UFC pound-for-pound fighter rankings: Charles Oliveira jumps into top three with win over Justin Gaethje

A UFC 274 card from Phoenix last weekend saw two interesting changes at the top of the male and female pound-for-pound lists.

A surprisingly passive one Rose Namajunas relinquished her women’s strawweight title against Carla Esparza in their rematch from the division’s first title fight in 2014. Meanwhile, in the main event, red-hot lightweight Charles Oliveira continued his incredible streak of finishes by sending Justin Gaethje into Round 1 despite losing his title the day before scales.

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Let’s look at the top fighters in the Octagon using a criterion that takes into account everything from achievements to current form.

For the updated divisional rankings from CBS Sports, Click here.

Men’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Kamaru Usman – Welterweight Champion (20-1)

Previous ranking: No. 1

Fresh from a 2021 Fighter of the Year campaign, Usman is nearing the goal of becoming a great player of all time. He is unbeaten in 15 UFC fights and has won a total of 19 fights in a row. Usman turns 35 in May and is expected to face Leon Edwards in a rematch in the summer.

2. Alexander Volkanovski – World Featherweight Champion (24-1)

Previous ranking: No. 2

The 145-pound wizard continues to assert his claim for P4P best after late successor Chan Sung Jung was dismantled at UFC 273. Volkanovski is unbeaten in 11 trips in the Octagon and is on the way to creating a historically relevant career resume. Next up is a trilogy match against Max Holloway on July 2nd.

3. Charles Oliveira – Lightweight Champion (33-8, 1 NC)

Previous ranking: No. 5

Though his 155-pound title is currently vacant after losing weight ahead of UFC 274, no one disputes who is the top active lightweight in the world. Oliveira extended his winning streak to 11 with an assist from Justin Gaethje in the first round. His fighting style allows for a lot of danger, but Oliveira is so practiced that nobody could pay him for it.

4. Israel Adesanya – Middleweight Champion (22-1)

Previous ranking: No. 3

Although the result was debated by some observers, Adesanya convinced the three cage judges that he had done enough to beat Robert Whittaker in their UFC 271 rematch. The win sets up an interesting title defense against the hard-hitting Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 in July.

5. Francis Ngannou – Heavyweight Champion (16-3)

Previous ranking: No. 4

Despite suffering a serious knee injury during training camp in a very public contract fight with UFC knives, Ngannou pulled out a unification win over former teammate and undefeated interim champion Ciryl Gane. A long recovery is expected as Ngannou’s UFC future remains in doubt.

6. Max Holloway – Featherweight (23-6)

Previous ranking: No. 6

The former champion showed everything that makes him great in a thrilling five-round win over Yair Rodriguez in November. After retiring injured earlier this year, Holloway will finally get his third shot at Volkanovski in their trilogy fight on July 2nd.

7. Aljamain Sterling – Bantamweight Champion (21-3)

Previous ranking: No. 8

For all the criticism of Sterling for handling his disqualification win over Petr Yan in their first meeting, “Aljo” was a very different fighter in the rematch 13 months later. Sterling’s split decision win at UFC 273 extended his winning streak to seven and should set up a string of financially attractive title defenses.

8. Deiveson Figueiredo – Flyweight Champion (21-2-1)

Previous ranking: No. 9

How impressive was Figueiredo’s win over Brandon Moreno in their trilogy fight? At 34, Figueiredo not only recovered from an injury defeat to regain his 125-pound title, he also showed the kind of composure and patience under new coaches Henry Cejudo and Eric Albarracin that he’d been missing. A nagging injury will see him sidelined this summer.

9. Petr Yan – Bantamweight (16-3)

Previous ranking: No. 10

It’s hard to fault Yan’s efforts to be close in their long-awaited rematch against Sterling. Yan has called for an immediate trilogy fight following his controversial decision loss, but he will likely need to work his way back up to the top of the sport’s deepest division.

10. Glover Teixeira – Light Heavyweight Champion (33-7)

Previous ranking: NO

Teixeira’s six-fight winning streak is no accident, and certainly not after he sent Jan Blachowicz to become the second-oldest champion in UFC history at 42 last fall. Texieira will likely have his hands full against the dangerous and unpredictable Jiri Prochazka in June.

fallen out: Justin Gaethje

just missed: Robert Whittaker, Dustin Poirier, TJ Dillashaw, Colby Covington, Stipe Miocic

Women’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Valentina Shevchenko – Flyweight Champion (22-3)

Previous ranking: No. 1

Dropping back to her natural weight of 125 pounds has allowed Shevchenko to achieve a level of dominance rarely seen at this level in the top tier of the sport. Her TKO of Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 resulted in six flyweight title defenses. Next up is another fresh face at 125 pounds in Talia Santos this June.

2. Amanda Nunes – Featherweight Champion (20-4)

Previous ranking: No. 3

The GOAT implosion against Julianna Pena at UFC 269 was the most stunning moment of 2021 and quite possibly the biggest upset in MMA history. Although she’s still armed with the 145-pound title, the news of Nunes leaving American Top Team to start her own camp leaves many with questions.

3. Rose Namajunas – Strawweight (11-5)

Previous ranking: No. 2

A confusing defensive-circling strategy saw Namajunas relinquish their 115-pound title to first-time champion Carla Esparza in their rematch in May. Namajunas was little affected by their unanimous decision loss. Nevertheless, the misjudgment was huge.

4. Carla Esparza – Strawweight Champion (19-6)

Previous ranking: No. 4

Esparza just took what was thrown at her and made the best of it, edging out Namajunas in their disappointing strawweight title rematch at UFC 274. Her résumé as a now two-time champion extended her winning streak to six and added a second win over Namajunas.

5. Julianna Pena – Bantamweight Champion (11-4)

Previous ranking: No. 5

Such is the power of the human spirit. Pena delivered the performance of her life by disarming Amanda Nunes and submitting her to capture the £135 crown. Pena has never looked so good before, and after filming The Ultimate Fighter she must defeat the GOAT a second time before she can truly begin her titular reign.

fallen out: None

just missed: Jessica Andrade, Weili Zhang, Marina Rodriguez, Germaine de Randamie, Holly Holm UFC pound-for-pound fighter rankings: Charles Oliveira jumps into top three with win over Justin Gaethje

Justin Scacco

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