Tyron Woodley put at least a temporary rest to his business with rival Stephen Thompson at UFC 209 on March 4. It was far from an appealing Ultimate Fighting Championship title bout; in fact, it may have been one of the worst in the history of the promotion. Nonetheless, after the welterweights battled to a majority draw at UFC 205 in November, “The Chosen One” bounced back in Las Vegas and earned a razor-thin majority decision over Thompson for his second successful title defense, even if it came in a dreadful bout.
Woodley defended his throne, but other divisional No. 1 fighters are safe for other reasons.
Julia Budd dominated women’s MMA pioneer Marloes Coenen on March 3, eventually stopping the slick-grappling Dutchwoman in the fourth round of their Bellator 174 main event. The win not only sent the 35-year-old Coenen into retirement but brought Budd the inaugural Bellator MMA women’s featherweight championship. Even with her title capture and eighth straight victory, Budd’s resume still cannot top longtime divisional queen “Cyborg” Cristiane Justino.
Just because some divisional rulers maintained their positions does not mean there were no shake-ups. Featherweight mainstay Darren Elkins pulled off one of the most spectacular in-fight comebacks in MMA history against the previously unbeaten Mirsad Bektic at UFC 209. With his historic third-round knockout, Elkins reclaims a place he previously held at No. 10 in our rankings at 145 pounds.
On the women’s side, this rankings update welcomes two new fighters to the top-10 fold. Randa Markos prevailed via split decision over former UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza on Feb. 19 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, notching the biggest win of her career. The victory gives the “Quiet Storm” a berth at No. 10 in our 115-pound ranks.
Meanwhile, 2017 has thus far been an active year for developing flyweight Andrea Lee. In January, “KGB” smashed Jenny Liou in just 74 seconds. On Feb. 17, she returned to action for Legacy Fighting Alliance, claiming the inaugural women’s flyweight title with a third-round armbar over Heather Bassett. Her latest win and piece of hardware earns the charismatic and entertaining Lee her first entry into our women’s 125-pound ranks at No. 9.
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