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?
It’s the end of an era.
Amanda Nunes officially laid down the gloves — and her two title belts — on Saturday following a dominant decision win over Irene Aldana at UFC 289, a victory that placed her into a tie with the legendary Anderson Silva for the 4th-most championship fight wins in UFC history (11) behind only Demetrious Johnson (12), Georges St-Pierre (13) and Jon Jones (15).
Suffice to say, Nunes has done it all in her legendary career, and she now leaves both the bantamweight and featherweight division without a champion; more importantly, MMA Fighting’s Women’s Pound-for-Pound list needs a new name at the top.
So who claims the No. 1 spot now?
At last, Zhang Weili reigns supreme.
Zhang has been creeping her way up the pound-for-pound list for the past couple of years, with her progress stalled by a pair of losses to Rose Namajunas. But with highlight-reel finishes of Carla Esparza and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas nowhere to be seen for the past 13 months, and Amanda Nunes retired, the panel has seen fit to propel the two-time UFC strawweight champion into the No. 1 spot.
That’s a tough break for Grasso, whose incredible run of form gives her a strong case to be considered the best of the best: She ended Valentina Shevchenko’s 1,537-day reign as UFC flyweight champion this past March, became the first woman ever to submit Shevchenko, and is 5-0 since making the move up to the 125-pound division. Few fighters in any division have looked better than Grasso over the past few years.
But Zhang looks poised to rule over strawweight for the foreseeable future and her resume (which also includes a 42-second finish of two-division threat Jessica Andrade) beats Grasso’s for now, so it’s only fair that she become just the third woman to top our Pound-for-Pound list since its inception in July 2021. That’s a position that Nunes and Shevchenko have held on to with an iron grip and now comes the hard part for Zhang: keeping it.
Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Amanda Nunes def. Irene Aldana, No. 18 Seika Izawa def. Suwanan Boonsorn
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Katlyn Chookagian (5), Mackenzie Dern (4), Lauren Murphy (4), Ketlen Vieira (3), Seo Hee Ham (2), Virna Jandiroba (2), Irene Aldana (1), Marina Rodriguez (1), Juliana Velasquez (1)
Charles Oliveira isn’t giving up his contender’s spot just yet.
With a wildly entertaining first-round knockout of Beneil Dariush, “do Bronx” not only kept himself in line for another lightweight championship bout with Islam Makhachev, he held on to his top 10 ranking on our Pound-for-Pound list and actually moved up a couple of spots past luminaries Kamaru Usman and Demetrious Johnson. And let’s be honest, if we factored entertainment value into the Pound-for-Pound criteria, Oliveira would easily be top 3.
Just imagine how this list will look if Oliveira actually manages to avenge that loss to Makhachev.
While we wait to see if that rematch becomes official, there is plenty of ranked action to look forward to with Alexander Volkanovski (2), Brandon Moreno (8, tied), and Robert Whittaker (13) all in action at UFC 290 next month. Plus, Patricio Pitbull (12) looks to make a serious Pound-for-Pound statement when he drops down to 135 pounds to fight bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis at Bellator 297 with the chance to become a three-division champion.
Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 10 (tied) Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush
Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 2 Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez (UFC 290, July 8), No. 8 (tied) Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja (UFC 290, July 8), No. 12 Patricio Pitbull vs. Sergio Pettis (Bellator 297, June 16), No. 13 Robert Whittaker vs. Dricus Du Plessis (UFC 290, July 8)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Johnny Eblen (5), Vadim Nemkov (4), Jan Blachowicz (2), Merab Dvalishvili (2), Deiveson Figueiredo (2), Magomed Ankalaev (1), Colby Covington (1), Beneil Dariush (1), Justin Gaethje (1), Patchy Mix (1), Belal Muhammad (1), Usman Nurmagomedov (1), Alexandre Pantoja (1), Sergei Pavlovich (1), Shavkat Rakhmonov (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.
Who is the No. 1 women’s Pound-for-Pound fighter now?
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