Photo by Jamie Squire/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?
How did the past six weeks affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Alex Pereira is now the man to beat at 185 pounds. But how does he stack up against the best of the best in other divisions?
The question has to be asked after Pereira scored a stunning fifth-round knockout of Israel Adesanya at UFC 281, becoming the first fighter to defeat Adesanya in a middleweight bout in MMA and moving to 3-0 in their combat sports rivalry after twice topping Adesanya in kickboxing. It’s an enormous accomplishment by any metric, one that makes him worthy of a placement on the Pound-for-Pound list in just his eighth pro MMA bout.
But how high should he go? And how far should Adesanya fall?
With the votes tallied, “Poatan” makes a previously unfathomable — again, this was his eighth MMA fight — debut at No. 7 in the Pound-for-Pound rankings, leapfrogging over names like Charles Oliveira, Jiri Prochazka, Max Holloway and (of course) Israel Adesanya. Believe it or not, there was no guarantee that Pereira would finish ahead of Adesanya this month as there was only one point separating them.
Clearly, respect was paid to what “The Last Stylebender” accomplished as an undisputed UFC champion for over three years and two of our panelists went as far as to keep Adesanya ranked above Pereira. However, it wasn’t enough to stop Adesanya from making a precipitous slide all the way from No. 2 to No. 8.
Keep in mind, Adesanya has received first place votes in the past and been a mainstay in the top 3 since the inception of our rankings, so seeing him closer to the bottom half of the rankings than No. 1 looks downright weird. Just another reminder that one dramatic sequence can turn the MMA world on its head.
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Jan Blachowicz (3), Colby Covington (3), Petr Yan (3), Ciryl Gane (2), Johnny Eblen (2), A.J. McKee (1), Curtis Blaydes (1), Gegard Mousasi (1), Alexandre Pantoja (1), Reinier de Ridder (1), Raufeon Stots (1)
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
In retrospect, having Zhang Weili outside of the Pound-for-Pound top 5 was silly.
The Chinese star made short work of Carla Esparza in the UFC 281 co-main event to reclaim the UFC strawweight title, an outcome that was hardly a shocker if one paid any attention to the odds and overwhelming public sentiment heading into the fight. It’s inarguable that Esparza has been one of the most successful female fighters in MMA for the past decade and likely a future Hall of Famer with two UFC title fight wins under her belt, but Zhang is quite simply one of the most well-rounded and physically impressive fighters in the game.
Zhang’s only foil has been Rose Namajunas and were it not for an 0-2 record in that rivalry, Zhang would have a case for a spot in the top 3. As it stands, she’s just one point behind the legendary Cris Cyborg. If Zhang’s second run with UFC gold ends up lasting longer than the first, the Big 3 in our pound-for-pound rankings could soon become a Big 4.
A big tip of the cap has to go to Amanda Lemos as well for making her debut at No. 16, tied with Japanese wunderkind Seika Izawa. Lemos bulldozed perennial strawweight contender Marina Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 64, cementing her reputation as one of the best finishers in the world at 115 pounds and a legitimate title threat.
Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 8 Zhang Weili def. No. 4 Carla Esparza, Amanda Lemos def. No. 15 Marina Rodriguez
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.