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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane remains unparalleled in the Bellator MMA women’s flyweight decision.
The Hawaiian champion cruised to a unanimous decision victory over Kate Jackson in the Bellator 236 headliner at the Neil S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu on Saturday, sweeping the scorecards for her fourth successful title defense within the California-based promotion. Macfarlane is 11-0 as a professional and 10-0 under the Bellator banner after going the distance for the first time since December 2016.
While Macfarlane’s dominance is impressive, a win over an unranked opponent isn’t enough to lift her past her current No. 10 ranking in the women’s pound-for-pound poll. Things could get more interesting in the coming months, however, as Bellator has signed Macfarlane teammate Liz Carmouche, and the two Team Hurricane Awesome training partners don’t seem to be opposed to a future bout. Regardless of what the future holds, Macfarlane has proven herself to be one of the brightest stars in Bellator, and her progress will be interesting to monitor in 2020.
1. Amanda Nunes (19-4)It wasn’t a breathtaking knockout like some of her recent efforts, but Nunes showed a different aspect of her game at UFC 245. “Lioness” grounded Germaine de Randamie repeatedly and controlled the majority of their fight from top position en route to a unanimous decision victory in a bantamweight title clash at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Additionally, Nunes had to survive a few moments of adversity — something she hasn’t experienced of late — to earn her 10th straight triumph in the Octagon. Nunes has said she is interested in defending her featherweight crown next.
2. Valentina Shevchenko (18-3)It was far from enthralling, but Shevchenko was in completely control throughout her title defense against Liz Carmouche in the UFC Uruguay headliner. Even though her volume was lacking, a technical “Bullet” clipped her foe on a couple occasions and held her own in grappling with the physical Carmouche. The end result was a sweep of the scorecards and the fourth consecutive 125-pound victory for the reigning champion. The 31-year-old Tiger Muay Thai representative now owns victories over Carmouche, Jessica Eye and Joanna Jedrzejczyk in title bouts and continues to look like one of the most dominant champions in any UFC division. Shevchenko will make her next title defense against Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 247 in Houston.
3. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (21-2)It was only natural to wonder how “Cyborg” would fare coming off her first defeat in more than 13 years, but the heavy-handed Brazilian bounced back nicely at UFC 240, earning a unanimous decision victory against Felicia Spencer in the evening’s co-main event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 27. It was the last fight on Justino’s UFC deal, and shortly thereafter promotion head Dana White confirmed that he was “out of the Cyborg business,” clearing the way for the ex-champ to join another organization. Justino then took that opportunity to re-unite with ex-Strikeforce boss Scott Coker in Bellator MMA, where she will immediately challenge Julia Budd for featherweight gold on Jan. 25.
4. Weili Zhang (20-1)Zhang was devastating on her home soil, putting an end to Jessica Andrade’s title reign in just 42 seconds at UFC Fight Night 157 in Shenzhen, China. “Magnum” pummeled Andrade with punches, elbows and knees at close range for a surprisingly quick finish to become the first Chinese champion in UFC history. Zhang’s professional winning streak is now at 20, a run that includes four victories in the Octagon. While the 30-year-old Black Tiger Fight Club member figures to be a valuable asset as the promotion continues to make inroads in China, she also showed she may just be scratching the surface of her potential by dispatching one of the most powerful women in the division. Zhang will make her first title defense against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczk at UFC 248 on March 7.
5. Jessica Andrade (20-7)Andrade’s championship reign proved to be short lived – one of the shortest in UFC history, in fact – as she suffered a 42-second technical knockout loss to Weili Zhang in the UFC Fight Night 157 headliner in Shenzhen, China on Aug. 31. The Brazilian’s willingness to engage ultimately cost her when Zhang clipped her with a right hook and unloaded with knees, elbows and punches in close quarters for a surprisingly quick finish. That ends a four-bout winning streak for “Bate Estaca,” who was coming off consecutive knockout wins over Rose Namajunas and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
6. 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. After taking some time off, Namajunas has elected against calling it a career and is targeting an Octagon return in the first quarter of 2020.
7. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-3)After a false alarm involving a weight-cut scare earlier in the week, Jedrzejczyk was her usual dominant self come fight night at UFC Tampa, cruising to a unanimous verdict against a game Michelle Waterson on Oct. 12. Whether it was with crisp combinations and leg kicks at range or knees and elbows in the clinch, the Polish star was in top form in earning her second consecutive triumph at 115 pounds. Jedrzejczyk will attempt to recapture the strawweight crown when she locks horns with Weili Zhang at UFC 248 on March 7.
8. Germaine de Randamie (9-4)De Randamie certainly had her moments against Amanda Nunes at UFC 245, but a lack of consistent takedown defense ultimately proved to be her undoing. “The Iron Lady” had some success on the feet and even threatened with a few submissions, but she was largely controlled on the canvas in losing a unanimous decision at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. As long as she’s active, the Dutchwoman figures to remain a top contender, as her only two defeats in nine bouts since 2012 have come at the hands of Nunes.
9. 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 will face her biggest test since Ronda Rousey when she defends her 145-pound belt against new signee Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 25.
10. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0)Macfarlane was rarely threatened in her latest title defense, as she cruised to a unanimous decision over Kate Jackson in the Bellator 236 headliner at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. Macfarlane was on the verge of a finish in the fourth and fifth rounds, but Jackson relied on her tenacity to survive until the final bell. Macfarlane now has four successful championship defenses to her credit since winning the inaugural 125-pound belt in November 2017. Interesting future challenges loom in the form of streaking flyweight Juliana Velasquez along with recently-signed training partner — and two-division UFC title challenger — Liz Carmouche.
Other Contenders: Tatiana Suarez, Ayaka Hamasaki, Holly Holm, Nina Ansaroff, Seo Hee Ham.
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, Edward Carbajal, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Keith Shillan, Mike Sloan, Patrick Auger and Tyler Treese.