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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, July 2022: Alexander Volkanovski overtakes the king, claims No. 1 spot

UFC 276: Volkanovski v Holloway 3 Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

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 MMA fighters in the world?

Kamaru Usman has long been the unquestioned king of MMA’s pound-for-pound list.

But now? The UFC welterweight champion has some competition.

The pound-for-pound debate blew open this month as the dust settled from UFC 276, with fellow champs Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski suddenly jockeying for first-place votes alongside Usman. Did either do enough to unseat Usman’s reign at the top? That question divided our panel in an unprecedented way in this month’s rankings update.

So how did the past six weeks affect the global pound-for-pound landscape?

Let’s take a look.


Don’t forget to listen to the newest episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show below, where the panel debated the MVP of the past six weeks and tried to make sense of the chaos at middleweight, the new three-man race for the men’s No. 1 pound-for-pound spot, the changing of the guard happening in the lightweight division, and much more.

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.

*This month’s ranking update was postponed due to July 4 holiday weekend, so this cycle includes the first two UFC events of July (UFC 276 and UFC Vegas 58)


UFC 276: Adesanya v Cannonier Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

MEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

That’s right, your eyes do not deceive you: We have a new pound-for-pound king.

Fresh off pitching his second shoutout of the past four months, UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski officially becomes the first man not named Kamaru Usman to hold our No. 1 spot since the creation of these rankings in July 2021. In the end, it was one of our most contentious decisions ever — Volkanovski finished with 153 points in our panel’s internal scoring system, while Usman finished with 152. No other fighter came close.

It’s a debate with a strong argument on either side. Volkanovski and Usman are both undefeated in the UFC (12-0 and 15-0, respectively) and have a similar number of title defenses (four and five). Usman even collected two more first-place votes than Volkanovski from our eight-person panel, but ultimately it was Volkanovski’s remarkable strength of schedule in light of his rivalry-clinching win over Max Holloway at UFC 276 that nudged him over “The Nigerian Nightmare” into the top spot in our aggregate.

Of course, Volkanovski’s reign at the top may be numbered — the final tally is close enough that Usman could easily reclaim his crown when he meets Leon Edwards on August 20 at UFC 278. But until then, the fighting pride of Australia will tell you: It’s good to be king.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Israel Adesanya def. Jared Cannonier, No. 3 Alexander Volkanovski def. No. 6 Max Holloway, Jiri Prochazka def. No. 10 Glover Teixeira, Johnny Eblen def. No. 15 (tied) Gegard Mousasi

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 18 Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France (UFC 277, July 30)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Justin Gaethje (4), Islam Makhachev (3), A.J. McKee (3), Johnny Eblen (2), Ciryl Gane (2), Jose Aldo (2), Demetrious Johnson (2), Gegard Mousasi (2), Raufeon Stots (1)


UFC 275: Teixeira v Prochazka Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

Victory in defeat may be a fight game cliche, but Taila Santos is living the gimmick. The fearsome Brazilian stunned the MMA world at UFC 275 by coming within a hair’s breadth of upsetting UFC flyweight champion and pound-for-pound queen Valentina Shevchenko. Despite being written off as another easy title defense, Santos controlled the early action against Shevchenko with a masterful game plan built around takedowns, back control, and overwhelming physicality. If not for an unlucky clash of heads, she might have gotten it done. Alas, she’ll have to settle for debuting at No. 12 on our women’s pound-for-pound list after a split decision loss.

It’s fair to say Shevchenko got away with one. Stick around as champion long enough and eventually it’ll happen to everyone. But Santos is young — she turned 29 years old last month — and is clearly one of the most talented flyweights in the world. Something tells us UFC 275 won’t be the final time Santos contends for 12 pounds of gold before she’s done.

As for the rest of this month’s list, the most polarizing debate continues to center around Kayla Harrison. The two-time Olympic champion is in a league of her own in the PFL, and that’s led to plenty of questions within our rankings panel — of the eight ballots we received this past rankings cycle, Harrison was slotted as high as No. 2 and as low as No. 20. As a result, she continues to float in a happy medium at our No. 9 spot — but if her recent purse figures are any indication, she has plenty to celebrate regardless of her position on this list.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko def. Taila Santos, No. 8 Zhang Weili def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, No. 9 Kayla Harrison def. Kaitlyn Young

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Julianna Peña vs. No. 2 Amanda Nunes (UFC 277, July 30), No. 17 Lauren Murphy vs. Miesha Tate (UFC on ABC 3, July 16)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Angela Lee (3), Ayaka Hamasaki (3), Larissa Pacheco (3), Julia Budd (2), Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (2), Irene Aldana (1), Raquel Pennington (1), Xiong Jingnan (1), Yan Xiaonan (1)

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