Sherdog’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Tristen Critchfield Sep 20, 2021
John Brannigan/ illustration

Nearly nine years after their initial meeting, Ayaka Hamasaki once again got the better of Emi Fujino.

In a non-title bout on the Rizin 30 undercard, Hamasaki outpointed her rival at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Sunday night. The Japanese organization’s reigning atomweight queen has won four straight since falling to Seo Hee Ham at Rizin 20 on New Year’s Eve 2019, and with Ham now competing at 115 pounds in One Championship, is the sport’s clear-cut No. 1 at 105 pounds. That success also allows her to maintain her No. 12 ranking in's latest female pound-for-pound poll.

Meanwhile, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, previously No. 8, is removed from the pound-for-pound rankings due to more than 18 months of inactivity. The former strawweight champ hasn’t competed since her classic loss to Weili Zhang at UFC 248 and currently doesn’t have a fight on the horizon. As a result, Liz Carmouche, who could be on the verge of a flyweight title shot in Bellator MMA, joins the bubble list at No. 15.

Note: Previous ranking in parentheses.

1. Amanda Nunes (21-4) [1]

Nunes extended her winning streak to 12 at UFC 259, where she ran roughshod over Megan Anderson en route to a reverse triangle armbar submission at the 2:03 mark of Round 1. The consensus women’s GOAT now has three wins in 145-pound title bouts to her credit, but there doesn’t appear to be any worthwhile challenges in that division at the moment. “Lioness” was supposed to return to 135 pounds to defend her bantamweight crown against Julianna Pena at UFC 265 but was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19. The bout has been rescheduled for UFC 269.

2. Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) [2]

Jessica Andrade was supposed to provide Shevchenko with her most difficult test since winning the vacant flyweight crown against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December 2018. Instead, “Bullet” rolled past the Brazilian, landing seven takedowns and finishing the fight in Round 2 with elbows from the mounted crucifix position. That makes five successful title defenses and seven consecutive victories overall for Shevchenko, who will next face Lauren Murphy in the co-main event at 266 on Sept. 25.

3. Rose Namajunas (10-4) [3]

Namajunas authored perhaps the most shocking finish of anyone at UFC 261, when she floored Weili Zhang with a head kick and sealed her victory with follow-up hammerfists 1:18 into the opening round of their co-main event encounter. “Thug” Rose can now call herself a two-time UFC strawweight champion, making her the first woman in any weight class within the Las Vegas-based promotion to reclaim a title she had previously lost. Namajunas has run the gantlet in recent years, posting wins over pound-for-pound stalwarts like Zhang, Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (twice) since 2017. Up next is a rematch with Zhang at UFC 268.

4. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (24-2, 1 NC) [4]

It took a little bit longer the second time around, but the result was otherwise the same, as Justino defended her featherweight crown with a fifth-round technical knockout of Leslie Smith in the Bellator 259 headliner at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. “Cyborg” previously dispatched Smith via first-round TKO in her Octagon debut at UFC 198 in May 2016. The 35-year-old Chute Boxe representative has won four straight bouts – three in Belllator – since her upset loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 in December 2018. At the moment, Justino appears to have her sights set on a showdown with former UFC bantamweight title challenger Cat Zingano.

5. Weili Zhang (21-2) [5]

More than a year removed from her all-time classic battle with Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248, Zhang saw a 21-bout professional winning streak come to an end at the hands – or more accurately, the foot – of Rose Namajunas at UFC 261. While Zhang seemed poised for stardom prior to her head-kick knockout loss to Namajunas on April 24, the 31-year-old Chinese star shouldn’t be too far removed from contention thanks to a record that included victories in her first five Octagon appearances. Zhang will get a chance to regain the strawweight belt in a rematch against Namajunas at UFC 268.

6. Jessica Andrade (21-9) [6]

Andrade had no answers for Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 261, as she was taken down repeatedly and finished with elbows from the mounted crucifix position in the second-round of their flyweight title bout on April 24. The former strawweight champion’s next move should be interesting. She has lost three of her last four UFC appearances, including setbacks to newly-crowned strawweight queen Rose Namajunas and ex-champ Weili Zhang. Next, Andrade will square off against Cynthia Calvillo in a flyweight bout at UFC 266.

7. Germaine de Randamie (10-4) [7]

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. 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. De Randamie has won six of her eight promotional appearances, with her only two defeats both coming at the hands of Nunes. “The Iron Lady” was scheduled to meet Irene Aldana at UFC 268 before an injury forced her out of the bout.

8. Juliana Velasquez (12-0) [9]

Faced with a game challenger in Denise Kielholtz in the Bellator 262 headliner, Velasquez relied on her jab and superior reach to capture a closely-contested split-decision triumph on July 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. It was the seventh triumph for Velasquez under the Bellator banner — and arguably her most difficult to date. The 34-year-old Team Nogueira shouldn’t lack for interesting matchups in the coming month: Rematches with either Kielholtz or Ilima-Lei Macfarlane could both be appealing, as is a fresh showdown with former two-division UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche.

9. Julia Budd (15-3) [10]

It wasn’t as dominant as the majority of her performances, but Budd nonetheless added another victory to her ledger at Bellator 257, eking out promotional newcomer Dayana Silva on April 16. The former featherweight queen has been victorious in 13 of her last 14 professional appearances, with her lone defeat coming to current 145-pound champ Cristiane Justino in a title bout at Bellator 238. Budd’s latest win might not be enough to accelerate her path toward a rematch with “Cyborg.”

10. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-1) [11]

For five rounds, Macfarlane struggled to navigate the size and strength advantages of Juliana Velasquez en route to a unanimous decision loss in the Bellator 254 headliner on Dec. 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. That ended the championship reign of the Hawaiian, who captured the Bellator’s inaugural 125-pound crown and defended it four times, all while becoming one of the California-based promotion’s biggest stars. Considering those credentials, Macfarlane may not be far off from another title shot — and an immediate return date with Velasquez might not be that farfetched.

Other Contenders: Seo Hee Ham, Ayaka Hamasaki, Holly Holm, Carla Esparza, Liz Carmouche.

Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of 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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