Sherdog’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

John Brannigan/Sherdog.com illustration

It’s the end of an era—at least for now—in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings.

Approximately one year ago, Amanda Nunes announced her retirement following a lopsided beating of Irene Aldana in the UFC 289 headliner. Outside of an upset loss to Julianna Pena that she later avenged, “Lioness” had been virtually unstoppable for nearly a decade, winning 14 of her 15 Octagon appearances dating back to 2015. While retirements almost never last in MMA, Nunes has remained on the sidelines since her announcement, and her one-year absence mandates her exit from the pound-for-pound rankings. Nunes may not be completely done, however. With Kayla Harrison’s recent emergence at 135 pounds, perhaps the Brazilian might be tempted to return to active competition for yet another legacy-building fight.

Meanwhile, Carla Esparza also bids farewell to the pound-for-pound poll. The UFC’s inaugural strawweight queen hasn’t fought since a submission loss to Weili Zhang in November 2022. That hiatus was due primarily to Esparza becoming a parent, but with no return on the horizon, “Cookie Monster” also exits the rankings. As a result, longtime former No. 1 Cristiane Justino regains the top spot, and just in time for a looming showdown with pound-for-pound cohort Larissa Pacheco under the PFL/Bellator banner.

Note: Previous rankings listed in brackets.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.”

5. 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.

6. 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. Carmouche will attempt to extend her winning streak to nine in a rematch against Kana Watanabe at PFL 4.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Raquel Pennington (16-8) | UFC [11]

Persistence paid off for Pennington, who became a champion 18 bouts into her promotional tenure with a grinding five-round verdict against Mayra Bueno Silva in the UFC 297 co-main event. “Rocky” wore her opponent down with a superior gas tank and grueling clinch work, earning her sixth consecutive UFC triumph in the process. A title defense against Julianna Pena — or promotional newcomer Kayla Harrison — could be next for Pennington.

10. Seika Izawa (13-0) | Rizin [12]

Izawa captured the Deep Jewels atomweight title with a second-round ninja choke submission of Si Yoon Park at Deep Jewels 44 on March 24 at New Pier Hall in Tokyo. With the victory — her fourth straight via submission — Izawa claimed her third championship belt and continues to solidify herself as one of the sport’s most impressive lighter weight female fighters

Other Contenders: Xiaonan Yan, Larissa Pacheco, Kayla Harrison.Tatiana Suarez, Jessica Andrade

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 and Robert Sargent.


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