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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, September Update: Kayla Harrison storms into the top 10

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Photos via Bellator, PFL

Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound rankings, where every month our esteemed panel of experts sort through the noise to answer one question: Who are the best overall male and female mixed martial arts fighters in the world?

With August in the books and a star-studded September ahead, it’s time to look back at how the last four weeks affected the global pound-for-pound landscape in MMA.

(And don’t forget to check out the debut edition of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show!)

Let’s refresh on some ground rules before we dive in.

  • Our 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.
  • Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
  • Updates to the rankings will be completed at the start of every month.
  • 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).
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.
  • Regarding all the above rules, any possible exceptions will be discussed internally and noted in the article.

As a reminder, the notion of pound-for-pound supremacy is always going to inherently be subjective. When you’re debating whether someone like Stipe Miocic should be ranked below someone like Max Holloway, there is no true right answer. So while our MMA Fighting Global Rankings serve an actual functional purpose, the following pound-for-pound lists are just here for a good time. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.

In case you missed it, last month’s MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings can be seen here.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.


Bellator MMA

MEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

August was a slow month for the best male fighters in the world.

The only UFC championship bout was a largely unwarranted interim title fight at UFC 265 between heavyweights Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis, neither of whom populate this list. Gane picked up several votes from our eight-person panel this month and even hit as high as No. 17 from one voter, but ultimately his third-round knockout of Lewis wasn’t enough to break into the overall top 20.

That meant the only bout of significance last month for the purposes of these rankings happened at Bellator 264, which saw previously No. 19-ranked Gegard Mousasi defend his middleweight title with a third-round stoppage of John Salter. Mousasi has now won 11 of his last 12 fights dating back to his UFC days in 2016, and at 36 years old, he continues to age like a fine wine. His vicious finish of Salter generated the only upwards movement in August for our men’s top 20, nudging Mousasi out of a tie with Adriano Moraes and past Colby Covington and fellow Bellator champion Vadim Nemkov into the No. 17 spot.

Looking ahead, September is a busy month for the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, but decidedly less so for our pound-for-pound list. Once again, just one fighter in our top 20 is scheduled to compete, but it’s a good one — after repeated delays, No. 5-ranked Alexander Volkanovski is slated to defend his UFC featherweight title against Brian Ortega at UFC 266.

August results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 19 Gegard Mousasi def. John Salter (Bellator 264, Aug. 13)

September bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 5 Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega (UFC 266, Sept. 25)

Fighters also receiving votes: Demetrious Johnson, Ryan Bader, Deiveson Figueiredo, Rob Font, Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo, Gilbert Burns, Sergio Pettis, Glover Teixeira, Ciryl Gane, Yaroslav Amosov, Cory Sandhagen, T.J. Dillashaw


PFL

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

August was a month to celebrate for Kayla Harrison.

Harrison’s first-round destruction of Genah Fabian in the PFL lightweight semifinals served as the lone bout of note for our women’s top 20. Harrison now sits one win away from snatching her second PFL championship and cashing her second $1 million check, which she’ll look to do in October against fellow Season 3 finalist Taylor Guardado on Oct. 27.

For her efforts, Harrison stormed the gates of the pound-for-pound top 10 and settled into a No. 10 ranking. With just one fight left on her PFL contract, the undefeated Olympian could soon become one of the most sought after MMA free agents of the past several years.

But Harrison wasn’t the only woman to advance up the ranks. The exit of previously No. 6-ranked Joanna Jedrzejczyk due to her crossing the 18-month threshold for inactivity sent a ripple effect throughout our women’s pound-for-pound list. Jedrzejczyk is one of the most talented fighters in the world and will surely reclaim her spot whenever she next competes, although at the time of this writing there’s no indication when that could be.

The only other notable development from August was the entry of former UFC champion Miesha Tate into a tie for the No. 17 spot. With Jedrzejczyk out, several members of our eight-person panel turned to Tate with their extra vote.

Up next, September looks to be an important month for our women’s top 20, as three different bouts could affect next month’s update, the most significant of which sees No. 2-ranked Valentina Shevchenko defending her UFC flyweight title against No. 12-ranked Lauren Murphy on Sept. 25 at UFC 266.

August results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 11 Kayla Harrison def. Genah Fabian (PFL 2021 #8, Aug. 19)

September bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 2 Valentina Shevchenko vs. No. 12 Lauren Murphy (UFC 266, Sept. 25), No. 6 Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo (UFC 266, Sept. 25), No. 14 Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Emi Fujino (RIZIN 30, Sept. 19)

Fighters also receiving votes: Yan Xiaonan, Larissa Pacheco, Michelle Waterson, Julianna Pena, Xiong Jing Nan, Cynthia Calvillo, Leslie Smith, Alesha Zappitella, Denise Kielholtz