MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Alexander Volkanovski breaks up ‘Three Kings’ stranglehold, vaults into top 3

Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

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 MMA fighters in the world?

Alexander Volkanovski is finally starting to get his respect. The UFC featherweight champion’s monster win over “The Korean Zombie” at UFC 272 headlined a month flush with action from many of the sport’s most talented athletes. We saw statement wins, controversial finishes, and even a few “y’all must’ve forgot” moments from fighters out to prove a point.

So how did April affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.

Don’t forget to listen to the newest episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show, where the panel debated the MVP of April and the craziness unfolding at light heavyweight, predicted the breakout name of an action-packed May, made a few long overdue mea culpas, and much more.

Quickly, a refresher on some ground rules before we dive in:

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.
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.

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 some sort of actual, functional purpose — pound-for-pound lists? They’re just here for a good time. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.

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

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MEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

The “Three Kings” no longer have a stranglehold over the pound-for-pound top 3.

Alexander Volkanovski made sure of that. The UFC featherweight champion soared into the No. 3 spot on this month’s pound-for-pound list following his rout of “The Korean Zombie” at UFC 272. It was a flawless performance for Volkanovski, one that kept his undefeated 11-0 octagon record intact and finally pushed several of our panelists to recognize the talent of the best featherweight in the sport. The UFC’s three African-born champions remain a dominant force atop these rankings, but Volkanovski is a deserving name near the summit.

There were two other champions who made giant leaps this month as well: The eternally disrespected Aljamain Sterling, who vaulted seven spots up to a No. 8 ranking following his revenge win over Petr Yan at UFC 272, and the eternally overlooked Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who climbed eight spots up to a No. 10 ranking after stopping the hype train of A.J. McKee at Bellator 277. Freire is now the highest-ranked male fighter on our pound-for-pound list — could a trilogy bout with No. 18 ranked McKee be next up on his docket?

Looking ahead to May, all eyes will soon turn toward the lightweights when No. 5 ranked Charles Oliveira attempts to defend his UFC lightweight title against No. 16 ranked Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in one of the most anticipated fights of 2022.

April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Alexander Volkanovski def. Chan Sung Jung, No. 15 Aljamain Sterling def. No. 10 Petr Yan, No. 18 (tied) Patricio Freire def. No. 12 A.J. McKee

May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 5 Charles Oliveira vs. No. 16 (tied) Justin Gaethje (UFC 274, May 7), No. 19 (tied) Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic (UFC Vegas 54, May 14),

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Colby Covington (5), Jose Aldo (2), Ciryl Gane (2), Demetrious Johnson (2), Islam Makhachev (2), Adriano Moraes (2), Sergio Pettis (1), Ryan Bader (1)

Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

While the top of this month’s list remains unchanged following No. 4 ranked Cris Cyborg’s victory over Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 279, two other outcomes had a dramatic effect on the women’s pound-for-pound ranks. First was the controversial come-from-behind finish over Juliana Velasquez that not only forever enshrined Liz Carmouche as a champion at Bellator 278, but also propelled the new flyweight titleholder into a No. 11 pound-for-pound ranking. The second was an outcome that took place outside of the cage, as Germaine de Randamie forfeited her No. 8 ranking after crossing the 18-month threshold for inactivity.

De Randamie’s exit spawned a flurry of green arrows for the women ranked below her, and it’s still unclear when exactly “The Iron Lady” will fight again.

As for what’s next, May is set to deliver a trio of bouts with pound-for-pound implications on the women’s side, but none are more important than UFC 274’s co-main event, which features the long-awaited rematch between No. 3 ranked Rose Namajunas and No. 8 ranked Carla Esparza more than seven years after the two TUF alums introduced the strawweight division to the masses with the UFC’s inaugural 115-pound title bout.

April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 4 Cris Cyborg def. Arlene Blencowe, No. 7 Jessica Andrade def. Amanda Lemos, No. 17 Liz Carmouche def. No. 12 Juliana Velasquez, No. 16 Seika Izawa def. No. 18 Ayaka Hamasaki

May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Rose Namajunas vs. No. 8 Carla Esparza (UFC 274, May 7), No. 9 Holly Holm vs. Ketlen Vieira (UFC Vegas 55, May 21), No. 12 Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas (UFC Vegas 54, May 14)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Taila Santos (4), Julia Budd (2), Sarah Kaufman (2), Ketlen Vieira (2), Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (1), Raquel Pennington (1), Larissa Pacheco (1), Leslie Smith (1), Michelle Waterson (1), Xiong Jing Nan (1), Yan Xiaonan (1)

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