’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Jul 13, 2016

After International Fight Week, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is still the UFC strawweight champion and pound-for-pound queen of MMA. However, she has a new friend at the top of the pound-for-pound top 10, and that friend has some UFC gold around her waist, too.

To cap the 23rd season “The Ultimate Fighter”, Jedrzejczyk made her third successful UFC title defense, storming ahead in the final three rounds to take a clean unanimous decision win over fellow pound-for-pounder Claudia Gadelha, whom she had previously taken a razor-thin split decision over in December 2014. The win was the biggest of Jedrzejczyk's career and also showed that the Polish fighter's championship mettle, as she overcame a 20-18 deficit to storm through the final three rounds with her relentless striking offense, dominating one of the best women in the sport over the second half of the fight.

For as great as she was against Gadelha, there's nowhere for Jedrzejczyk to go, already being on the top of this list. However, one night after Jedrzejczyk went up 2-0 on Gadelha, Amanda Nunes stepped into her ad hoc main event title fight with Miesha Tate at UFC 200 and demolished the UFC women's bantamweight champion, taking the title in just over three minutes in one of 2016's biggest blowouts. With the win, Nunes is not only the first Brazilian women's champion in UFC history, but first openly gay titlist as well. Oh, and on top of that, she's the top woman at 135 pounds, and jumps six spots in these rankings, from nine to three.

Since Ronda Rousey was brutally knocked off the pound-for-pound throne and had her UFC 135-pound title taken last November by Holly Holm, it's been a constant state of flux for women's bantamweight, which may have given way to strawweight as the best women's weight class today, but is still the most celebrated women's MMA division historically. Tracing the UFC women's bantamweight title lineage back to its Strikeforce days, Ronda Rousey held the crown from March 2012 to November 2015, nearly four years, and defended it seven times between both promotions combined. Since Rousey was defeated by Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November of last year, there have been three different UFC women's bantamweight champions, without a single successful title defense.

With International Fight Week 2016 now behind us, there is only one woman on our pound-for-pound roster with a scheduled upcoming fight. However, 10th ranked Karolina Kowalkiewicz's July 30 date at UFC 201 with Rose Namajunas is a major happening, essentially a title eliminator to firm up the next challenger for Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Either Kowalkiewicz emerges victorious, continues to climb the pound-for-pound ladder and gets to meet up with “Joanna Champion” in an all-Polish showdown, or Namajunas will announce her arrival not just as an elite 115-pounder, but one of the very best women in the sport, period.

Related: Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0)

As it stands now, there is no doubt that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the best woman in mixed martial arts. In her July 8 title defense against rival Claudia Gadelha to close out the 23rd season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Jedrzejczyk showed her resolve as a champion as well as her trademark volume striking skills over the final three rounds, after being soundly controlled by the challenger for the first 10 minutes. The strawweight division has become the strongest in women's MMA and Jedrzejczyk has been flawless in dominating it, already putting together a resume to rival all-time divisional greats Megumi Fujii and Yuka Tsuji. In a 25-month period, the Olsztyn, Poland native has gone 7-0, dispatching Rosi Sexton, Juliana Lima, Carla Esparza, Jessica Penne, Valerie Letourneau and Claudia Gadelha -- not just the second best strawweight in the world, but one of the very best women in the sport, period -- twice. Outside of the close, controversial first Gadelha fight in December 2014, all of them have been clear and resonant victories for “Joanna Champion”.

2. Cristiane Justino (16-1, 1 NC)

At UFC 198 in May, in front of 45,000-plus fans in her native Curitiba, Brazil, Cristiane Justino made her long-awaited UFC debut that many suspected would never happen, running over the gritty Leslie Smith in just 81 seconds at a 140-pound catchweight. For almost 11 years, Justino has savaged her competition, but the UFC future of Invicta FC's featherweight champion is unclear, as the lack of depth at 145 pounds on the women's side means that the most interesting, the most lucrative and yes, even the most challenging fights for Justino are likely with 135-pounders moving up in weight. While the likes of Marloes Coenen, Charmaine Tweet and Daria Ibragimova are quality fighters, all of whom “Cyborg” ran roughshod over, it would mean more to the 31-year-old Brazilian's bank account and legacy to lobby for fights with UFC bantamweights, not just Ronda Rousey, but also the likes of Miesha Tate, Holly Holm or whatever other name she can entice into the cage.

