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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, March 2022: ‘Three Kings’ reign supreme

UFC 271: Adesanya v Whittaker 2 Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

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?

Though he may have been pushed to his limits, Israel Adesanya still reigns supreme. The UFC middleweight champion’s win over Robert Whittaker headlined an action-packed month that also saw one longtime veteran make a sizable leap up the rankings.

So how did February affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.

Don’t forget to check out the newest episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show, where the panel debated the biggest winners and losers of the latest rankings cycle, crowned an MVP of February, and predicted who will be the breakout story of a busy March.

Quickly, a refresher on some ground rules before we dive in:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 some sort of actual, functional purpose — pound-for-pound lists? They’re just here for a good time. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.

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

Bellator 275 - 3Arena Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images


The self-proclaimed “Three Kings” continue to dominate the pound-for-pound list.

Israel Adesanya’s decision win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 272 ensured that the men’s top three remained in the possession of African-born fighters, with No. 1 Kamaru Usman, No. 2 Adesanya, and No. 3 Francis Ngannou making up the consensus trio atop all eight of our panelists’ ballots. Whittaker ultimately fell to No. 10 in the losing effort, and with him now out of the Adesanya orbit for the foreseeable future, who is left to truly challenge “The Last Stylebender” for middleweight supremacy? Jared Cannonier will give it his best shot.

But the biggest jump this month belonged to the other major middleweight champion in the sport: Gegard Mousasi. The sassy one jumped six spots up to No. 14 for his effortless win over Austin Vanderford at Bellator 275. Vanderford isn’t exactly the second coming of Anderson Silva, so go ahead and call this a course correction for several of our rankings panelists who may have been sleeping on Mousasi before he reminded them exactly who he is with his 85-second drubbing of a previously unbeaten up-and-comer.

Looking ahead, March will be a slow month for the pound-for-pound list, which is somewhat to be expected when the UFC’s lone pay-per-view is headlined by a non-title fight and features no one else who’d be reasonably be considered a current title contender. But keep an eye on No. 20 Demetrious Johnson — the legend finally returns to take on Muay Thai champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon in an intriguing mixed rules bout on March 26.

February results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Israel Adesanya def. No. 8 Robert Whittaker, No. 20 Gegard Mousasi def. Austin Vanderford

March bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 20 Demetrious Johnson vs. Rodtang Jitmuangnon (ONE Championship: One X, March 26, custom rules bout)

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

UFC 266: Shevchenko v Murphy Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images


Well, how about that weather, huh?

As expected, there is little to report this month on the women’s side of the pound-for-pound list, as precisely zero of our top-20 fighters returned to action in February. One nugget to note, however, is that our consensus No. 1 finally has her next assignment: Valentina Shevchenko will defend her UFC flyweight title — and pound-for-pound throne — against Taila Santos on June 11 at UFC 275, as first reported by MMA Fighting. Shevchenko has been unstoppable since her move down to 125 pounds in 2018, winning eight consecutive fights and notching six defenses of the flyweight belt.

We’ve already seen one pound-for-pound great fall in the past few months. Does Santos have what it takes to pull off a Julianna Pena and shock the world?

As for the March slate, No. 14 Marina Rodriguez will look to cement her position as the next woman in line for the strawweight title picture when she takes on Yan Xiaonan this Saturday at UFC 272 in a bout with big-time stakes.

February results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): None

March bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 14 Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan (UFC 272, March 5), No. 20 Seo Hee Ham vs. Denice Zamboanga (ONE Championship: One X, March 26)

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

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