Sherdog’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

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Xiaonan Yan picked the perfect moment to hit her stride as a UFC strawweight contender.

“Fury” made a major statement at UFC 288 on Saturday, knocking out former Ultimate Fighting Championship strawweight queen Jessica Andrade in the first round. It was her first stoppage win in the UFC, and was impressive not only for that distinction, but for how she accomplished it and against whom: Yan calmly withstood the customary berserker assault of one of the most frightening hitters in the sport, dropped her with a single well-placed counter and then finished the job with accurate follow-up strikes.

The win could hardly have come at a more opportune time, as Yan benefits from the current chaotic-yet-stagnant state of the UFC strawweight division and may well lead to a title shot against her countrywoman, UFC champ Weili Zhang. In any case, the stunning finish of a longtime pound-for-pound stalwart allows the 33-year-old to take Andrade’s No. 10 spot in these rankings.

Note: Previous rankings listed in brackets.

1. Amanda Nunes (22-5) | UFC [1]

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 arguably the top pound-for-pound female talent in the sport. A trilogy fight against Julianna Pena will serve as the headliner for UFC 289.

2. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (26-2, 1 NC) | Bellator [2]

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” has earned a pair of victories as a professional boxer.

3. Alexa Grasso (16-3) | UFC [3]

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 [4]

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 [5]

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 [6]

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. That won’t come until 2024, as Esparza recently revealed that she is awaiting the birth of her first child.

7. Rose Namajunas (11-5) | UFC [7]

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 (19-7) | Bellator [8]

Down 3-0 on the scorecards in her rematch against DeAnna Bennett, Carmouche showed her mettle with a fourth-round submission victory in the Bellator 294 headliner in Honolulu. Though her opponent missed weight, Carmouche risked vacating the 125-pound strap had she suffered an upset loss. Instead, “Girl-Rilla” has won six consecutive fights since signing with Bellator MMA. Next on the agenda could be a title defense against friend and Team Hurricane Awesome training partner Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.

9. Erin Blanchfield (11-1) UFC [9]

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 the top of the division. It’s possible that her opportunity won’t come until after Valentina Shevchenko gets a rematch against new flyweight queen Alexa Grasso, however.

10. Xiaonan Yan (18-3, 1 NC) | UFC [NR]

Yan picked up the biggest victory of her career at UFC 288, stunning former champ Jessica Andrade with a huge right hand and follow-up ground strikes in the first round. Yan’s first knockout win in the UFC could not have come at a more opportune time, as most of the rest of the promotion’s top strawweights are either coming off losses, have already fought champ Weili Zhang, or are pregnant—or all three, in the case of Carla Esparza. “Fury” looks to be in an excellent position to navigate the 115-pound traffic jam, and the UFC’s first ever all-Chinese title fight may become a reality at some point in 2023.

Other Contenders: Jessica Andrade, Julianna Pena, Seika Izawa, Raquel Pennington, Seo Hee Ham.

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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