UFC rankings: The Independent’s pound-for-pound fighters list

Here are our top 10 men’s fighters in the UFC, in a list to be updated monthly

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Monday 16 May 2022 12:02
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The UFC is home to some of the best mixed martial artists on the planet, so it is no surprise that fans often debate how the elite fighters compare to one another.

Alongside its weekly-updated rankings for each weight class, the UFC has its own pound-for-pound rankings, containing 15 names – as with each list for every division.

Here, The Independent has constructed its own top 10, pound-for-pound rankings for men’s UFC fighters, to be updated monthly.

While there is no exact science to putting together lists such as this, a number of factors have been considered in making the rankings, including each fighter’s overall record, recent record, level of activity and calibre of opposition.

Before diving into the top 10, here are some honourable mentions:

Brandon Moreno (19-5-2, flyweight)

The Mexican has two draws in his last seven outings but was in any case unbeaten in three-and-a-half-years until dropping the flyweight title back to Deiveson Figueiredo in January, which saw him drop from No10 on this list. In his previous bout, Moreno won the belt with a stunning submission of the incredibly dangerous Brazilian in June, after outstriking the Brazilian for the best part of two rounds. The pair’s trilogy bout at the start of this year was almost as close as their initial draw in December 2020.

Aljamain Sterling (21-3, bantamweight champion)

The Jamaican-American was mocked by some fans after winning the bantamweight title via disqualification in 2020, when Petr Yan landed an illegal knee that left Sterling unable to continue. While Yan won the interim belt, Sterling recovered from neck surgery and had to wait more than a year for his rematch with the Russian. With many predicting that Sterling would receive the loss that he looked on course to suffer in his first meeting with Yan – and others hoping for it – the 32-year-old silenced some doubters and irked others by winning a narrow decision against his rival this April. That result made it seven straight wins for the grappling specialist (including the DQ victory over Yan) and sees Sterling enter our honourable mentions.

Colby Covington (17-3, welterweight)

The former interim welterweight title holder is surely the second best 170lber on the planet, behind only Kamaru Usman, who has retained his belt against Covington twice in the last two years. Covington responded to the latter of those losses by outpointing friend-turned-rival Jorge Masvidal in March.

Glover Teixeira (33-7, light heavyweight champion)

Beat Jan Blachowicz in October to become the second-oldest UFC champion ever. The 42-year-old is on a six-fight win streak at light heavyweight, though his record was patchy prior to that and Blachowicz is arguably the only elite name the Brazilian has beaten on his current run.

Top 10

10. Max Holloway (23-6, featherweight)

Former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway

The former featherweight champion has lost three of his last six fights, though one of those defeats came at lightweight and one was a controversial points loss. Despite what recent results suggest, the Hawaiian seems to be in his prime, shining even in defeat and producing mesmerising performances in victory. Moved into our top 10 at the expense of Moreno, following the Mexican’s loss to Figueiredo at UFC 270, and is set for a trilogy bout with Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title.

9. Dustin Poirier (28-7, 1 no contest; lightweight)

Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor twice in 2021

The American has only two defeats in the last five years – coming against the greatest lightweight of all time in Khabib Nurmagomedov and the greatest lightweight in the world right now in Charles Oliveira. Holds seven wins against five different former world champions of the sport.

8. Stipe Miocic (20-4, heavyweight)

Stipe Miocic holds the record for most successful UFC heavyweight title defences

The consensus heavyweight GOAT, the part-time firefighter holds the record for most successful title defences in the division – the hardest weight class at which to put together a sustained run. Surrendered the belt to Francis Ngannou and the French-Cameroonian’s freakish knockout power in March, but prior to that achieved back-to-back wins against one of the greatest ever in Daniel Cormier.

7. Petr Yan (16-3, bantamweight) -1

Petr Yan is seen by many fans as the true UFC bantamweight champion

Went exactly five years without a loss until he was disqualified while defending the bantamweight title against Sterling in spring 2021, in a fight he looked well on course to winning. The Russian responded by claiming the interim gold by outpointing Cory Sandhagen in a fight of the year contender. Was deemed by many fans to be the true champion at 135lbs, despite his naive foul against Sterling, and some still hold that view despite his loss to the Jamaican-American in their unification bout this April. The rematch was a closely-contested affair that Sterling won via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47), though some fans felt that the Russian had done enough to edge it.

