’s WMMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff May 19, 2017

Joanna Jedrzejczyk was basically perfect once again at UFC 211, shutting out hyped challenger and former bantamweight Jessica Andrade over 25 minutes. Since she is already the top woman in the sport right now -- maybe even the top woman ever in the sport -- “Joanna Champion” cannot climb beyond our No. 1 ranking. Here are some other numbers instead.

With her eighth UFC win, Jedrzejczyk is now the winningest woman in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. Jedrzejczyk has outlanded her last six opponents 971-328 in terms of significant strikes. Her 75 landed leg kicks on Andrade are a single-fight UFC record, while the 225 significant strikes she landed in total are a UFC championship fight record, breaking the previous mark of 220 she set against Valerie Letourneau.

In our next big women's pound-for-pound clash, fifth-ranked Claudia Gadelha takes on No. 6 Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Jedrzejczyk has already beaten both women three times in total, four times if you consider her amateur win over her Polish countrywoman Kowalkiewicz.

Another number to think about: If Jedrzejczyk continues to dominate at 115 pounds like this, how many more defenses will she have before she moves onto the UFC's new women's flyweight division?

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0)

Prior to UFC 211, Jedrzejczyk already had four UFC women's strawweight title defenses under her belt, had just beaten our pound-for-pound No. 6 Karolina Kowalkiewicz and owned a pair of wins over fifth-ranked entrant Claudia Gadelha. Though strawweight may be the strongest women's weight class and full of up-and-coming talent, Jessica Andrade -- a former bantamweight with massive punching power and fight-ending submission skills -- looked to be the last great hope to seriously test Jedrzejczyk. Instead of proving any serious test, Andrade was just more cannon fodder for the brilliant “Joanna Champion,” who won every single round and landed 225 significant strikes, breaking her own UFC title fight record of 220, set in her win over Valerie Letourneau. The 29-year-old Pole is just coming into her prime, getting more media attention than ever and has largely cleaned out a great division, though potential challengers like Rose Namajunas still remain. Furthermore, if Jedrzejczyk continues to reign over 115 pounds with ease, the UFC's decision to open up its women's flyweight division in the immediate future could give her a new frontier to conquer, one that could lead her to becoming unquestionably the greatest women's MMA fighter, if she has not earned the right to call herself that already.

2. Amanda Nunes (14-4)

Nunes is working on crafting a legacy. “The Lioness” is now 7-1 with six stoppages in her UFC tenure and has been increasingly and brutally dominant over her last five bouts, thrashing Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. The other woman she defeated in that run, Valentina Shevchenko, was merely beaten rather than completely bashed. However, Shevchenko bounced back soundly with a pair of outstanding wins over former UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm and another pound-for-pound entrant: Julianna Pena. Nunes will make the second defense of her UFC crown against Shevchenko at UFC 213 on July 8. With Shevchenko having further established herself as one of the best fighters in the world, a second win over “Bullet” would be even richer and more outstanding than Nunes' first. Beyond that, a second win over Shevchenko, who appears to the be the most stylistically intriguing fight for Nunes right now, would put the 28-year-old Brazilian in position to reign for some time at 135 pounds, given the lack of new, immediate contenders.

3. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (17-1, 1 NC)

Things have been looking up for “Cyborg.” She has not lost in nearly 12 years and has blistered absolutely everybody she has fought since losing her pro debut. However, as a legitimate 145-pounder, it has been difficult for the Brazilian to find steady, worthwhile opposition. When she was flagged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for a potential drug violation in December, it looked like her career might be put on freeze, yet two months later, she had been granted a retroactive therapeutic use exemption and faced no punishment. Plus, the UFC had opened its 145-pound doors to women and put a title in play. Naturally, Justino figured to be the perfect fit for newly minted champion Germaine de Randamie's first defense, but the Dutch fighter has claimed her responsibilities as a police officer in the Netherlands are presently the top priority on her schedule. The 31-year-old Justino, sensing that her call-outs of de Randamie may be a dead end, has changed her tactics and now lobbies for a fight with Invicta Fighting Championships featherweight champion Megan Anderson at UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, California. UFC title belt aside, a bout with Anderson is of more legitimate value to Justino, given that Anderson is a legitimate 145-pounder with more than a single fight in the division. More than that, Anderson's size and nasty striking at least pose an interesting stylistic clash with “Cyborg,” even if the Australian is still very young in her career. One way or another, it looks like quality fights are on the way for Justino and we may even get them with some consistency.

4. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)

Shevchenko has been one of MMA's most pleasant surprises over the last 18 months. It was just December 2015 when she debuted on short notice against former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman and earned a split decision win. “Bullet” has built a 3-1 Octagon record since, including a sound domination of former UFC women's bantamweight champ Holly Holm and a super-slick second-round armbar of our No. 9 entrant, Julianna Pena, in January. The lone loss for the Kyrgyzstani fighter was her March 2016 setback to Nunes. Now, Shevchenko has another date with Nunes lined up. If Shevchenko can avenge her loss to “The Lioness” and take the UFC women's bantamweight title at UFC 213 on July 8, she will join Joann Jedrzejczyk and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos as one of the “Big Three” in WMMA. Even if the 29-year-old Shevchenko is unsuccessful in her championship rematch with Nunes, given her size, there is always the possibility she could be a part of the UFC's embryonic 125-pound women's division, as well.

