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Julia Budd is just about running out of challenges in Bellator MMA’s featherweight division.
“The Jewel” made short work of Olga Rubin at Bellator 224, dispatching her previously unbeaten foe with a body kick and punches 2:14 into the opening stanza of their headlining bout in Thackerville, Okla., on Friday night. Budd extended her winning streak to 11 and has now authored finishes in three of her last four Bellator appearances. As a result, she leapfrogs Ayaka Hamasaki into the eighth spot on our featherweight rankings.
Elsewhere, Germaine de Randamie continued to solidify her spot as one of the top female fighters in the world with a short night at the office at UFC Fight Night 155. “The Iron Lady” needed just 16 seconds to finish surging prospect Aspen Ladd, and despite the controversial nature of the stoppage, the Dutch kickboxer looked well on her way to an impressive performance. That makes five consecutive victories for de Randamie, who looks to be in line for a rematch with reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes. Despite her efforts, de Randamie is unable to make any headway in our pound-for-pound poll, as she stays put at No. 7.
1. Amanda Nunes (18-4)Nunes continued to make her case as the female “GOAT” at UFC 239, where she patiently waited for an opening before dispatching Holly Holm with a head kick and follow-up punches 4:10 into the opening stanza of their co-main event encounter at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. That makes nine consecutive victories for “Lioness,” including six in title bouts. With a resume that also includes wins over the likes of Cristiane Justino, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Germaine de Randamie, the next task is simply finding a suitable challenge for the two-division champion. A rematch with “Cyborg” could be on the horizon.
2. Valentina Shevchenko (17-3)Entering UFC 238 as a huge favorite, Shevchenko authored a “Knockout of the Year” candidate with a head kick that instantly removed Jessica Eye from consciousness in the evening’s co-headliner. After claiming the vacant crown with a five-round verdict over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in what might be her toughest matchup at 125 pounds, Shevchenko showed why she could be destined for a lengthy reign atop the division with her first successful title defense. “Bullet” has won five of her last six promotional outings, with a narrow split decision setback in a bantamweight title clash with Amanda Nunes the only blemish on her ledger during that period. Her next belt defense will come against former bantamweight title challenger Liz Carmouche in the UFC Uruguay headliner on Aug. 10.
3. Jessica Andrade (20-6)Andrade battled through adversity to claim strawweight gold at UFC 237. The Brazilian was confounded by Rose Namajunas in the early going of their main even bout in Rio de Janeiro, as “Bate Estaca” was bloodied and dropped by her opponent. Once Andrade was better able to close the distance, however, things changed, and she became the promotion’s fourth 115-pound queen after knocking Namajunas unconscious with a slam in the second stanza. In a somewhat surprising twist, Andrade’s first title defense will come against Weili Zhang in China on Aug. 31.
4. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (20-2)It took more than 13 years, but “Cyborg” finally suffered her second professional defeat. Justino was separated from her featherweight crown in emphatic fashion at UFC 232, where she suffered a shocking 51-second knockout loss at the hands of reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes. The heavy-handed Brazilian remains the clear No. 2 in the division, and she’ll look to maintain her standing when she squares off against rising star Felicia Spencer in the UFC 240 co-main event.
5. Rose Namajunas (8-4)Namajunas looked sharp in her second title defense at UFC 237. That is, until challenger Jessica Andrade knocked her unconscious with a slam 2:58 into the second round of their headlining bout in Rio de Janeiro. Namajunas’ reaction after the defeat was one of relief, and it seems as though the 26-year-old could be leaning toward an early retirement. If she does decide to stick around, “Thug” Rose has shown a propensity to make great strides from bout to bout, and that includes UFC 237, where she battered, bloodied and dropped Andrade on the feet. Given a little more time to clear her head, it’s possible that Namajunas’ perspective could change, but don’t expect a quick turnaround either way.
6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-3)Once regarded as the top female pound-for-pound talent in the sport, Jedrzejczyk now finds herself looking up at the top of two separate divisions following a loss to Valentina Shevchenko for the vacant flyweight strap at UFC 231. While the 31-year-old Poland native showed no quit in the bout, she simply had no clear answers for her opponent over the course of the 25-minute affair. Jedrzejczyk will return to 115 pounds for her next Octagon appearance when she faces Michelle Waterson at UFC Fight Night in San Francisco on Oct. 12.
7. Germaine de Randamie (9-3)De Randamie made a great case to be the bantamweight No. 1 contender at UFC Sacramento, where she starched the previously unbeaten Aspen Ladd in just 16 seconds in the evening’s headliner. That makes five consecutive victories for the Dutch kickboxer, a streak that also includes wins over Raquel Pennington and Holly Holm. If “The Iron Lady” wants to remain active she may have to take a fight in the interim, as it appears reigning two-division queen Amanda Nunes has designs on defending her featherweight crown next.
8. Julia Budd (13-2)Budd continued to display her newfound penchant for finishing fights at Bellator 224, as she wiped out the previously unbeaten Olga Rubin at the 2:14 mark of Round 1 in the evening’s headliner in Thackerville, Okla., on June 12. The 36-year-old “Jewel” extended her winning streak to 11 with the fastest stoppage of her career and has now finished three of her last four foes under the Bellator banner. Budd has already targeted matchups with recent signee Leslie Smith or Rizin powerhouse Gabi Garcia in a potential cross-promotional duel.
9. Ayaka Hamasaki (18-2)It took a strong third round to do so, but Hamasaki held off Invicta queen Jinh Yu Frey to win a unanimous decision in a champion vs. champion bout at Rizin 16. It was Hamasaki’s second victory over Frey – she also defeated the American under the Invicta banner – and fourth consecutive triumph overall. The 37-year-old Tokyo native has also bested Kanna Asakura, Mina Kurobe and Alyssa Garcia in Rizin bouts.
10. Tatiana Suarez (8-0)Suarez may still very well be a future champion, but she showed some flaws in a victory over Nina Ansaroff at UFC 238. The American used her wrestling to bank two rounds on the judges scorecards, but faded in the third round. Perhaps even more concerning was Ansaroff’s ability to land offense in the final stanza. Nonetheless, Suarez captured a unanimous decision for her fifth consecutive triumph within the Las Vegas-based promotion. The Milennia MMA product doesn’t feel as though she needs more seasoning: After the victory, she called out reigning 115-pound queen Jessica Andrade.
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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, Eric Stinton, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry, Jacob Debets, Keith Shillan, Edward Carbajal, Jason Burgos, Guy Portman, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Cole Shelton, Abhinav Kini, Mike Sloan, Tom Feely and Adam Martin.