6. Robert Whittaker (23-6, middleweight) +1

Robert Whittaker holds one of the most impressive resumes in MMA

The Australian had tasted defeat just once in the last seven years until his most recent outing. Both of those losses came against the phenomenal Israel Adesanya, with Whittaker losing the middleweight belt to his rival by TKO in 2019 before dropping a debatable decision to the “Last Stylebender” this February. Between those bouts, the “Reaper” earned three straight wins against elite competition, and his earlier run to the belt saw him successfully navigate a murderer’s row of opponents that is almost incomprehensible.

5. Francis Ngannou (16-3, heavyweight champion)

Francis Ngannou (right) carries hellacious knockout power

Surely the hardest hitter the sport has ever seen, and honorary ‘baddest man on the planet’ as UFC heavyweight champion. All but one of his wins have come via stoppage, with 12 knockouts to his name – a number of them achieved in fewer than 60 seconds. After suffering back-to-back decision losses in 2018, the French-Cameroonian recorded four-straight first-round KO wins before avenging a defeat by Miocic to secure the gold with another vicious finish. He then shocked fans and pundits by outwrestling interim champion Ciryl Gane for a successful first defence.

4. Charles Oliveira (33-8, 1 NC)

Charles Oliveira has the most finishes and submission wins in UFC history

The Brazilian’s 2010 debut in the UFC gave way to an inconsistent record with failed weight-cuts along the way. The former featherweight has turned his career around, however (save for a half-a-pound weight miss this May), winning 11 in a row over the last four years to emerge as the retired Khabib Nurmagomedov’s successor atop the lightweight division. Oliveira holds the records for most finishes (19) and most submission wins (16) in UFC history. Of his 33 victories as a professional, a remarkable 30 have come via stoppage. His recent weight miss saw him stripped of the lightweight title that he won last year, but his first-round submission of Justin Gaethje the very next day established him as No 1 contender at once.

3. Alexander Volkanovski (24-1, featherweight champion)

Alexander Volkanovski is riding a 20-fight winning streak

Since suffering the sole defeat of his professional career in 2013, Volkanovski has won a stunning 21 fights in a row. Five of the Australian’s last six fights in particular have come against elite featherweights, with some fans unfairly holding a grudge against the champion due to the controversial nature of one of his two decision victories over Holloway. In his most recent fight, Volkanovski took on fan favourite Chan Sung Jung, who stepped in for Holloway, and the champion put on an absolute clinic to stop the “Korean Zombie” in the fourth round with the challenger out on his feet. Volkanovski is as dynamic, composed and well-rounded as they come. Despite his seminar of a performance against “Zombie”, the Australian doesn’t quite overtake the next fighter in our pound-for-pound rankings, though the City Kickboxing teammates are neck and neck...

2. Israel Adesanya (22-1, middleweight champion)

Israel Adesanya is one of the most engaging fighters in the world

One of the most exciting fighters to watch in the history of the sport. The former kickboxer routinely produces striking masterclasses against his opponents, simply proving too slick and too clever for his competition. Adesanya has faced a who’s-who of 185lbers, beating them all and knocking out a number of them. Suffered his first defeat in pro MMA in 2021, but there was even merit in that as the Nigerian-born New Zealander moved up a weight class to challenge then-champion Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title. He is starting to “lap the opposition” – a term that will come up again below – with back-to-back rematch wins in his last two fights, against Marvin Vettori and rival Robert Whittaker.

1. Kamaru Usman (20-1, welterweight champion)

Kamaru Usman went 3-0 in 2021, retaining the UFC welterweight title with each win

In 2021, the welterweight champion became the best mixed martial artist in the world, let alone the UFC. The Nigerian-American is the most clinical wrestler in the promotion and has added knockout power to his game. Usman is unbeaten in eight years, his ongoing 19-fight win streak including a dominant title win in 2019 and five successful defences since.

Also of great merit is the fact that the 34-year-old fought three times in 2021, more than any other fighter on this list with the exception of Poirier. Two of his three victories in 2021 came via stoppage, and the “Nigerian Nightmare” is now “lapping the opposition” in his own words, having beaten almost every divisional contender of note at least once – some of them twice.

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