5. Claudia Gadelha (14-2)

Strawweight is the best division in women's MMA, the sort of weight class where even if you are not No. 1 you can still have an outstanding hit list. Such is the case with Gadelha. From Kalindra Faria, Valerie Letourneau and Herica Tiburcio to Ayaka Hamasaki and Jessica Aguilar, “Claudinha” has put away a great cross section of competition yet is haunted by her pair of losses to UFC champion Jedrzejczyk, who has bested Gadelha twice in the last 29 months. As a result, Gadelha appears to be locked into a situation similar to Joseph Benavidez's quest for a third crack at flyweight king Demetrious Johnson. There is no way to know how many wins it will take for Gadelha to get another shot at the title. In the meantime, Gadelha is still getting an assignment with major pound-for-pound ramifications, as she will meet another woman who has lost twice to Jedrzejczyk -- albeit once as an amateur -- in Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 212 on June 3. Even better than just getting a showdown with our sixth-ranked woman on this list, Gadelha gets to do it in front of a partisan Brazilian crowd in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1)

After winning her first 10 pro bouts and picking up victories over the likes of Mizuki Inoue, Kalindra Faria, Randa Markos and Rose Namajunas in a span of less than two years, Kowalkiewicz earned a shot against the woman who previously beat her as an amateur back in 2012: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Unfortunately, Kowalkiewicz soundly lost four rounds to “Joanna Champion” at UFC 205 in November at Madison Square Garden. Then again, if you have to lose, at least make sure it comes against the top woman in the sport. The 31-year-old Pole's well-rounded style makes her a decent favorite against almost anyone else at 115 pounds, the premier women's weight class. With that said, Kowalkiewicz figures to be an underdog the next time she steps into the cage, but if she can pull off a win, she will be climbing this list in a hurry. “The Polish Princess” is headed to Rio de Janeiro on June 3 for UFC 212, where she will meet the No. 5 entrant on this list, Claudia Gadelha.

7. Jennifer Maia (14-4)

By virtue of her wins over long-established veterans Roxanne Modafferi and Vanessa Porto, Maia is the top flyweight woman in the world. The 125-pound division, however, has changed a lot since Maia topped Porto for the interim Invicta title 14 months ago and even more since she defended the undisputed championship against Modafferi eight months ago. In that short window, Bellator MMA has doubled down on its women's flyweight division and snapped up more talent, while the UFC officially announced it was opening its own women's 125-pound class. Given Maia's stature in the division and her classic Curitiba-style striking aggression, she is going to be signed by one promotion or the other at some point. If she can reaffirm her dominance over the division once more inside the Invicta cage, she could be in a much better position to negotiate. Invicta 23 on May 20 emphasizes the 125-pound contender pool, with Porto facing undefeated Polish prospect Agnieszka Niedzwiedz in the main event, Modafferi meeting gritty Sarah D'Alelio and fast-rising upstart Andrea Lee facing Liz Tracy. Maia putting at least one more successful Invicta title defense under her belt against one of those women would leave no doubt about the top flyweight woman in the game before she is courted by MMA's two major promotions.

8. Ayaka Hamasaki (14-2)

Before dropping to 105 pounds almost three years ago, Hamasaki had a distinguished career as a strawweight, submitting an MMA legend in Yuka Tsuji, topping Emi Fujino and taking a pair of wins over Seo Hee Ham. In fact, the only woman to beat Hamasaki at 115 pounds was a fellow pound-for-pound entrant, the much larger Claudia Gadelha. That was until Hamasaki moved back up to starawweight to face former Invicta champion Livia Renata Souza at Invicta 22 on March 25 and got absolutely torched in less than two minutes. Even with the resounding defeat to Souza, Hamasaki remains incredibly accomplished in two weight classes and is still the top atomweight woman in the world. Presumably, the crushing defeat to Souza will do what the Gadelha defeat did and send Hamasaki back to 105 pounds to defend her Invicta title in the rapidly improving weight class over which she reigns. There, she is 5-0 with wins over Herica Tiburcio, Jinh Yu Frey, Amber Brown, Mei Yamaguchi and Naho Sugiyama.

9. Julianna Pena (8-3)

In her biggest fight to date against Valentina Shevchenko, Pena had moments of success and nearly armbarred “Bullett” at the end of the first round at UFC on Fox 23. However, she wound up submitted by an armbar herself late in Round 2, dashing her hopes of the UFC title shot she has been so vocal about wanting. Nonetheless, Pena has a host of lopsided, dominant wins in the division; she is one of its most dynamic fighters; and she is still just 27 years old. More importantly, there is not exactly a wealth of hot contenders at 135 pounds, so it seems feasible that “The Venezuelan Vixen” could end up with some top-10 wins in short order and be right back on the doorstep of a UFC title shot. Also, with the UFC opening up its women's flyweight division, Pena has already discussed potentially dropping down to 125 pounds, where she could perhaps be an instant power player in the developing weight class.

10. Julia Budd (10-2)

Since her early career losses to two women -- Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey -- who would go on to be featured prominently on this list and win UFC bantamweight titles, Budd has quietly but steadily gone about disposing of a wide swath of the top 145-pound women in the world, including Charmaine Tweet, Gabrielle Holloway and Arlene Blencowe in the last three years and change. At Bellator 174 on March 3, she pounded out Dutch pioneer Marloes Coenen in the fourth round, sending her into retirement and becoming the first-ever Bellator MMA women's featherweight champion in the process. While the fairly thin women's 145-pound division is presently spread over the UFC, Bellator MMA and Invicta, the upside for the 33-year-old Canadian is that Bellator has already shown and acted on a desire to snap up talent to populate its women's flyweight and featherweight divisions, even if Budd is unlikely to catch a fight against divisional queen Cristiane Justino anytime soon.


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