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Jessica Andrade was frightening in her brutality.
“Bate Estaca” submitted an early candidate for 2023 “Beatdown of the Year” at UFC 283, as she battered Lauren Murphy for three lopsided rounds in their flyweight clash on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. After the victory, the Brazilian indicated that a return to 115 pounds is in the cards, as she called for a rematch with reigning strawweight title holder Weili Zhang.
Only time will tell whether that request comes to fruition, but what remains clear is that Andrade is the quintessential definition of a pound-for-pound stalwart with triumphs in three different divisions and notable wins over the likes of Rose Namajunas, Larissa Pacheco and Raquel Pennington over the course of her career. For now, Andrade stays put at No. 7 in the women’s pound-for-pound poll, but rematches with the likes of Namajunas or Zhang could give her an opportunity to improve that status in the coming months.
Note: Previous rankings listed in brackets.
1. Amanda Nunes (22-5) | UFC Nunes silenced the doubters in emphatic fashion in the UFC 277 headliner, as she captured a convincing unanimous decision triumph against Julianna Pena in their bantamweight championship rematch at American Airlines Arena in Dallas on July 30. Not only did “Lioness” bounce back from her shocking upset loss to Pena in 2021, but she re-established herself as a two-division title holder and the top pound-for-pound female talent in the sport. Trilogy fights against Pena or even Valentina Shevchenko remain possibilities, but Nunes could also defend one of her belts against a new contender in her next Octagon appearance.
2. Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) | UFC Shevchenko survived the most difficult title defense of her career to date, edging Taila Santos via split decision in the UFC 275 co-main event at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore on June 11. For much of the bout, “Bullet” struggled against her Brazilian foe in the clinch and on the mat, but the reigning flyweight queen got stronger as the fight progressed to earn her eighth victory in a UFC championship bout. Shevchenko will attempt to make her eighth successful title defense when she meets Alexa Grasso at UFC 285.
3. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (26-2, 1 NC) | Bellator It took a little bit longer than their first meeting, but “Cyborg” nonetheless improved to 2-0 against Arlene Blencowe with a unanimous decision triumph in the Bellator 279 main event at Neil S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 23. The reigning featherweight queen has won six straight since her shocking loss to Amanda Nunes in December 2018 and still looks to be head and shoulders above the 145-pound field in Bellator. A potential cross-promotion with the PFL for a superfight with Kayla Harrison would be quite intriguing, though it lost some luster when Harrison fell to Larissa Pacheco in the PFL lightweight final on Nov. 25. In the meantime, “Cyborg” enjoyed a successful professional boxing debut in September.
4. Weili Zhang (23-3) | UFC Zhang regained the strawweight throne with a second-round submission of Carla Esparza in the UFC 281 co-main event. The Chinese standout outclassed her wrestling-minded foe on the feet and on the ground and has now rebounded from back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas in 2021 with emphatic victories over Esparza and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Given their recent history, it’s possible that a trilogy with Namajunas could be in store for the Fight Ready export.
5. Carla Esparza (19-7) | UFC Esparza’s second reign as strawweight champion was as short-lived as the first, as she relinquished the crown to Weili Zhang in a second-round submission defeat in the UFC 281 co-main event. “Cookie Monster” rebuilt her career after the first title bout loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015, and it’s possible she could rise to the top again — especially if the title changes hands. After having a six-bout winning streak snapped in defeat, Esparza will be in line to face another highly ranked foe in her next outing.
6. Rose Namajunas (11-5) | UFC Namajunas gave one of the most perplexing performances by a defending champion in recent memory, as she refused to engage for the majority of 25 minutes against Carla Esparza in a split decision loss in the UFC 274 co-main event. Though Esparza didn’t do much to force the issue, the “Cookie Monster” did just enough to get the nod from two cageside judges and improve to 2-0 against “Thug Rose.” Namajunas may have new life in the division after Weili Zhang vanquished Esparza in the UFC 281 co-main event.
7. Jessica Andrade (24-9) | UFC Andrade earned a dominant victory in her return to flyweight, as she battered Lauren Murphy for three brutal rounds in a unanimous decision triumph at UFC 283. “Bate Estaca” has won four of her last five promotional outings, all while showing the ability to be successful in two different weight classes. After her latest triumph, Andrade indicated a return to strawweight is imminent, where she will pursue another championship reign through a rematch with Weili Zhang.
8. Liz Carmouche (18-7) | Bellator After a controversial stoppage tainted her championship-winning triumph over Juliana Velasquez in April, Carmouche authored a more emphatic victory in the rematch at Bellator 289, overwhelming her adversary with pressure, clinch work and takedowns en route to a second-round armbar at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. “Girl-Rilla” has won five consecutive contests since joining the California-based promotion, and her reign atop the Bellator flyweight division helps to erase the sting of failed title opportunities in two different weight classes in the UFC.
9. Julianna Pena (11-5) | UFC The fairy tale ended for Pena at UFC 277, as she was battered and dominated for five rounds in a clear-cut unanimous decision loss to Amanda Nunes in their bantamweight championship rematch at American Airlines Arena in Dallas on July 30. Pena’s grit was on full display against her “Ultimate Fighter 30” coaching counterpart, but other than a few fleeting moments of success, the fight belonged to Nunes. “The Venezuelan Vixen” remains relevant in the division thanks to her massive upset of the two-division champ at UFC 269, but it’s currently unclear if an immediate trilogy is in store.
10. Seika Izawa (9-0) | Rizin Izawa completed her run through the Rizin super atomweight grand prix on New Year’s Eve, when she garnered a hard-fought split verdict over Si Woo Park at Rizin 40 in Saitama, Japan. Izawa keeps her undefeated record intact and improves to 2-0 against Park, whom she also defeated via unanimous decision at Deep 104 Impact in October 2021. With a resume that now includes wins over Park (twice), Ayaka Hamasaki (twice) and Miki Motono (twice), the 25-year-old Tokyo native strengthens her position atop the atomweight rankings and remains one of the top females in the sport, regardless of weight class.
Other Contenders: Raquel Pennington, Seo Hee Ham, Manon Fiorot, Juliana Velasquez, Larissa Pacheco.
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, Robert Sargent, Tudor Leonte, Keith Shillan, Mike Sloan, Tyler Treese, John Brannigan and Lev Pisarsky.
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