’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Apr 14, 2017

The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA both have women's featherweight champions now. They have even fought one another before as it happens, way back in the Strikeforce days. While Germaine de Randamie and Julia Budd may both have gold belts, only one of them is on our list, although the other did boot Holly Holm out of our top 10.

Holm's head kick on Ronda Rousey remains the most significant and richest win in women's mixed martial arts history, but with de Randamie toppling the former UFC women's bantamweight champion at UFC 209, “The Preacher's Daughter,” our previous No. 8, is off this list after her third straight loss.

Meanwhile, at Bellator 174, Budd won her eighth bout in a row, knocking off women's MMA pioneer Marloes Coenen, punching her out in the fourth round and retiring the Dutch all-time great. There is no doubt that Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino still rules the roost at 145 pounds, but over the last four years, Budd has steadily taken out top-10 featherweight opposition. For that, she debuts on this list at No. 10.

It certainly has not been good times for everyone with belts, though. Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki, ranked seventh in our last update, decided to revisit her time as a standout strawweight and moved back up to 115 pounds at Invicta 22. Unfortunately, former Invicta champ Livia Renata Souza blazed her with punches in less than two minutes, perhaps reminding Hamasaki of why she dropped to 105 pounds in the first place. She may still be the top atomweight in the world, but she falls to No. 8 on our pound-for-pound list.

Excitement is on the horizon as it concerns this list. The top woman in the sport, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, has a title defense lined up for May against perhaps her most threatening challenger to date: Jessica Andrade. Meanwhile, two women Jedrzejczyk has already beaten, fifth-ranked Claudia Gadelha and sixth-ranked Karolina Kowalkiewicz are set to do battle in a major pound-for-pound clash in June.

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0)

After Ronda Rousey's unceremonious -- and frankly, brutal -- fall from grace, it was a complete no-brainer which woman was running mixed martial arts. With that being said, do not mistake Jedrezejczyk's ascent to MMA's queen as a matter of mere concession, as “Joanna Champion” earned her spot the old-fashioned way, besting the best women in what is currently the best weight class in women's MMA. While she has already put away a pair of victories over pound-for-pounder Claudia Gadelha, a pro win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz and several other sensational, violent triumphs, the strawweight division is good enough that Jedrzejczyk's job as a champion is far from done. Case in point: The Polish dominator's fifth UFC title defense will come against perhaps her most difficult challenger to date, as Jedrzejczyk is signed on to face surging Brazilian Jessica Andrade, a former bantamweight, at UFC 211 on May 13 in Dallas. With every passing defense -- especially if she can add one against a figurative “piledriver” like Andrade -- Jedrzejczyk is not just reaffirming her top spot among women in the sport but crafting a truly historic record.

2. Amanda Nunes (14-4)

Over her last five bouts, Nunes finally capitalized on the potential most onlookers saw in the Brazilian bomber from her earliest bouts in her native country. “The Lioness” is blessed with a unique blend of power striking and decisive submission skills, exactly the balance of abilities she has exhibited in her last two outings, destroying former UFC champions Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey in less than five minutes combined. Fortunately for Nunes, the women's 135-pound division is the most suitable analogue to the men's 205-pound division, except for the fact that the former is not nearly as desperate for new faces. All this to say: Nunes destroyed perhaps the two most famous women in MMA history, yet still awaits a historically notable challenge. While the 28-year-old Brazilian owns a March 2016 victory over Valentina Shevchenko, “Bullet” has earned a crack at UFC gold; and given Nunes' fatigue in the third round of their bout, the challenger could be near even money. While Nunes may have already beaten her Kyrgyz-Peruvian once, Shevchenko has since carved out a nice niche at 135 pounds by defeating the likes of Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. For Nunes, plain and simple, a second win over Shevchenko would mean infinitely more to her career than her first.

3. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (17-1, 1 NC)

“Cyborg” has not tasted defeat in over 11 years and has thoroughly dominated the 18 women she has faced since losing her pro debut back in May 2005. The career-long question for Justino has always been whether or not she could meet major opponents at 145 pounds. Now, even if she is not its champion -- and after vacating the title, she is no longer Invicta's champion, either -- she has had the UFC build an entire division around her. Justino is currently hunting a title shot against Germaine de Randamie, lobbying to challenge for the UFC women's featherweight title in her adopted backyard at UFC 214, tentatively scheduled for July 29 in Anaheim, California. While the UFC does not have much of a division beyond "Cyborg" and de Randamie, there is still cause for further excitement on the horizon. The woman who was elevated to undisputed Invicta champion after "Cyborg" vacated her strap, Australia's Megan Anderson, has quickly forged an impressive record with highlight-reel knockouts and figures to be a UFC staple eventually. If "Cyborg" can knock off de Randamie and take the UFC crown, she will at least have one worthy challenger to her throne coming around the bend.

4. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)

Since arriving on the UFC scene with her upset of Sarah Kaufman in December 2015, Shevchenko has quickly established herself as one of the best 135-pound women in the sport, in spite of the fact that she could likely be one of the top 125-pound women in the sport, too. Her lone loss in the Octagon came in her second UFC bout against now-champion Amanda Nunes in a fight she was starting to seize control of in the third and final round. Now, courtesy of back-to-back spectacular wins over Holly Holm and Julianna Pena, “Bullet” is the next contender for Nunes' title, setting up a rematch that is not only stylistically preferable to Shevchenko given the extra two rounds but one with major historic merit. It remains to be seen when and where Shevchenko-Nunes 2 gets scheduled, but even if the 29-year-old challenger loses, she has already shown she is likely to be an elite bantamweight -- and perhaps a pound-for-pound staple -- for years to come.

