The Pound-for-Pound Best Women in MMA Today

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

The Pound-for-Pound Best Women in MMA Today

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    With the growth of women's MMA, more and more viable competitors are emerging thanks to promotions like Invicta FC, XFC and the UFC.

    Obviously, the bantamweight division is the most popular, as it is the only weight class carried by the UFC. It has given us early stars such as Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano.

    With that, let's take a look at the pound-for-pound best women in MMA right now.

10. Carla Esparza

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    Record: 9-2

    Weight Class: Strawweight

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Bec Hyatt

    Next Fight: vs. Claudia Gadelha at TBD Invicta event

    Invicta strawweight champion Carla Esparza is one of the few elite women in the sport with an extensive wrestling background. She was a women's All-American at Menlo College, a great accomplishment for "The Cookie Monster."

    Her only career losses are to the top two strawweights in Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii, the latter of whom is retiring in October. That being said, Esparza is 3-0 in Invicta with dominant wins over Sarah Schneider, Lynn Alvarez and Bec Hyatt.

9. Jessica Eye

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    Record: 10-1

    Weight Class: Flyweight/Bantamweight

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Carina Damm

    Next Fight: vs. Sarah Kaufman at UFC 166

    One of the best flyweights in the world now enters the UFC as a bantamweight, a path many women will have to take if they want to fight in the top promotion.

    She hasn't lost since 2011, and since then she has defeated notables Angela Magana, Zoila Gurgel and Carina Damm. She has a combination of technical striking and submission prowess.

    She will make her UFC debut in October against Sarah Kaufman.

8. Sarah Kaufman

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    Record: 16-2

    Weight Class: Bantamweight

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Leslie Smith

    Next Fight: vs. Jessica Eye at UFC 166

    There are few women, if any, who have the technical boxing that Sarah Kaufman has. It has led her to the 16-2 record she holds today.

    Her only two losses came by submission to featherweight Marloes Coenen and UFC champ Ronda Rousey. Other than that, she has defeated some top competition in Leslie Smith, Alexis Davis, Liz Carmouche, Shayna Baszler and Miesha Tate.

    She welcomes Jessica Eye to the UFC in October in her first UFC bout as well.

7. Sara McMann

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    Record: 7-0

    Weight Class: Bantamweight

    Last Fight: TKO win vs. Sheila Gaff

    Next Fight: TBD

    If Carla Esparza had elite wrestling in MMA, Sara McMann has super-elite wrestling chops. The Olympic wrestling silver medalist is yet to have a blemish on her record, outwrestling her foes in mostly dominant fashion.

    She has not had an easy path early on in her MMA career. In fact, she has mowed down top opponents such as Shayna Baszler, Hitomi Akano, Tonya Evinger and Sheila Gaff, whom she faced in her UFC debut.

    She was scheduled to make her UFC return against Sarah Kaufman last month, but she was unable to compete.

6. Barb Honchak

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    Record: 8-2

    Weight Class: Flyweight

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Vanessa Porto

    Next Fight: vs. Leslie Smith at TBD Invicta event

    The women's flyweight division may be one of the least spotlighted divisions in WMMA. With that, women like Barb Honchak don't get the credit they deserve.

    Honchak hasn't lost since 2010 and hasn't lost in Invicta, where she is the champion. During her 3-0 run in Invicta, she has taken out Bethany Marshall, Aisling Daly and Vanessa Porto.

    She has great striking and a refined ground game, so she will be tough to defeat at this point.

5. Michelle Waterson

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    Record: 11-3

    Weight Class: Atomweight

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Jessica Penne

    Next Fight: TBD

    "The Karate Hottie" is the atomweight champion of Invicta, something achieved by beating some of the best 105ers the company has to offer.

    Having not lost since 2009, Waterson gained notoriety from Bully Beatdown, but she quickly showed fans she was a legit mixed martial artist. Her journey in Invicta saw her defeat Lacey Schuckman before taking the title off Jessica Penne.

    She may be small, but she punches and kicks like a male welterweight.

4. Cat Zingano

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    Record: 8-0

    Weight Class: Bantamweight

    Last Fight: TKO win vs. Miesha Tate

    Next Fight: TBD

    Had it not been for her knee injury, we would have seen Cat Zingano coaching opposite Ronda Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter 18.

    I stated last year that Zingano was the hottest-rising fighter in the bantamweight division, which she proved by beating Raquel Pennington and Miesha Tate. Her striking has improved, but it is her ground game that is the crowning piece of her arsenal.

3. Jessica Aguilar

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    Record: 15-4

    Weight Class: Strawweight

    Last Fight: Decision win vs. Patricia Vidonic

    Next Fight: vs. Megumi Fujii at Vale Tudo Japan 3rd

    Jessica Aguilar took a loss back in 2010, but since then she has been on a different level than the people she has fought. She took this spot when she knocked off Megumi Fujii back in May of last year.

    Aguilar loves the ground, which is where she takes her foes in most of her bouts. It's no surprise, as most of her wins come via submission.

    Next month, she rematches Fujii in the Japanese legend's retirement match.

2. Cris "Cyborg" Justino

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    Record: 12-1

    Weight Class: Featherweight

    Last Fight: TKO win vs. Marloes Coenen

    Next Fight: TBD

    The only featherweight on this list, Cris Justino has been a buzzsaw that almost no woman can withstand. The only woman to beat her is Erica Paes, which happened long, long ago in a place far, far away.

    Justino is the Invicta 145-pound champ after she dismantled the ultra-tough Marloes Coenen for the title. Her strikes rival men 50 pounds heavier than her, which is why she is taking a Muay Thai fight in the meanwhile while waiting for a fight with Invicta.

    Not too many people are eager to bang with this monster.

1. Ronda Rousey

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    Record: 7-0

    Weight Class: Bantamweight

    Last Fight: Submission win vs. Liz Carmouche

    Next Fight: vs. Miesha Tate at UFC 168

    Few in the sport of MMA are as polarizing as Ronda Rousey. However, she has proved to be the best woman around.

    Rousey's formula to victory is simple: Takedown, armbar, rinse and repeat. All seven of her wins have come via that method, and the only time she has ever been in trouble was against Liz Carmouche.

    She will rematch Miesha Tate in December, whose arm has already been mangled by the UFC poster girl.