Sherdog’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10 Rankings

John Brannigan/Sherdog.com illustration

As it turns out, Max Holloway may have been underrated in recent pound-for-pound discussions.

By scoring an unforgettable knockout of Justin Gaethje in the final round of their BMF title bout at UFC 300 on Saturday night, “Blessed” reminded everyone just how good he truly is. Holloway looked much more dangerous than he did in his first 155-pound venture in 2019, and as a result, he appears to have opened up future options in two different weight classes. Thanks to his latest efforts, the popular Hawaiian climbs to No. 8 in Sherdog’s latest pound-for-pound poll, and it would be foolish to rule out further ascension in the near future.

Elsewhere, Alex Pereira successfully defended his light heavyweight strap in emphatic fashion, knocking out Jamahal Hill in the opening round of the UFC 300 headliner. The Brazilian known as “Poatan” has become an unquestioned MMA superstar in just a few years’ time, and he holds strong at No. 5 in the pound-for-pound rankings. If Pereira is allowed to try his hand at heavyweight, there is potential for success across three UFC divisions. At this point, it’s hard to bet against the former Glory Kickboxing champion.

Meanwhile, former bantamweight ruler Aljamain Sterling made a successful foray to 145 pounds, grinding out a three-round verdict over Calvin Kattar on the UFC 300 preliminary card. While it wasn’t as visually pleasing as the performances authored by Holloway or Pereira, two-division success of any measure is not to be ignored. With that in mind, “The Funkmaster” rises to No. 11 in these rankings.

Note: Previous ranking in brackets.

1. Islam Makhachev (25-1) | UFC [1]

Makhachev made a statement at UFC 294, knocking out featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski with a head kick and follow-up punches in the opening round of their lightweight title clash at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The Dagestani standout has won 13 straight fights in the Octagon and thanks to consecutive title defenses against Volkanovski, can close the book on his rivalry with the Australian star. Makhachev’s next assignment could come against the winner of the lightweight title eliminator between Charles Oliveira and Arman Tsarukyan scheduled for UFC 300.

2. Jon Jones (27-1, 1 NC) | UFC [2]

After a three-year absence, Jones looked as strong as ever in a new division, authoring a first-round submission triumph against Ciryl Gane in the UFC 285 headliner on March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The longtime light heavyweight king was scheduled for a UFC 295 showdown with ex-heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic at Madison Square Garden for his first title defense before a torn pectoral forced him to withdraw from the bout. The hope is that Jones vs. Miocic can be rebooked at some point in 2024.

3. Leon Edwards (22-3, 1 NC) | UFC [3]

For all the sound and fury promised by the public build-up between Edwards and challenger Colby Covington, the actual fight was a straightforward affair, lacking any of the eye-popping drama of Edwards’ pair of fights against Kamaru Usman. Instead, the champ forced Covington into the sort of mid-paced kickboxing match that characterized Edwards’ long rise to the top of the division, on his way to winning the first four rounds on all judges’ scorecards. While Edwards’ second title defense is unlikely to have earned him many new fans, it was a dominant showing against a veteran challenger. Whether Edwards’ next defense comes in the form of unfinished business against Belal Muhammad or a meeting with a streaking contender like Shavkat Rakhmonov, his place as one of the top fighters in the sport is secure for the moment.

4. Ilia Topuria (15-0) | UFC [4]

Topuria ushered in a new era in the featherweight division with a second-round knockout of Alexander Volkanovski in the UFC 298 headliner at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Feb. 17. “El Matador” ended what had been a competitive bout with a clean right hook at the 3:32 mark of Round 2, showcasing his frightening fight altering power in the process. Topuria has all the makings of a massive star, capable of spearheading the promotion’s first-ever card in his home country of Spain. At just 27 years old, the future appears to be bright indeed for Topuria.

5. Alex Pereira (10-2) | UFC [5]

Alex Pereira left no doubt regarding the true identity of the light heavyweight champion with his first-round knockout of Jamahal Hill in the UFC 300 headliner. Once he found his opening, “Poatan” wasted little time, dropping his foe with a left hook and sealing his victory with follow-up ground strikes 3:14 into the opening stanza. By besting Hill, who had to vacate the title due to injury in 2023, Pereira avenged mentor Glover Teixeira and continued to raise his profile as one of the promotion’s biggest stars.

6. Alexander Volkanovski (26-4) | UFC [6]

Volkanovski couldn’t overcome Father Time at UFC 298, as the 35-year-old Aussie suffered a second-round knockout loss to Ilia Topuria in the evening’s main event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Regardless of what the future holds, Volkanovski will go down as one of the sports all-time great featherweights and given his previously perfect record at 145 pounds, he has a solid case for an immediate rematch with Topuria. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

7. Alexandre Pantoja (27-5) | UFC [9]

Pantoja put on a dominant performance in the co-main event of UFC 296, grounding Brandon Royval seemingly at will and doing grimy work from top position for most of five rounds. While the result was not the frenetic fireworks show fans may have hoped for, “The Cannibal” effectively denied Royval any chance to employ his hyper-aggressive kickboxing and grappling, retaining his belt while facing next to no real danger. With a lack of fresh contenders on the horizon, Pantoja’s next title defense will come against Steve Erceg at UFC 301 in Rio de Janeiro.

8. Max Holloway (26-7) | UFC [14]

Concerns for Holloway’s health against Justin Gaethje proved to be misguided, as “Blessed” authored an all-time classic knockout victory to claim the BMF belt at UFC 300 on April 13. Options abound for the Hawaiian, who remains a top contender at 145 pounds and is now also a person of interest at lightweight after vanquishing Gaethje, who would have been in line for a title shot with a victory. Holloway has won five of his last six Octagon appearances, with victories over the likes of Gaethje, Chan Sung Jung, Arnold Allen, Yair Rodriguez and Calvin Kattar adding to his considerable resume.

9. Vadim Nemkov (17-2, 1 NC) | Bellator [10]

After vacating his 205-pound belt, Nemkov enjoyed a successful heavyweight debut at PFL vs. Bellator, as he put Bruno Cappelozza to sleep with an arm-triangle choke 2:13 into the second round of their encounter at Kingdom Arena in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 24. Not only did the Fedor Emelianenko protege carry the extra 40 pounds quite well, but he managed to survive a brief moment of adversity when his Brazilian opponent clipped him on the feet just prior to the finishing sequence. The Russian is unbeaten in his last 13 professional appearances dating back to June 2016, and he becomes an instant contender in his new weight class.

10. Sean O’Malley (18-1, 1 NC) UFC [11]

O’Malley avenged his lone career defeat in the UFC 299 headliner, putting on a striking masterclass for five rounds in a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph against Marlon Vera. “Suga” is unbeaten in his last seven Octagon appearances, and a challenging title defense looms against top contender Merab Dvalishvili. However, if O’Malley gets his way, his next assignment will be a crack at two-division dominance against Ilia Topuria in Spain.

Other Contenders: Aljamain Sterling, Israel Adesanya, Tom Aspinall, Dricus Du Plessis, Justin Gaethje.

Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry, Marcelo Alonso, Keith Shillan, Tyler Treese and Rob Sargent.


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