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UFC Pound-for-Pound Fighter Rankings: Alexander Volkanovski, Aljamain Sterling make big moves after wins

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The battle for control atop the UFC’s most competitive division at 135 pounds produced even more debate following Aljamain Sterling’s split-decision win over Petr Yan in their rematch at UFC 273 in April.

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The disputed ending didn’t overshadow what was a 180 for Sterling in his return some 13 months after he won the title by disqualification in a fight he appeared to be on his way to losing. The result also caused a shift within the top 10 pound-for-pound rankings across the sport, as did Alexander Volkanovski’s featherweight title defense on the same night.

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Using a criteria that takes into account everything from accomplishments to current form, let’s take a closer look at the top fighters inside the Octagon.

For CBS Sports’ updated divisional rankings, click here.

Men’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Kamaru Usman — Welterweight champion (20-1)

Previous ranking: No. one

Fresh off a Fighter of the Year campaign in 2021, Usman is closing in on becoming an all-time great. He’s unbeaten in 15 UFC bouts and has won 19 straight fights overall. Usman turns 35 in May and is expected to face Leon Edwards in a summer rematch.

2. Alexander Volkanovski — Featherweight champion (24-1)

Previous ranking: No. 3

The wizard of 145 pounds continues to make his claim for P4P best following a dismantling of late replacement Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273. Unbeaten in 11 trips to the Octagon, Volkanovski is on his way towards creating a historically relevant career resume.

3. Israel Adesanya — Middleweight champion (22-1)

Previous ranking: No. 2

Although the outcome has been debated by some observers, Adesanya convinced the three judges cageside that he did enough to edge Robert Whittaker in their UFC 271 rematch. The victory likely sets up an interesting title defense against hard-hitting Jared Cannonier.

4. Francis Ngannou — Heavyweight champion (16-3)

Previous ranking: No. 4

Despite suffering a serious knee injury during training camp amid a very public contract battle with UFC brass, Ngannou gutted out a unification win against former teammate, and unbeaten interim champion, Ciryl Gane. A long recovery is expected as Ngannou’s UFC future remains in question.

5. Charles Oliveira — Lightweight champion (32-8, 1 NC)

Previous ranking: No. 5

Oliveira’s 10th straight victory was his most impressive to date in surviving a wild first round to wear down and finish Dustin Poirier in his first title defense. But the road won’t ease up from here as Oliveira sets to face Justin Gaethje in May at UFC 274.

6. Max Holloway — Featherweight (23-6)

Previous ranking: No. 7

The former champion showcased everything that makes him great in a thrilling five-round win over Yair Rodriguez in November. Holloway was expected to face Volkanovski a third time in March until a lingering injury forced him to pull out.

7. Justin Gaethje — Lightweight (23-3)

Previous ranking: No. eight

The former interim champion secured a second shot at the lightweight title following his UFC 268 win over Michael Chandler. Gaethje is 5-1 since altering his style just a bit from full-time brawler to tactical finisher. Expect fireworks against Charles Oliveira at UFC 274.

8. Aljamain Sterling — bantamweight champion (21-3)

Previous ranking: NR

For all of the criticism at Sterling in how he handled his disqualification victory over Petr Yan in their first meeting, “Aljo” was a completely different fighter in the rematch 13 months later. Sterling’s split-decision victory at UFC 273 extended his win streak to seven overall and should create a number of financially attractive title defenses.

9. Deiveson Figueiredo — Flyweight champion (21-2-1)

Previous ranking: No. nine

Just how impressive was Figueiredo’s win over Brandon Moreno in their trilogy fight? At 34, Figueiredo not only rebounded from a stoppage loss to regain his 125-pound title, he showed the kind of poise and patience under new coaches Henry Cejudo and Eric Albarracin he had been lacking. A fourth meeting against Moreno could be next.

10. Petr Yan — Middleweight (16-3)

Previous ranking: 6

It’s hard to fault Yan’s effort in coming up just short against Sterling in their long-awaited rematch. Yan has called for an instant trilogy bout following his disputed decision loss, but he will likely need to work his way back to the top of the sport’s deepest division.

Dropped out: Robert Whittaker

Just missedCast: Whittaker, Dustin Poirier, Glover Teixeira, TJ Dillashaw, Colby Covington

Women’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Valentina Shevchenko — Flyweight champion (22-3)

Previous ranking: No. one

A move down to her natural weight of 125 pounds has allowed Shevchenko to go on a run of dominance rarely seen at this level atop the sport. Her TKO of Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 made it six defenses of her flyweight title. Next up is another fresh face at 125 pounds in Talia Santos this June.

2. Rose Namajunas — Strawweight champion (11-4)

Previous ranking: No. 2

A split-decision win over former champion Weili Zhang in their UFC 268 rematch has Namajunas one step closer to cementing status as the greatest female 115-pound fighter in UFC history. Up next is a rematch against inaugural titleholder Carla Esparza set for UFC 274.

3. Amanda Nunes — Featherweight champion (20-4)

Previous ranking: No. 3

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

4. Carla Esparza — Strawweight (18-6)

Previous ranking: No. 4

Five straight wins and a dominant finish of contender Yan Xiaonan has the UFC’s first women’s champion at 115 pounds on the verge of a possible shot at regaining her crown. “The Cookie Monster” is currently the most dangerous and confident version of herself to date at 33 and riding a ton of momentum.

5. Julianna Pena — Bantamweight champion (11-4)

Previous ranking: No. 5

This is what the power of the human spirit looks like. Pena turned in the performance of a lifetime by disarming Amanda Nunes and submitting her to capture the 135-pound crown. Pena has never looked this good before and will need to defeat the GOAT a second time after filming “The Ultimate Fighter” before she can truly begin her title reign.

Dropped out:None

Just missedCast: Weili Zhang, Marina Rodriguez, Jessica Andrade, Germaine de Randamie, Holly Holm


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