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?
UFC 290 delivered on all fronts, not only giving fans the best MMA event of the year, but dramatically changing the career arcs of several top names. Alexander Volkanovski was triumphant, Brandon Moreno was disappointed, and Dricus Du Plessis was a man on a mission.
Outside of the UFC, we saw Bellator bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis stave off the advances of would-be three-division titleholder Patricio Pitbull and the PFL’s top female fighter Larissa Pacheco continue her hot streak.
Add all that up and you get some major movement in the Pound-for-Pound rankings, starting with a familiar face back at No. 1.
Alexander Volkanovski has reclaimed his throne.
One could argue that the UFC’s featherweight king never should have lost his spot, even though his attempt to wrest the lightweight title from Islam Makhachev ended in a narrow defeat. Well, it seems our panel just needed to see Volkanovski get back on the winning track because he sits atop the men’s Pound-for-Pound rankings again after his furious finish of Yair Rodriguez.
Volkanovski is yet to lose when competing at 145 pounds and each successful title defense (that’s five straight now) further cements his reputation as the best all-around fighter on the planet. If you’re inclined to base your Pound-for-Pound evaluation purely on who would win in a hypothetical fight where both participants are magically the exact same size, then it’s tough to make a case that anyone would be favored over “The Great.”
Then again, when it comes to Volkanovski, we don’t need to worry about hypotheticals as he could rematch Makhachev in the future or continue his legendary championship run with a defense against the unbeaten Ilia Topuria. Either way, don’t expect Volkanovski to relinquish his spot again anytime soon.
Also of note, Pound-for-Pound stalwarts Brandon Moreno and Robert Whittaker both took precipitous tumbles. Moreno’s inability to vanquish his nemesis Alexandre Pantoja drops him 10 spots all the way into a tie for 18, while Whittaker’s crushing loss to a rampaging Dricus Du Plessis sends him out of our rankings entirely for the first time since their inception.
Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 2 Alexander Volkanovski def. Yair Rodriguez, Alexandre Pantoja def. No. 8 (tied) Brandon Moreno, Sergio Pettis def. No. 12 Patricio Pitbull, Dricus Du Plessis def. No. 13 Robert Whittaker
Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley (UFC 292, Aug. 19), No. 14 (tied) Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje (UFC 291, July 29), No. 16 Alex Pereira vs. Jan Blachowicz (UFC 291, July 29)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Johnny Eblen (4), Vadim Nemkov (4), Robert Whittaker (4), Jan Blachowicz (2), Merab Dvalishvili (2), Jamahal Hill (2), A.J. McKee (2), Magomed Ankalaev (1), Colby Covington (1), Justin Gaethje (1), Patchy Mix (1), Belal Muhammad (1), Usman Nurmagomedov (1), Shavkat Rakhmonov (1)
Put some respect on Larissa Pacheco’s name.
In her first two PFL seasons, Pacheco struggled to escape the shadow of Kayla Harrison, losing twice to her rival in 2019 and then missing out on a potential rematch in 2021 when a botched weight cut cost her a tournament spot. Pacheco’s talent was undeniable, but was she ever going to put it all together?
She finally overcame Harrison in the lightweight finals of the 2022 league championship and her continued excellence has kept her creeping up the women’s Pound-for-Pound rankings. Pacheco’s first win this season saw her outpoint former Bellator champion Julia Budd; her second, a 45-second blistering of Amber Leibrock.
Of Pacheco’s past eight opponents, only Harrison and Budd have made it out of the first round. She has been a finishing machine as she pursues a second million-dollar prize, this time at featherweight, and if she continues this run she might end up close to the top-5 than the No. 10 spot by the end of 2023.
Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 12 Larissa Pacheco def. Amber Leibrock
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Katlyn Chookagian (4), Mackenzie Dern (4), Lauren Murphy (3), Ketlen Vieira (3), Seo Hee Ham (2), Virna Jandiroba (2), Irene Aldana (1), Maycee Barber (1), Marina Rodriguez (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.
Does Alexander Volkanovski need to beat Islam Makhachev to cement his Pound-for-Pound greatness?
This poll is closed