’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Aug 3, 2016

At 115 pounds, unbeaten fighters are staying unbeaten. At 135 pounds, no one can hang onto the Ultimate Fighting Championship title. In either case, we've got significant movement on the women's pound-for-pound list.

At UFC 201 in Atlanta, Karolina Kowalkiewicz seized the moment, co-headlining a pay-per-view in just her third UFC appearance in a de facto title eliminator against the offensively gifted Rose Namajunas. Kowalkiewicz took the clinch to exploit Namajunas, earning a well-deserved split decision victory and solidifying herself as the next challenger for fellow unbeaten Polish 115-pounder Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a bout that would be both a historic strawweight clash, as well as a new pinnacle for Polish mixed martial arts. With her biggest win to date, Kowalkiewicz rises in these rankings from 10th to fifth.

Of course, Kowalkiewicz's rapid rise through these pound-for-pound rankings wouldn't have been possible without the events that transpired one week earlier in Chicago, where underdog Valentina Shevchenko outclassed former UFC women's bantamweight champ Holly Holm for the final four rounds to earn the biggest win of her own career, leap forward in UFC 135-pound contendership and take the seventh spot on our list.

Shevchenko's upset of Holm in conjunction with the rise of Kowalkiewicz means that this women's pound-for-pound update says at least a temporary farewell to a perennial staple of the list, formerly ninth-ranked Jessica Aguilar, who hasn't fought since dropping a one-sided decision to Claudia Gadelha last August and is still on the mend from an ACL tear suffered earlier this year.

Related: Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0)

In the post-Ronda Rousey era, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is not just the sport's queen by default. It's not even just that she's the dominant champion in the best women's MMA weight class. It's that the undefeated Polish strawweight has come to 115-pound supremacy with style, charisma and brutality, racking up dominant wins over elite opposition. For the last three years, even prior to her UFC debut, Jedrzejczyk has dominated an outstanding cross-section of the top women's MMA division, including a pair of wins over pound-for-pound stalwart and rival Claudia Gadelha. With a growing profile and hype surrounding her, Jedrzejczyk is poised for an outstanding and unique title defense next time out, as fellow unbeaten countrywoman Karolina Kowalkiewicz -- whom Jedrejczyk submitted as an amateur back in 2002 – has firmed up herself as the division's top contender. Not only does it give the UFC a readymade European main event, or a high-level co-main event feature on a serious pay-per-view, it's a stylistically appealing matchup given both women's high volume, all-action styles. “Joanna Champion” is the sport's top woman and now she's got the requisite challengers to start having historically significant bouts.

2. Cris Cyborg (16-1, 1 NC)

The song remains the same for Cyborg's pound-for-pound status. She's been the most dangerous and dominant woman in MMA for a decade and along the way has thrashed the likes of Gina Carano, Marloes Coenen (twice), Hitomi Akano, Leslie Smith and Daria Ibragimova. The fly in the ointment is, as always, that “Cyborg” is physically best suited to 145 pounds, 10 pounds north of where there is truly elite talent. After a successful and much-anticipated UFC debut against Leslie Smith at UFC 198 last May, in front of 45,000 fans in her native Curitiba, Brazil, Justino is now lined up for a second Octagon appearance, where she will headline Sept. 24's UFC Fight Night card in Brazil's capital, Brasilia, against 6-1 upstart Swede Lina Lansberg in a 140-pound catchweight bout. The 31-year-old Brazilian also remains the Invicta FC featherweight champion and the emergence of Australian prospect Megan Anderson also may provide her with a worthwhile and intriguing foil. While it's a far cry from Justino taking on Ronda Rousey or Miesha Tate, there is reasons to be optimistic about the competition available to “Cyborg.”

3. Amanda Nunes (13-4)

Now 6-1 in her Octagon tenure, the new UFC women's bantamweight champion has looked sensational since her September 2014 stoppage loss to former title challenger Cat Zingano. Since that defeat, Nunes has destroyed Shayna Baszler and Sara McMann, topped new pound-for-pound entrant Valentina Shevchenko, which is even more impressive in hindsight, then ran roughshod over a pound-for-pound staple in Miesha Tate to take the UFC title in the main event of UFC 200. Not a bad run, to say the least. The American Top Team rep continues to improve and expand on her natural physical gifts, making her one of the most devastating finishers in MMA. However, Ronda Rousey is perhaps the most dynamic woman in MMA history and with her fall just nine months ago, we've seen three new women's bantamweight champions in the UFC. Whether Nunes' first title defense comes against “Ultimate Fighter” winner Julianna Pena or it's a rematch with Shevchenko, the real test for “The Lioness” will be to defend her throne and try to bring a post-Rousey consistency to 135 pounds.

4. Claudia Gadelha (13-2)

As women's MMA continues to evolve and emerge, it is an unfortunate consequence that many outstanding competitors will be thrust into competitively, promotionally undesirable circumstances, which is exacly where Claudia Gadelha now finds herself. The 27-year-old Nova Uniao product is dynamic, well-rounded, a gifted bilingual talker and sports quality wins over 105-pound queen Ayaka Hamasaki, longtime divisional elite Jessica Aguilar, former UFC title challenger Valerie Letourneau, former Invicta FC champ Herica Tiburcio and the vastly underrated Kalindra Faria. However, Gadelha has now lost to rival and divisional champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk twice in less than two years and “Joanna Champion” is showing no signs of slowing up. In spite of clearly being one of the very best women in all of MMA, “Claudinha” is now in the uneviable “awesome second fiddle” position, past suffered through by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira under Fedor Emelianenko's reign, Jon Fitch after being downed by Georges St. Pierre, and more recently, Joseph Benavidez after being knocked cold by Demetrious Johnson in their rematch. Gadelha will be a healthy favorite against any woman in the division other than the champ, so it's seems a mortal lock that she'll continue to add elite contenders to her hit list, but in order to get another title shot, she'll either need to pray for Jedrzejczyk to be upset or put together a long, gaudy win streak and leave the UFC no other choice but a third fight with the Polish star.

5. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-0)

Since turning pro in May 2012, Karolina Kowalkiewicz has been flawless and in under the last two years, she's soundly beaten five quality opponents. After deserved split decisions over two very underrated fighters in Japan's Mizuki Inoue and Brazil's Kalindra Faria, Kowalkiewicz brought her act to the UFC and dominated Randa Markos and Heather Jo Clark to lopsided verdicts. In her most recent outing, Kowalkiewicz used her savvy clinch game to overwhelm contender Rose Namajunas and firm herself up for a showdown with pound-for-pound ruler and UFC strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who choked out Kowalkiewicz as an amateur, two months before she turned professional. The bout is not only an outstanding pairing of undefeated action fighters, but a testament to Poland's outstanding contributions to the sport of MMA. Last November's KSW 33 bout between Mamed Khalidov and Michal Materla is to date the biggest fight in Polish history, but a Jedrzejczyk-Kowalkiewicz showdown has much higher stakes and historic ramifications, especially if it's staged in Poland.

6. Miesha Tate (18-6)

Miesha Tate is a pound-for-pound staple because more often than that, she outscraps and outscrambles her opponents in rugged fights; that is not a recipe for consistent dominance. This came to bear in the main event of UFC 200, where less than four months removed from upsetting Holly Holm for the UFC women's bantamweight title, Tate was absolutely torn apart by Amanda Nunes on the feet before being tapped in just over three minutes. Still, “Cupcake” has taken out Marloes Coenen, Liz Carmouche, Rin Nakai, Sara McMann, Jessica Eye and of course, Holm, in the last five years. Given the state of flux at 135 pounds, Tate's days on this list might be numbered especially with the emergence of new talent at bantamweight, but the Washington native has always seemed to bounce back with big victories at critical junctures in her career to restate her elite status.

7. Valentina Shevchenko (13-2)

After a highly distinguished kickboxing career which features three wins over pound-for-pound queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Shevchenko didn't begin to more seriously dedicate herself to MMA until three years ago. Since then, she's 6-1 and has gone 2-1 in the UFC in less than eight months and the worst thing you can say about her is that she lost the first two rounds of a three-round fight to the new divisional champ, Amanda Nunes. Her upsets of Sarah Kaufman and Holly Holm were masterful performances where “Bullet” used her outstanding counterstriking and savvy clinch techniques to outclass her opponents. With her network TV main event win over Holm, Shevchenko is a leading candidate to face Nunes in the Brazilian's first title defense and even if Shevchenko doesn't get the rematch, she's no more than one more win away from that shot. Not bad for a fighter who is more of a traditional flyweight.

8. Holly Holm (10-2)

Think about this: if a child was conceived the night that Holly Holm took the UFC women's bantamweight title from Ronda Rousey in Melbourne, Australia, that child probably wouldn't be born yet. We are less than nine months removed from the events of UFC 193 and yet “The Preacher's Daughter” seems like an afterthought now, having been upset for the title at UFC 196 in March by Miesha Tate, then being outpointed in tidy fashion by Valentina Shevchenko in the UFC on Fox 20 headliner on July 23. While she is 34 years old and has a historic boxing career already behind her, there are no shortage of options for her in terms of UFC opponents, with only five Octagon outings and only having faced a small sample of the division's best. While her split decision wins over Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau were hardly inspiring, Holm's position on this list is buoyed by one major fact: she authored the biggest, most significant and perhaps most brutal win in women's MMA history. Nonetheless, Holm's position in this list is increasingly tenuous, even if her head kick on Rousey still isn't even nine months old.

9. Ronda Rousey (12-1)

No one is going to forget how Ronda Rousey lost her UFC women's bantamweight title any time soon; her head kick knockout loss to Holly Holm was instantly an all-time MMA moment and Rousey's massive celebrity ensured that millions and millions the world over saw it. That said, if and when Rousey returns to action, she will inevitably be an imminent UFC bantamweight title threat, not just because the UFC will be keen to put her in that position, but because she is still the most dominant and dynamic women in the sport's history. Between the lures of Hollywood and even discussing parenthood, it's entirely possible that Rousey stays away from the cage for a while longer yet, perhaps even long enough that she's no longer eligible for these rankings. But, until that moment comes to pass, Rousey remains the most achieved fighter in women's MMA history, with wins over Miesha Tate (twice), Sarah Kaufman, Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano, and nearly all of them one-sided blowouts at that.

10. Ayaka Hamasaki (13-1)

Years before coming stateside, Ayaka Hamasaki had already put together a substantial resume in her native Japan, taking wins over all-time great Yuka Tsuji and UFC veteran Seo Hee Ham twice. After those breakout wins put her on the map, the Megumi Fujii pupil recorded W's against other stalwarts like Emi Fujino and Mei Yamaguchi, before taking the Invicta FC atomweight title from Herica Tiburcio in July 2015, then armbarring title challenger Amber Brown in March. Hamasaki has had success at both 105 and 115 pounds, and the only woman to ever defeat her is a fellow pound-for-pounder in Claudia Gadelha, a massive strawweight. Emerging 105-pound contender Jinh Yu Frey is the next likely challenger to Hamasaki's Invicta FC title, but in the long term, it remains to be seen whether Hamasaki will remain in the promotion or return to the strawweight division for a UFC bid, which would mean more money and better opponents in a stronger weight class, an opportunity she has vocalized her interest in.


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