3. Amanda Nunes (13-4)

Despite carrying a 5-1 UFC record into her UFC 200 headliner with Miesha Tate for the bantamweight title, Amanda Nunes just couldn't shake the rep of fading after the first 10 minutes, despite clearly possessing the most dynamic blend of knockout striking and submission ability in the entire division. “The Lioness” made sure that questions about her durability would need to wait for another day, however, as she tore into Tate immediately with heavy punching offense, breaking the champ's nose, forcing her to the ground and choking her out in just three minutes. While Nunes does have notable losses at 135 pounds on her resume -- former UFC title challengers Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano, as well as scrappy journeywoman Sarah D'Alelio -- the American Top Team rep has looked even more offensively potent and skilled in each of her recent outings, including sound victories over divisional stalwarts Valentina Shevchenko and Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann. At 28 years old and still with considerable untapped potential, Nunes will assuredly deliver exciting fights and stoppages against the best bantamweights in the world for years to come. However, as discussed above, the more pressing question is whether or not she can reign.

4. Miesha Tate (18-6)

Miesha Tate's scrappy fighting style and grappling prowess saw her overcome an 0-2 start to her UFC tenure, as well as her one-sided rivalry with Ronda Rousey, putting together a fantastic five-fight winning streak with victories over divisional mainstays Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann and Jessica Eye before her thrilling come-from-behind fifth-round submission of Holly Holm to take the UFC women's bantamweight title at UFC 196 in March. In Tate's first title defense at UFC 200, however, she was absolutely blown out of the water by Amanda Nunes in the first round. Tate is only 29 years old and outside of bona fide MMA superstars like Rousey, Conor McGregor and Jon Jones, one of the UFC's most popular and marketable fighters, which means she's likely to stick around and continue fighting the best of the best in the 135-pound division. Nonetheless, her lopsided title loss to Nunes is a reminder that Tate's style, as well as the talent and depth at the top of the women's bantamweight division will continue to trip her up from time to time.

5. Holly Holm (10-1)

Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau are quality wins at 135 pounds, no doubt, but Holly Holm's standing in the 135-pound division and women's MMA on the whole still rests on her six-minute demolition of Ronda Rousey to take the UFC women's bantamweight title at UFC 193 last November. Yes, she was dethroned in a thrilling come-from-behind effort by Miesha Tate just four months later, but Holm's head kick crushing of Rousey remains the greatest, most meritorious single victory in the history of women's MMA, and is more than enough for her to hold onto the fifth spot on this list. Now settled into the UFC grind where she can rely on facing quality opposition routinely, the 34-year-old former boxing champion will have all the opportunities in the world to continue to flesh her record out. Next up for “The Preacher's Daughter” is a headlining role at the UFC on Fox 20 on July 23 in Chicago, where she will take on top 10 opponent Valentina Shevchenko.

6. Ronda Rousey (12-1)

No one is going to forget how Ronda Rousey lost her UFC women's bantamweight title any time soon; her head kick knockout loss to Holly Holm was instantly an all-time MMA moment and Rousey's massive celebrity ensured that millions and millions the world over saw it. That said, if and when Rousey returns to action, she will inevitably be an imminent UFC bantamweight title threat, not just because the UFC will be keen to put her in that position, but because she is still the most dominant and dynamic women in the sport's history. Between the lures of Hollywood and even discussing parenthood, it's entirely possible that Rousey stays away from the cage for a while longer yet, perhaps even long enough that she's no longer eligible for these rankings. But, until that moment comes to pass, Rousey remains the most achieved fighter in women's MMA history, with wins over Miesha Tate (twice), Sarah Kaufman, Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano, and nearly all of them one-sided blowouts at that.

