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No matter where Cristiane Justino has gone, she has displayed a knack for bringing home championship hardware.
“Cyborg” brought her usual brand of violence to the Bellator 238 headliner on Saturday night, capturing the featherweight crown with a fourth-round stoppage of Julia Budd at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The Brazilian can add the Bellator belt to a trophy case that already includes titles from the UFC, Invicta FC and Strikeforce. While Justino was impressive in halting Budd’s 11-bout winning streak, she remains entrenched at No. 3 in our latest pound-for-pound poll behind Amanda Nunes – the last person to beat her – and UFC flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko.
Budd, meanwhile, falls one spot to 10th behind Bellator flyweight queen Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who has yet to taste defeat in 11 professional appearances.
In other recent action, Seo Hee Ham vanquished Ayaka Hamasaki on Year’s Eve to claim the No. 12 spot on the bubble. Hamasaki falls one spot to 13, while Holly Holm, who took a grinding verdict over Raquel Pennington, also falls one place to 14th.
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 (22-2, 1 NC)Justino looked quite comfortable in her new home, as she overwhelmed Julia Budd for a fourth-round technical knockout victory in the Bellator 238 headliner at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 25. The victory gives “Cyborg” championships in four major organizations over the course of her career – Bellator, UFC, Invicta FC and Strikeforce – and re-affirms her position as one of the greatest female mixed martial artists of all time. As has been the case throughout her career, the heavy-handed Brazilian could soon find the pickings slim when it comes to challengers in Bellator’s 145-pound division.
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. Andrade will face Namajunas in a rematch at UFC 249.
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 seemed as though the 26-year-old was leaning toward an early retirement. After taking some time off, Namajunas has elected against calling it a career will return to the Octagon in a rematch with Andrade at UFC 249 on April 18.
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. 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.
10. Julia Budd (13-3)Budd tasted defeat for the first time since November 2011, falling to Cristiane Justino via fourth-round technical knockout in the Bellator 238 main event at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif, on Jan. 25. While “The Jewel” was able to remain competitive early on thanks to her size and strength, she eventually wilted under “Cyborg’s” trademark offensive pressure. Considering her dominance in the division prior to Justino’s arrival, it’s not unreasonable to think that Budd could earn herself a rematch in relatively short order. Regardless, Budd’s losses are just about as impressive as it gets in women’s MMA: Justino, Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes.
Other Contenders: Tatiana Suarez, Seo Hee Ham, Ayaka Hamasaki, Holly Holm, Nina Ansaroff.
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.