Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound rankings, where every month our esteemed panel sort through the noise to answer one question: Who are the best overall male and female MMA fighters in the world?
How did the past four weeks affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.
It was all quiet on the western front for the men’s pound-for-pound ranks this cycle, as the loss of UFC 282’s original main event left just one fight of consequence: Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov’s rematch with No. 19 ranked Corey Anderson to settle Bellator’s long-running light heavyweight world grand prix. With Nemkov’s decision win over Anderson now in the books, the Russian champ booted Anderson out of the pound-for-pound ranks this month and made his own reentry at No. 20.
Outside of that, a quiet past four weeks affords us a rare moment to reflect on just how unhinged 2022 really has been. Compare the men’s top 5 today to how things stood at this time last year and it’s a little jarring to see how much has changed: Two of the names in the current top 3 weren’t even ranked (No. 2 Makhachev and No. 3 Edwards), one was sitting outside of the top 13 (No. 5 Sterling), and our current pound-for-pound king had barely inched his way into an elite spot (No. 1 Volkanovski). MMA has long been a sport of parity, but there’s no question 2022 took that volatility and dialed it all the way up to 11.
Looking ahead, the bottom half of our list gets back into action this next rankings cycle, with No. 12 Patricio Pitbull kicking things off on New Year’s Eve against Kleber Koike at Bellator’s ambitious RIZIN crossover event. Three weeks later, all eyes turn to Rio de Janeiro when UFC 283 arrives with a pair of noteworthy title bouts: The tetralogy between No. 16 Deiveson Figueiredo and No. 17 Brandon Moreno, plus the latest attempt to get the UFC light heavyweight belt back into rotation with No. 18 Glover Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill.
Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 12 Patricio Pitbull vs. Kleber Koike Erbst (Bellator MMA vs. Rizin, Dec. 31), No. 16 Deiveson Figueiredo vs. No. 17 Brandon Moreno, No. 18 Glover Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill (UFC 283, Jan. 21)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Petr Yan (3), Colby Covington (3), Ciryl Gane (3), Johnny Eblen (2), Jan Blachowicz (2), Magomed Ankalaev (1), Raufeon Stots (1), Alexandre Pantoja (1), A.J. McKee (1), Curtis Blaydes (1)
Given a third chance to beat Kayla Harrison, Pacheco made the most of the opportunity, winning a gritty decision over her rival to become the 2022 PFL lightweight champion, earn a cool $1 million in prize money, and debut in the pound-for-pound rankings at No. 12. Conversely, Harrison was sent tumbling out of the top 10, dropping six spots to No. 15.
Even if the two fight a fourth time and Harrison bumps her series lead up to 3-1, it’s hard to imagine the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s reputation being instantly restored. If anything, it looks to be a long, hard climb back to the top for Harrison unless she manages to conjure up a fight with Nunes or Cris Cyborg somehow.
There were two other minor, but notable shifts in the women’s rankings, with Liz Carmouche winning her rematch with Velasquez to secure her spot in the top 10 and land at No. 9, plus Zhang Weili sneaking past Cyborg for the No. 3 spot.
Carmouche’s submission of Velasquez at Bellator 289 was huge for the 12-year veteran, as she erased the notion that her champion status was simply the result of an early stoppage in their first encounter.
For Zhang, it looks as if her time in the top 3 could last much longer this time around as she’s poised for a long title run (unless Rose Namajunas throws a wrench in those plans again), while Cyborg is off pursuing a career in boxing.
Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 5 Jessica Andrade vs. No. 17 Lauren Murphy (UFC 283, Jan. 21), No. 13 Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington (UFC Vegas 67, Jan. 14), No. 18 Seika Izawa vs. Si Woo Park (Bellator MMA vs. Rizin, Dec. 31)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Juliana Velasquez (4), Yan Xiaonan (3), Irene Aldana (2), Seo Hee Ham (2), Raquel Pennington (1), Xiong Jingnan (1), Erin Blanchfield (1)
Lastly, a refresher on some ground rules:
- The 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.
- Updates to the rankings will be completed following every UFC pay-per-view. Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
- 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).
As a reminder, the notion of pound-for-pound supremacy is always going to inherently be subjective. When you’re debating whether someone like Robert Whittaker should be ranked above someone like Max Holloway, there is no true right answer. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.