7. Claudia Gadelha (13-2)

As women's MMA continues to evolve and emerge, it is an unfortunate consequence that many outstanding competitors will be thrust into competitively, promotionally undesirable circumstances, which is exacly where Claudia Gadelha now finds herself. The 27-year-old Nova Uniao product is dynamic, well-rounded, a gifted bilingual talker and sports quality wins over 105-pound queen Ayaka Hamasaki, longtime divisional elite Jessica Aguilar, former UFC title challenger Valerie Letourneau, former Invicta FC champ Herica Tiburcio and the vastly underrated Kalindra Faria. However, Gadelha has now lost to rival and divisional champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk twice in less than two years and “Joanna Champion” is showing no signs of slowing up. In spite of clearly being one of the very best women in all of MMA, “Claudinha” is now in the uneviable “awesome second fiddle” position, past suffered through by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira under Fedor Emelianeko's reign, Jon Fitch after being downed by Georges St. Pierre, and more recently, Joseph Benavidez after being knocked cold by Demetrious Johnson in their rematch. Gadelha will be a healthy favorite against any woman in the division other than the champ, so it's seems a mortal lock that she'll continue to add elite contenders to her hit list, but in order to get another title shot, she'll either need to pray for Jedrzejczyk to be upset or put together a long, gaudy win streak and leave the UFC no other choice but a third fight with the Polish star.

8. Ayaka Hamasaki (13-1)

Years before coming stateside, Ayaka Hamasaki had already put together a substantial resume in her native Japan, taking wins over all-time great Yuka Tsuji and UFC veteran Seo Hee Ham twice. After those breakout wins put her on the map, the Megumi Fujii pupil recorded W's against other stalwarts like Emi Fujino and Mei Yamaguchi, before taking the Invicta FC atomweight title from Herica Tiburcio in July 2015, then armbarring title challenger Amber Brown in March. Hamasaki has had success at both 105 and 115 pounds, and the only woman to ever defeat her is a fellow pound-for-pounder in Claudia Gadelha, a massive strawweight. Emerging 105-pound contender Jinh Yu Frey is the next likely challenger to Hamasaki's Invicta FC title, but in the long term, it remains to be seen whether Hamasaki will remain in the promotion or return to the strawweight division for a UFC bid, which would mean more money and better opponents in a stronger weight class.

9. Jessica Aguilar (19-5)

For seven years, Jessica Aguilar has been amongst the 115-pound elite and she sports a pair of wins over women's MMA legend Megumi Fujii, as well as victories over Carla Esparza, Emi Fujino and Kalindra Faria. Though she lost to fellow pound-for-pounder Claudia Gadelha at UFC 190 last August, she carried a 10-fight winning streak into the bout, and frankly, there's no shame in losing to one of the very best women in the world. The concern for American Top Team product is whether or not she will be able to rebound from the ACL tear she suffered in March and continue to rack up high-level wins in an increasingly deep and improving 115-pound weight class upon her return. If the 34-year-old Aguilar is able to return to pre-injury form, she could very well earn herself a UFC strawweight title bid.

10. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (9-0)

In March 2012, an amateur Karolina Kowalkiewicz was choked out in the first round by Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Since turning pro two months after that loss, Kowalkiewicz has compiled a perfect 10-0 record in the best women's division, taking wins over strong competition in Mizuki Inoue, Kalindra Faria, Randa Markos and Heather Clark in her last four outings, her latest victory over Clark being a brutal one-sided beating. Kowalkiewicz is not far from a rematch with the UFC strawweight champion: if Kowalkiewicz is able to defeat Rose Namajunas in a de facto title eliminator at UFC 201 on July 30, she will unquestionably be the next woman in line for a shot at “Joanna Champion”, setting up one of the most unique and intriguing MMA title fights ever between a pair of undefeated Polish women at 115 pounds.


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