5. Claudia Gadelha (14-2)

Strawweight is the best division in women's MMA, the sort of weight class where even if you are not No. 1 you can still have an outstanding hit list. Such is the case with Gadelha. From Kalindra Faria, Valerie Letourneau and Herica Tiburcio to Ayaka Hamasaki and Jessica Aguilar, “Claudinha” has put away a great cross section of competition, yet is haunted by her pair of losses to UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who has bested Gadelha twice in the last 29 months. As a result, Gadelha appears to be locked into a situation similar to Joseph Benavidez's quest for a third crack at flyweight king Demetrious Johnson. There is no way to know how many wins it will take for Gadelha to get another shot at the title, though it would certainly speed things up if fellow Brazilian Jessica Andrade was able to knock off “Joanna Champion” at UFC 211 in May. In the meantime, Gadelha is still getting an assignment with major pound-for-pound ramifications, as she will meet another woman who has lost twice to Jedrzejczyk -- albeit once as an amateur -- in Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 212 on June 3. Even better than just getting a showdown with our sixth-ranked woman on this list, Gadelha gets to do it in front of a partisan Brazilian crowd in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1)

After winning her first 10 pro bouts and picking up victories over the likes of Mizuki Inoue, Kalindra Faria, Randa Markos and Rose Namajunas in a span of less than two years, Kowalkiewicz earned a shot against the woman who previously beat her as an amateur back in 2012: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Unfortunately, Kowalkiewicz soundly lost four rounds to “Joanna Champion” at UFC 205 in November at Madison Square Garden. Then again, if you have to lose, at least make sure it comes against the top woman in the sport. The 31-year-old Pole's well-rounded style makes her a decent favorite against almost anyone else at 115 pounds, the premier women's weight class. With that said, Kowalkiewicz figures to be an underdog the next time she steps into the cage, but if she can pull off the win, she will be climbing this list in a hurry. “The Polish Princess” is headed to Rio de Janeiro on June 3 for UFC 212, where she will meet the No. 5 entrant on this list, Claudia Gadelha.

7. Jennifer Maia (14-4)

Brazil's Maia is 7-1 in her last eight bouts; and in 2016, her hard-fought five-round decisions over Vanessa Porto and Roxanne Modafferi put her on top of the 125-pound division and made her Invicta champion. Flyweight remains the black sheep of women's divisions, but despite its low profile, Maia has great prospects for meritorious, interesting fights. There is plenty of up-and-coming 125-pound talent Invicta can bring in, and Bellator MMA has announced plans to crown a flyweight champion, as well. A true Curitiba, Brazil, native, Maia's aggressive, wild striking style could make her a cable TV asset for Bellator, too.

8. Ayaka Hamasaki (14-2)

Before dropping to 105 pounds almost three years ago, Hamasaki had a distinguished career as a strawweight, submitting an MMA legend in Yuka Tsuji, topping Emi Fujino and taking a pair of wins over Seo Hee Ham. In fact, the only woman to beat Hamasaki at 115 pounds was a fellow pound-for-pound entrant, the much larger Claudia Gadelha. That was until Hamasaki moved back up to 115 to face former Invicta champion Livia Renata Souza at Invicta 22 on March 25 and got absolutely torched in less than two minutes. Even with the resounding defeat to Souza, Hamasaki remains incredibly accomplished in two weight classes and is still the top atomweight woman in the world. Presumably, the crushing defeat to Souza will do what the Gadelha defeat did, sending Hamasaki back to 105 pounds to defend her Invicta title in the rapidly improving weight class over which she reigns. There, she is 5-0 with wins over Herica Tiburcio, Jinh Yu Frey, Amber Brown, Mei Yamaguchi and Naho Sugiyama.

9. Julianna Pena (8-3)

In her biggest fight to date against Valentina Shevchenko, Pena had moments of success and nearly armbarred “Bullett” at the end of the first round at UFC on Fox 23. However, she wound up submitted by an armbar herself late in Round 2, dashing her hopes of the UFC title shot she has been so vocal about wanting. Nonetheless, Pena has a host of lopsided, dominant wins in the division; she is one of its most dynamic fighters; and she is still just 27 years old. More importantly, there is not exactly a wealth of hot contenders at 135 pounds. It seems feasible that “The Venezuelan Vixen” could end up with some top-10 wins in short order and be right back on the doorstep of a UFC title shot.

10. Julia Budd (10-2)

Since her early career losses to two women -- Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey -- who would go on to be featured prominently on this list and win UFC bantamweight titles, Budd has quietly but steadily gone about disposing of a wide swath of the top 145-pound women in the world, including Charmaine Tweet, Gabrielle Holloway and Arlene Blencowe in the last three years and change. At Bellator 174 on March 3, she pounded out Dutch pioneer Marloes Coenen in the fourth round, sending her into retirement and becoming the first-ever Bellator MMA women's featherweight champion in the process. While the fairly thin women's 145-pound division is presently spread over the UFC, Bellator MMA and Invicta, the upside for the 33-year-old Canadian is that Bellator has already shown and acted on a desire to snap up talent to populate its women's flyweight and featherweight divisions, even if Budd is unlikely to catch a fight against divisional queen Cristiane Justino anytime soon.


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