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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, February 2023: Islam Makhachev knocks off Alexander Volkanovski to take No. 1 spot

UFC 284: Makhachev v Volkanovski
Islam Makhachev
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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 UFC 284’s momentous champion vs. champion main event affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.


UFC 284: Makhachev v Volkanovski
Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Islam Makhachev beat Alexander Volkanovski, so he’s the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, right?

If only it were that simple.

The UFC 284 main event was billed as MMA’s best two fighters — regardless of division — going head to head and while it certainly lived up to the hype, what it didn’t do is give the MMA Fighting Rankings crew a unanimous No. 1 selection. Judging by much of the public reaction, we’re not alone in this dilemma.

Whether it was because they thought Volkanovski did enough to win the fight or that Makhachev would fall to the featherweight champ in a hypothetical matchup where their statures were perfectly balanced, two of our eight panelists have Volkanovski in the No. 1 spot with the other six voting for Makhachev.

The outcome also prompts discussion of the meaning pound-for-pound, whether it’s more important to focus on the hypothetical or more plainly on the result of rare head-to-head matchups of this magnitude. Either way, given how they performed on Saturday, it’s a safe bet that Makhachev and Volkanovski won’t be relinquishing their spots in the top 5 anytime soon.

Speaking of the top 5, next month sees not only the trilogy bout between No. 3 Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman, but the return of Jon Jones, who was the de facto answer for pound-for-pound No. 1 before going on a lengthy hiatus from competition. Jones finally makes the move to heavyweight and claiming a UFC title in a second division could put him right back at the top of the mountain after two and a half years away from the cage. On the other side, Ciryl Gane already receives votes every month from half of our panel, so beating Jones all but guarantees that he jumps from the ranks of the honorable mentions to the top 10.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Islam Makhachev def. No. 1 Alexander Volkanovski

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Leon Edwards vs. No. 5 Kamaru Usman (UFC 286, March 18)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Ciryl Gane (4), Vadim Nemkov (4), Johnny Eblen (3), Magomed Ankalaev (2), Jan Blachowicz (2), Colby Covington (2), Petr Yan (2), Curtis Blaydes (1), Beneil Dariush (1), Alexandre Pantoja (1), Shavkat Rakhmonov (1), Raufeon Stots (1)


MMA: JAN 21 UFC 283
Jessica Andrade
Photo by Leandro Bernardes/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was another ho-hum rankings cycle for the women’s pound-for-pound list, though we could be due for a major shakeup in the coming weeks.

Valentina Shevchenko goes for her eighth defense of the UFC flyweight title at UFC 285 and she faces a hungry challenger in Alexa Grasso. Like fellow Mexican standout Yair Rodriguez, Grasso has faced a few notable stops and starts on her road to a championship opportunity after being pegged as a blue-chip prospect since her Invicta days and she could turn the MMA world on its head if she upsets Shevchenko.

Another marquee matchup takes place this weekend as Jessica Andrade has made the bold decision to step into the UFC Vegas 69 main event to replace Taila Santos against Erin Blanchfield.

Andrade has been a menace to contenders in two divisions and she now looks slow the roll of Blanchfield, a 23-year-old prodigy who seems destined to fight Shevchenko some day. That day could come much sooner than expected if she puts on an impressive performance against Andrade, or Blanchfield could face a serious reality check against a former UFC champion who represents a monster step up in competition.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): N/A

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso (UFC 285, March 4), No. 5 Jessica Andrade vs. Erin Blanchfield (UFC Vegas 69, Feb. 18)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Lauren Murphy (4), Juliana Velasquez (4), Yan Xiaonan (3), Irene Aldana (2), Xiong Jing Nan (2), Seo Hee Ham (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.


Is Islam Makhachev the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world?

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