Stock Up, Stock Down: Pound-for-Pound Rankings After UFC 256
The official UFC rankings are a farce. That sounds harsh, but it's the truth.
The entire system seems to be predicated on the whims and fancies of the voting panelists, many of whom don't even appear to closely follow mixed martial arts. There is no consistency in terms of what happens when a ranked fighter changes weight classes or retires. There is legitimate evidence that suggests the UFC nudges its panelists in the directions it deems most suitable. The promotion even mistakenly moved Conor McGregor from No. 12 to No. 1 this week—though it was quick to correct this blunder. The list of issues goes on and on and on.
We here at Bleacher Report are tired of it and have decided to take a stand by creating our own UFC pound-for-pound lists: one list for men and another for women.
We will update our pound-for-pound rankings after each UFC pay-per-view and, with a little luck, bring some order to the chaotic world of mixed martial arts.
Without further ado, here are the new B/R Pound-for-Pound UFC Rankings after Saturday's thrilling UFC 256 card out of the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada—the promotion’s final pay-per-view offering of the year.
Men: No. 10-6
10. Petr Yan
9. Max Holloway
8. Deiveson Figueiredo
7. Justin Gaethje
6. Dustin Poirier
There’s only been one change to the bottom half of our men’s pound-for-pound rankings, but it’s a significant one, and it’s bound to stir up some controversy.
After watching UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo defend his title with a hard-fought majority draw against Brandon Moreno in the UFC 256 main event, we decided to move him ahead one spot, to No. 8, which pushed former featherweight champ Max Holloway down to No. 9.
We were compelled to do this for a few reasons. First, because by battling Moreno for five frenetic rounds, Figueiredo showed a new layer of his game: championship cardio. We already knew he was a world-class finisher, but now we know he's got the gas tank to go the distance on the rare occasions that the finish doesn’t materialize. Second, the Moreno draw was Figueiredo’s second successful title defense in the span of a month, as he also choked out Alex Perez at UFC 255 in November. He’s performing at the highest level of the sport, and he’s doing it with jaw-dropping frequency. Throw in the fact that Holloway has fought just twice in the last year, and that he lost both of those fights to reigning UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski, and this switcheroo just made sense to us. Of course, Holloway could conceivably regain some ground if he defeats Calvin Kattar in impressive fashion on January 16. Time will tell.
Other than Figueiredo and Holloway’s switch, there have been no changes to the bottom half of our men’s pound-for-pound rankings. The outermost spot is still populated UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan, while seven and eight are held by lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier respectively.
On that note, we’ll quickly address Poirier’s position on this list. In the comments on our last pound-for-pound rankings update, some people objected to his holding the No. 6 spot, but we’re sticking to our guns. He has recent wins over two other pound-for-pounders in Gaethje and Holloway, and has only lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov—who might well hold our No. 1 spot had he not retired in October—in the last four years. He deserves the spot he’s got.
Disagree? We can put some gloves on and settle it on the Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul undercard.
Men: No. 5-1
5. Alexander Volkanovski
4. Stipe Miocic
3. Israel Adesanya
2. Kamaru Usman
1. Jon Jones
We’ll start by addressing something that anyone who didn’t read our post-UFC 254 rankings update likely missed: because Khabib Nurmagomedov retired after he defeated Justin Gaethje, he’s no longer eligible for our rankings. If he officially withdraws his retirement announcement or signs a contract to fight, he’ll regain his position, but as long as he’s retired, he’s out. This is a hard and fast rule here a B/R, and the same one that caused Daniel Cormier’s exit from our list back in August.
With that covered, let's move on.
With Nurmagomedov ineligible for our pound-for-pound rankings, former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones remains safe and sound at No. 1, and he could reaffirm that position if he starts collecting wins at heavyweight, which we know to be his plan. We like fighters who achieve success in multiple weight classes.
Our No. 2-5 spots are also unchanged since our last update, and are held by UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya, UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic and UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski respectively. Of these champions, only Usman has a fight scheduled. That being said, Adesanya is expected to challenge UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in a bid for a second title early in 2021. If he wins that fight, the No. 2 spot is as good as his.
