Sherdog’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10
John Brannigan/Sherdog.com illustration
For the second time in a little more than a year, the women’s pound-for-pound hierarchy has been disrupted with a stunning upset.
Alexa Grasso shocked the world at UFC 285 with her fourth-round submission of Valentina Shevchenko, who had looked largely invincible during her dominant reign as flyweight champion. Like Julianna Pena before her, Grasso makes a significant leap into the pound-for-pound rankings as a result — joining the poll at No. 3 after a career defining win.
While Amanda Nunes was able to eventually avenge her loss to Pena in a rematch last year, only time will tell if Shevchenko will have the same opportunity against Grasso. To her credit, Grasso seemed more than willing to grant Shevchenko an immediate return date given her impressive run of excellence at 125 pounds. Whether that pairing comes to fruition — or Grasso is given a new challenger such as Erin Blanchfield — remains to be seen.
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. 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. n the meantime, “Cyborg” has earned a pair of victories as a professional boxer.
3. Alexa Grasso (16-3) | UFC [NR]Those who were looking ahead to Valentina Shevchenko’s next title defense against Erin Blanchfield obviously forgot about Grasso. The Mexican standout authored what figures to be one of the biggest upsets of 2023, as she submitted Shevchenko in the fourth-round of their co-headlining encounter at UFC 285. Grasso extends her own winning streak to five and becomes the third female flyweight title holder in UFC history. Considering Shevchenko’s previous dominance, an immediate rematch could be in store for Grasso’s first title defense.
4. Valentina Shevchenko (23-4) | UFC Shevchenko lost in stunning fashion at UFC 285, falling victim to a face crank from Alexa Grasso after missing the mark on an ill-advised spinning back kick in the fourth-round of their co-main event encounter. Given Shevchenko’s struggles against Taila Santos in her previous outing, perhaps her fall against Grasso shouldn’t be so surprising. Regardless, “Bullet’s” dominance at 125 pounds will likely warrant another championship opportunity — perhaps in a rematch with Grasso — in the near future.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
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. Carmouche will look to make her second successful title defense against Justine Kish at Bellator 294
9. Erin Blanchfield (11-1) UFC While Blanchfield has been on the radar as a future contender for some time now, her ascent to the top of the flyweight division accelerated following a second-round submission of Jessica Andrade in the UFC Fight Night 219 headliner. With five consecutive victories in UFC competition — including three via submission — “Cold Blooded” appears to be a serious threat to Valentina Shevchenko at just 23 years old. She’ll be an interested observer when Shevchenko defends her 125-pound belt against Alexa Grasso at UFC 285.
10. Jessica Andrade (24-10) | UFC Andrade’s decision to accept a short-notice fight against Erin Blanchfield backfired, as she was submitted in the second round of their flyweight headliner at UFC Fight Night 219. That halts any momentum the Brazilian might have hoped to build at 125 pounds on the heels of a victory over Lauren Murphy at UFC 283. However, Andrade still has options at strawweight, where she will return for a clash with Xiaonan Yan at UFC 288.
Other Contenders: Julianna Pena, Seika Izawa, Raquel Pennington, Seo Hee Ham, Manon Fiorot.
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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