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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, March 2023: Valentina Shevchenko loses No. 1 spot, Jon Jones makes triumphant return

UFC 285: Jones v Gane Photo by Chris Graythen/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?

Jon Jones returned. Valentina Shevchenko lost. How did the stunning results of UFC 285’s two title fights affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.


UFC 285: Jones v Gane
Jon Jones
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Jon Jones is back and maybe better than ever. But is he the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world again?

According to the MMA Fighting panel, there’s still work to be done. Three panelists placed Jones at the top of their lists following his absurdly quick submission victory over Ciryl Gane at UFC 285, but it wasn’t enough to move him past Islam Makhachev (two first-place votes) nor Alexander Volkanovski (three first-place votes). For now, the fighter who dominated the pound-for-pound rankings for years has to settle for our No. 3 spot.

Rivals Makhachev and Volkanovski are separated by one point on the panel’s internal scoring system, making their placing a total toss-up. But if you’re wondering how Jones ended up behind Volkanovski despite having more first-place votes, it’s because our panelists took an all-or-nothing approach to evaluating Jones’ impressive comeback: He was either No. 1 for voters, or outside of the top three — with one voter placing him as low as No. 7.

Regardless of how you feel about Jones’ placement (universal agreement, we’re sure), everyone can agree that the pound-for-pound list is an absolute s*** show these days with long-reigning champions getting knocked off left and right last year. Imagine if Volkanovski faces Yair Rodriguez next and loses an upset or if Makhachev falters in his next title defense? We may as well scrap the whole rankings and start over.

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

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): Vadim Nemkov (4), Johnny Eblen (3), Jamahal Hill (3), Jan Blachowicz (2), Petr Yan (2), Magomed Ankalaev (1), Colby Covington (1), Beneil Dariush (1), Alexandre Pantoja (1), Shavkat Rakhmonov (1), Raufeon Stots (1)


UFC 285: Jones v Gane
Alexa Grasso
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Speaking of upsets, we can’t talk about the incredible rise of Alexa Grasso without also talking about what could be the beginning of the end for Valentina Shevchenko.

Heading into UFC 285, Shevchenko had successfully defended her flyweight title seven consecutive times, the longest streak at the time in the UFC. Eight straight would’ve tied her with Jones for the fourth-longest title defense streak behind only Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Demetrious Johnson. She’d shown cracks in her armor in a narrow decision win over Taila Santos, but she was still expected to make light work of Grasso.

Shevchenko got off to a slow start, but was still ahead 29-28 after three rounds according to all three judges. A persistent Grasso kept pace with “Bullet” every step of the way — and when she found an opening to take a spinning Shevchenko’s back, she didn’t give up the position until she had Shevchenko tapping to a rear-naked choke. It was a shocking end to the champ’s indomitable reign.

With the loss, Shevchenko relinquishes the No. 1 pound-for-pound spot to Amanda Nunes, placing “The Lioness” back at the top of our charts for the first time since December 2021, when Nunes suffered an incomprehensible loss to Julianna Peña. Winning an immediate rematch with Grasso could place Shevchenko back on top, but it’s also possible that the Shevchenko era has reached its end.

And if that’s the case, all credit to Grasso for setting that in motion with a career-best performance. The Mexican star is undefeated in five UFC fights at 125 pounds and there wasn’t a moment on Saturday where it seemed like she wasn’t on Shevchenko’s level. Grasso soars all the way up to the No. 2 spot in our rankings — and there’s a case to be made that the flyweight version of Grasso is the best female fighter in the world today.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): Alexa Grasso def. No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko, Erin Blanchfield def. No. 5 Jessica Andrade

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 16 Holly Holm vs. Yana Santos (UFC San Antonio, March 25)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Katlyn Chookagian (4), Marina Rodriguez (4), Lauren Murphy (3), Ketlen Vieira (3), Yan Xiaonan (2), Irene Aldana (2), Seo Hee Ham (1), Juliana Velasquez (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 Jon Jones the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world again?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    (300 votes)
  • 38%
    (186 votes)
486 votes total Vote Now

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