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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Is Justin Gaethje a top 15 fighter in the world?

UFC 291: Poirier v Gaethje 2 Photo by Chris Gardner/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?

With the madness of UFC 291 in the books, how have the past few weeks affected the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.


2023 PFL 5 Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images
MMA Fighting

You may notice one name notably absent from this month’s pound-for-pound list — and that’s because the time has finally arrived for Francis Ngannou.

After crossing the 18-month threshold for inactivity, the former UFC heavyweight champion is finally ineligible to be ranked by MMA Fighting’s eight-person panel, thus abdicating his No. 7 spot on our list. But please don’t shed a tear for “The Predator”; after inking his landmark PFL deal and landing the monster boxing payday few actually expected him to land, Ngannou is winning a life. He’ll be back to reclaim his pound-for-pound ranking in 2024 once he returns to MMA as a much, much richer man (perhaps to rematch Derrick Lewis?), but in the meantime, Ngannou has bigger fish to fry on Oct. 28th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he’ll seek to become the first professional boxer to defeat Tyson Fury.

Looking ahead, this month it’s Sean O’Malley who looks to join UFC 291’s Justin Gaethje and Alex Pereira as the latest big name to make a big leap up the pound-for-pound ranks when he challenges No. 6 Aljamain Sterling for the UFC bantamweight title on Aug. 19 at UFC 292. Have we reached the dawn of “The Sugar Show” era, or is Boston about to become just another stop in Sterling’s historic championship reign? We can’t wait to find out.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): Chihiro Suzuki def. No. 13 Patricio Pitbull, Justin Gaethje def. No. 14 (tied) Dustin Poirier, No. 16 Alex Pereira def. Jan Blachowicz

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 6 Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley (UFC 292, Aug. 19)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Vadim Nemkov (5), Robert Whittaker (5), Johnny Eblen (4), Merab Dvalishvili (2), Jamahal Hill (2), A.J. McKee (2), Magomed Ankalaev (1), Jan Blachowicz (1), Colby Covington (1), Patchy Mix (1), Belal Muhammad (1), Usman Nurmagomedov (1), Beneil Dariush (1)


UFC Fight Night: Holm v Bueno Silva
Mayra Bueno Silva
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
MMA Fighting

Be honest, who had Mayra Bueno Silva entering the top 10 of the pound-for-pound rankings on their 2023 bingo card this year? Anyone? No?

Bueno Silva made the most of an under-the-radar UFC APEX main event, submitting Holly Holm in a little over a minute to shake up the bantamweight rankings (just wait until you see what spot she lands at in our next MMA Fighting Global Rankings update) and announce herself as one of the best female fighters in the world. To add further context, the only other women to finish Holm are Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate.

Add in the fact that Bueno Silva is yet to lose at 135 pounds and her rapid rise shouldn’t be too surprising, even if she’s also likely benefiting from the typically chaotic women’s pound-for-pound landscape and a smidge of voter restlessness. Should the Brazilian submission specialist eventually go on to claim a UFC title, we could see her claim a top-5 spot sooner rather than later. Whether she does or not, Bueno Silva is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the women’s ranks.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 17 Seika Izawa def. Claire Lopez, Mayra Bueno Silva def. No. 18 Holly Holm

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Zhang Weili vs. No. 20 Amanda Lemos (UFC 292, Aug. 19), No. 9 Larissa Pacheco vs. Olena Kolesnyk (PFL 8, Aug. 18), No. 12 Jessica Andrade vs. No. 14 (tied) Tatiana Suarez (UFC 292, Aug. 19)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Holly Holm (3), Lauren Murphy (3), Ketlen Vieira (3), Katlyn Chookagian (2), Virna Jandiroba (2), Seo Hee Ham (1), 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.

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