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Valentina Shevchenko continues to roll through the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s female flyweight division.
“Bullet” lost a round against Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 but was otherwise in complete control as she cruised to a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph in Saturday’s co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. That makes five victories in title bouts and nine UFC triumphs overall for Shevchenko, who ranks among the sport’s best in both categories — and is entrenched at No. 2 in Sherdog.com's pound-for-pound rankings. The 32-year-old Kyrgyzstan native remains focused on cleaning out her division, and potential matchups against Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy could be next for the reigning 125-pound queen.
Note: Previous ranking in parentheses.
1. Amanda Nunes (20-4) Nunes was completely dominant against Felicia Spencer in the UFC 250 headliner, winning a lopsided unanimous verdict that wasn’t as close as the judges’ scorecards (50-44, 50-44, 50-45) indicated. That makes 11 consecutive triumphs for Nunes, who joins Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo as the only three fighters to successfully defend UFC titles in two different weight classes. “Lioness” was supposed to return for another 145-pound title defense against Megan Anderson at UFC 256 on Dec. 12 but was forced to withdraw from the bout due to undisclosed reasons.
2. Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) It’s gotten to the point where if Shevchenko loses a round, her opponent can claim a moral victory. Although Jennifer Maia banked the second frame in their co-main event bout at UFC 255, the rest of the contest was all Shevchenko, as “Bullet” cruised to a clear-cut unanimous decision title to retain her flyweight crown. Shevchenko has won six straight fights since moving to 125 pounds and now eyes a showdown against either Jessica Andrade or Lauren Murphy.
3. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (23-2, 1 NC) Justino’s first featherweight title defense in Bellator was a breeze, as she dominated Arlene Blencowe en route to a rear-naked choke victory in the second round of the Bellator 249 headliner — the first submission triumph of the powerful Brazilian’s MMA career. “Cyborg” has won three straight contests since her upset loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 and appears poised for a dominant reign as 145-pound champ in the California-based promotion.
4. Weili Zhang (21-1) One bout removed from a 42-second stoppage of Jessica Andrade, Zhang showcased an ability to prevail in a battle of attrition, as she outdueled Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a five-round classic to retain the strawweight crown in the UFC 248 co-main event. Zhang extended her winning streak to 21 thanks to superior punching power that left a grotesque hematoma on Jedrzejczyk’s forehead. Zhang’s victory was all the more impressive considering that her camp was altered due to coronavirus concerns in her homeland of China. Zhang and Jedrzejczyk could be destined for a rematch down the road, but it will be difficult to top their first meeting, which ranks as perhaps the greatest female fight of all-time.
5. Rose Namajunas (9-4) A devastating slam KO defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 had Namajunas contemplating retirement, but ultimately “Thug” Rose decided against calling it a career. The former champion made a triumphant return to the Octagon at UFC 251, where she racked up on early lead on the scorecards and held off a hard-charging Andrade down the stretch for a split-decision triumph at “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi. While a trilogy with Andrade could be in store someday, Namajunas likely earned herself a shot at reigning 115-pound champion Weili Zhang.
6. Jessica Andrade (21-8) Andrade became the first woman to earn victories in three different weight classes at UFC Fight Night 180, as she dispatched former flyweight title challenger Katlyn Chookagian with body punches 4:55 into the opening round of their co-main event encounter in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 17. With an impressive victory in her 125-pound debut, the former strawweight queen already looks primed for a title shot in her new weight class down the road.
7. Germaine de Randamie (10-4) De Randamie showcased a new element to her game at UFC on ESPN 16, as she submitted Julianna Pena with a guillotine choke in the third round of their bantamweight encounter at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 3. It was the first submission victory ever for the Dutch kickboxer, who rebounded from a five-round defeat to Amanda Nunes in a title bout at UFC 245 last December. De Randamie has won six of her eight promotional appearances, with her only two defeats both coming at the hands of Nunes.
8. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4) Jedrzejczyk was all heart at UFC 248. Despite being left nearly unrecognizable by the end of her co-headlining bout with Weili Zhang, the Polish star never kept pressing the action in the strawweight championship clash. Although she outlanded her foe in significant strikes, Jedrzejczyk wasn’t as powerful as the Chinese champion in striking exchanges and came up just short in a split-decision defeat. Once one of the sport’s most dominant champions, Jedrzejczyk only raised her stock despite falling to 6-4 in UFC title fights.
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. Macfarlane go for defense No. 5 against Juliana Velasquez at Bellator 254 on Dec. 10.
10. Julia Budd (14-3) When she’s not facing Cristiane Justino, Budd is still just about as dominant as they come. The former featherweight champion was rarely threatened by Jessy Miele at Bellator 244, as she swept the scorecards in convincing fashion at Mohegan Sun Arena on Aug. 21. Few 145-pounders are a physical match for Budd, who has won 12 of her last 13 professional appearances. As long as “Cyborg” is champion, it may take another victory or two for Budd to get another shot at the belt.
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, Tudor Leonte, Keith Shillan, Mike Sloan, Tyler Treese and Lev Pisarsky.
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