was end to 2021 took care of that.

So ahead of the start to the 2022 calendar, let us look back at how a stunning month of December affected the global mixed martial arts landscape.

Don’t forget to check out the newest episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show, where our rankings panel rang in the new year by predicting the fighters who will either rise into the top 5 or plummet out of title contention by the end of 2022, debating the futures of some down-on-their luck veterans, and much more.

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 269: Oliveira v Poirier Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

MEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

Welcome to the top 4, Charles Oliveira!

Any lingering doubts about the reigning UFC lightweight champion were stricken away in December when “do Bronx” toppled the man many believed to be the best lightweight in the world with his third-round submission of Dustin Poirier. After an already lengthy line of statement wins, UFC 269 was the final push Oliveira needed to shake off any last remaining holdouts to his bandwagon and establish himself among the elite of the sport.

It’s not often the UFC champion heads into a title defense against a challenger who is ranked above him, and that certainly won’t happen again as long as Oliveira holds golds.

For his handiwork, Oliveira essentially traded places with Poirier on our pound-for-pound list, stealing Poirier’s No. 4 spot and dropping “The Diamond” down to Oliveira’s old position at No. 7. Only the UFC’s trio of African-born champions now sit ahead of “do Bronx.”

As for January, all eyes will be fixed solely on UFC 270 and the dual title fights atop the card, as No. 3 Francis Ngannou looks to reclaim sole ownership of the UFC heavyweight title in a long-awaited matchup against No. 19 Ciryl Gane, and No. 12 Brandon Moreno settles his trilogy against former UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo.

December results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 7 Charles Oliveira def. No. 4 Dustin Poirier

January bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Francis Ngannou vs. No. 19T Ciryl Gane (UFC 270, Jan. 22), No. 12 Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC 270, Jan. 22)

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


UFC 269: Amanda Nunes v Julianna Pena Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

For the first time in the brief history of these rankings, there is a unanimous No. 1 atop the women’s list.

That’s right, Valentina Shevchenko is MMA’s new undisputed queen. After steadily gaining ground in our internal balloting on Amanda Nunes in recent months, Shevchenko finally overtook “The Lioness” with an assist from newly crowned UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Pena, whose titanic upset at UFC 269 flipped the sport on its head. Shevchenko is now the woman to beat on the pound-for-pound list, and she could hold onto that top spot for a long time to come at the rate she’s mowing down contenders at 125 pounds.

But could a run at two-division gold be in Shevchenko’s future?

To do so she may need to get past Pena once again, as “The Venezuelan Vixen” rocketed up to the No. 5 spot on the pound-for-pound list despite entering December unranked.

Pena’s upset is certainly a landscape changer at 135 pounds, though it wouldn’t be surprising if she is asked to replicate her improbable feat again in a rematch against Nunes next before the division can fully embrace its new UFC champion.

Looking ahead, January appears to be a slow month for these rankings, however there is one matchup to note: No. 13 Katlyn Chookagian defending her spot against one-time UFC title challenger Jennifer Maia in a meaningful matchup of flyweight contenders.

December results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): Julianna Pena def. No. 1 Amanda Nunes

January bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 13 Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia (UFC Vegas 46, Jan. 15)

Fighters also receiving votes: Julia Budd, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Raquel Pennington, Xiong Jing Nan, Larissa Pacheco, Ketlen Vieira, Taila Santos, Michelle Waterson, Yan Xiaonan, Leslie Smith, Alesha Zappitella, Denise Kielholtz, Amanda Ribas