Sherdog’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

Image: John Brannigan/Sherdog.com illustration

Some might say that Weili Zhang won twice at UFC 300.

After it appeared that Zhang choked Xiaonan Yan unconscious at the end of the first round in their strawweight title bout, the fight was allowed to continue. While that might have thrown a lesser fighter off course, “Magnum” dug in and battled her way to a unanimous decision triumph. The victory was not without adversity — Zhang was knocked down in Round 3 — but the reigning champion was largely in control the rest of way. That makes five victories in 115-pound title bouts for Zhang, the second most in promotion history behind only former foil Joanna Jedrzejczyk. As a result, the Chinese standout remains a solid No. 4 in the latest women’s pound-for-pound poll.

Elsewhere, Kayla Harrison was completely dominant in her Octagon debut, as she submitted former bantamweight queen Holly Holm in the second round of their UFC 300 pairing. If Harrison can continue to make 135 pounds on a consistent basis, she’ll be a nightmare matchup for the rest of the weight class. As it is, her success across two divisions allows her to take the No. 15 spot in these rankings.

Note: Previous rankings listed in brackets.

1. Amanda Nunes (23-5) | UFC [1]

Nunes was rarely threatened in a lopsided unanimous decision triumph over Irene Aldana in the UFC 289 headliner, and she capped off that performance by announcing her retirement from mixed martial arts. “Lioness” exits the sport as a two-division champion and arguably the most accomplished female fighter of all-time with a resume that includes wins over the likes of Cristiane Justino, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Germaine de Randamie and Julianna Pena. While Nunes leaves a potential trilogy with Pena on the table, she really had nothing left to accomplish in a decorated career. If her retirement holds up, Nunes’ rankings eligibility will expire on June 10, 2024.

2. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (27-2, 1 NC) | Bellator [2]

“Cyborg” turned away another challenger with ease, as Cat Zingano found herself outstruck and outwrestled before succumbing to a torrent of ground-and-pound in the first round of their co-headlining tilt at Bellator 300. The win was Justino’s fifth straight in Bellator and sixth since her shocking knockout loss to Amanda Nunes almost five years ago. With Professional Fighters League’s recent purchase of Bellator, Justino appears to be on a collision course with Larissa Pacheco after Kayla Harrison signed with the UFC.

3. Alexa Grasso (16-3-1) | UFC [3]

Grasso proved she was no fluke in the UFC Fight Night 227 headliner, as she battled Valentina Shevchenko tooth-and-nail for five rounds at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The end result was a split draw that provided little in the way of closure for either woman, but it does allow Grasso to keep her flyweight crown for at least one more defense. Grasso will coach against Shevchenko on “The Ultimate Fighter 32,” setting the stage for their trilogy later in 2024.

4. Weili Zhang (25-3) | UFC [4]

While Zhang was potentially robbed of a first-round finish against Xiaonan Yan in the UFC 300 co-main event, the reigning flyweight queen was undeterred, as she kept her focus and rolled to a five-round verdict over her Chinese rival. “Magnum” now has five victories in UFC title bouts to her credit — second most in strawweight history — and she remains head and shoulders above the rest of the contenders in the division. However, Zhang could use another boost like the one she received from her first fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2020 to raise her star profile to another level.

5. Valentina Shevchenko (23-4-1) | UFC [5]

Shevchenko displayed a champion’s resolve in her rematch with Alexa Grasso at UFC Fight Night 227, but a split draw kept “Bullet” from regaining the title she held for more than four years. To her credit, Shevchenko rebounded from being dropped for the first time in her UFC tenure in the second round to author a strong performance behind a stiff jab, solid wrestling and positional control. Shevchenko is expected to receive a trilogy bout against her Mexican rival after coaching opposite Grasso on “The Ultimate Fighter 32.”

6. Manon Fiorot (12-1) | UFC [6]

Fiorot relied on her physical advantages at UFC on ESPN 54, as she cruised to a unanimous decision triumph over Erin Blanchfield in the evening’s main event at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Fiorot’s winning streak now stands at seven, and while it wasn’t an especially enthralling performance, it’s hard to deny the Frenchwoman her place as the division’s No. 1 contender. However, Fiorot might have to wait until Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko square off for a third time after coaching on “The Ultimate Fighter 32” — or even longer than that, depending on the result of their trilogy.

7. Carla Esparza (19-7) | UFC [7]

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 gave birth to her first child in September.

8. Liz Carmouche (21-7) | PFL [8]

Carmouche effectively ended her longstanding rivalry with Juliana Velasquez at PFL 1, taking a unanimous verdict in San Antonio on April 4 to improve to 3-0 against the Brazilian veteran. With a victory in her first-ever PFL regular season appearance, “Girl-Rilla” figures to be one of the favorites in the flyweight field moving forward. Meanwhile, it is unclear if Carmouche — who has won eight straight fights — will remain 125-pound champ in Bellator MMA while she competes in the PFL campaign.

9. Erin Blanchfield (12-2) UFC [9]

Blanchfield appeared to be overmatched by the larger Manon Fiorot in the UFC on ESPN 54 main event, as she struggled to close the distance for 25 minutes in a clear-cut unanimous decision defeat. While Blanchfield deserves credit for staying in her opponent’s face until the final horn, the Elmwood Park, New Jersey native missed out on a golden opportunity to assert herself as the division’s No. 1 contender. Instead, “Cold Blooded” has more questions to answer after seeing her six-bout winning streak come to an end.

10. Rose Namajunas (12-6) | UFC [10]

Namajunas returned to the win column in the UFC on ESPN 53 main event, as she outworked Amanda Ribas for five rounds in a unanimous decision triumph at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. In addition to earning her first career victory at 125 pounds, the former strawweight champion bounces back from a discouraging loss to Manon Fiorot in her flyweight debut.

Other Contenders: Raquel Pennington, Seika Izawa, Xiaonan Yan, Larissa Pacheco, Kayla Harrison.

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, Marcelo Alonso, Keith Shillan, Tyler Treese, Sayan Nag, Abhishek Nambiar, David Andrew and Robert Sargent.


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