Women: No. 10-6
10. Katlyn Chookagian
9. Holly Holm
8. Tatiana Suarez
7. Germaine de Randamie
6. Jessica Andrade
The bottom end of our women’s pound-for-pound rankings has not changed after UFC 256.
Despite defeating Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 255 in November, Katlyn Chookagian remains in our No. 10 spot. While her win over Calvillo—an upset, if you ask the oddsmakers—was commendable, it was a definite snooze-inducer, and flatly not enough to move her past former UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm, who is still gripping the No. 9 spot after a lopsided decision defeat of Irene Aldana in October.
Our No. 8 spot is still held by Tatiana Suarez, but her prolonged stretch of inactivity since June, 2019 is making it harder to justify her position on this list. If the 29-year-old doesn't fight by June of 2021—the two year mark—we'll be forced to remove her altogether. For the moment, though, she's keeping her spot because there's simply no denying she's one of the best in the world.
At No. 7, we have former UFC featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie, who is riding a big win over Julianna Pena. That victory was almost enough to push her into our No. 6 spot. Unfortunately for her, our No. 6 fighter, former UFC strawweight champ Jessica Andrade, recently cemented her position with a devastating first-round drubbing of the aforementioned Chookagian at flyweight. She also gets bonus points for performing well in multiple weight classes.
Women: No. 5-1
5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
4. Rose Namajunas
3. Weili Zhang
1. Amanda Nunes
Our women’s top-5 is unchanged since our last update, but there are a couple of things we want to note.
We’ll start with our No. 5 fighter: former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Jedrzejczyk, who has not fought since she lost a split division to reigning strawweight champ Weili Zhang in March, nearly lost her spot in our top-5 to Andrade—a woman she holds a win over—on the basis of her prolonged inactivity. However, we decided continue holding off on this switch for one reason. Allow us to explain.
While Jedrzejczyk has made it very clear that she’s not retired, the Polish star has also emphasized that she won't be taking another fight until she’s able to resume training at American Top Team in South Florida—not an easy thing to do thanks to the travel restrictions of the COVID-19 era. That gave us the impression that it could be a long time before Jedrzejczyk makes it back to the Octagon, but just when we were about to eighty-six her from the top-5, she touched down on US soil and got back to training ATT. It’s far from an official fight announcement, but it’s a step toward that end, so for now, she remains at No. 5.
Our No. 4 spot still belongs to two-time Jedrzejczyk foil Rose Namajunas, who is riding an impressive decision win over our No. 6 fighter, Andrade. She is expected to get the next crack at UFC strawweight champion Zhang, and she will absolutely move up this list with a win in that fight.
Zhang, while we’re on the subject, is our No. 3 fighter. While she has not fought since March, when she narrowly escaped the Octagon with her title after a war with Jedrzejczyk, that’s not really her fault, as the pandemic has seemingly made it very difficult for her to leave her native China. Furthermore, it looks increasingly likely that her long-rumored title defense against Namajunas will happen quite soon, so for the moment, her inactivity is no cause for concern with respect to her position on this list.
Our No. 2 spot is still held by UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. While the official UFC rankings had Shevchenko ranked behind Zhang for many months, we’ve always viewed her as the more accomplished and better proven fighter. After her lopsided decision win over Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 last month, the UFC finally followed our lead and moved her ahead of Zhang, and we’re glad to see it. Sometimes, logic prevails.
With our No. 2 fighter covered, let’s move on to the No. 1 spot, which to nobody's surprise, is held by Amanda Nunes.
The Brazilian, 32, holds the UFC featherweight and bantamweight titles in a vice-like grip and has defeated every other woman to hold UFC titles in either division. For those with short memories, that includes De Randamie, Holm, Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Throw in her two decision wins over the aforementioned Shevchenko, and her status as MMA's pound-for-pound queen is irrefutable.
While her planned UFC 256 featherweight title defense against Megan Anderson has unfortunately been nixed, she remains truly unimpeachable atop this list. The only way she loses her No. 1 spot is if she loses, or if Shevchenko and Zhang move mountains.