Sunday, July 3, 2022

UFC Pound-for-Pound Fighter Rankings: Jiri Prochazka crashes the party as he enters top 10 with title win

The fallout from last Saturday’s exciting UFC 275 pay-per-view card from Singapore presented a number of changes to the top 10 of promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings.  

Jiri Prochazka continued his destructive ways by outlasting Glover Teixeira in an instant classic to capture the light heavyweight crown via fifth-round submission. Meanwhile, in the co-main event, women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko met her toughest match to date at 125 pounds in a disputed victory over upstart Taila Santos via split decision. 

In addition, former strawweight queen Zhang Weili made a triumphant return to the rankings by rebounding from a two-fight losing skid against Rose Namajunas by sending fellow former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk into retirement.

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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. 1

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. The 35-year-old will face Leon Edwards in an August rematch. 

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

Previous ranking: No. 2

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 toward creating a historically relevant career resume. Up next is a trilogy fight against Max Holloway on July 2. 

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

Previous ranking: No. 3

Although his 155-pound title is currently vacant after missing weight ahead of UFC 274, no one is disputing who the best active lightweight in the world is. Oliveira extended his win streak to 11 with a first-round submission of Justin Gaethje. His fighting style welcomes plenty of danger, but Oliveira is so dialed in that no one has been able to make him pay. 

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

Previous ranking: No. 4

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 sets up an interesting title defense against hard-hitting Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 in July. 

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

Previous ranking: No. 5

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.

6. Max Holloway — Featherweight (23-6)

Previous ranking: No. 6

The former champion showcased everything that makes him great in a thrilling five-round win over Yair Rodriguez in November. After pulling out with injury earlier this year, Holloway will finally get his third shot at Volkanovski in their July 2 trilogy bout. 

7. Aljamain Sterling — Bantamweight champion (21-3)

Previous ranking: No. 7

For all of the criticism aimed 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. 

8. Jiri Prochazka — Light heavyweight champion (29-3-1)

Previous ranking: NR

It’s time to give the unpredictable Prochazka his full due after extending his win streak to 13 in a dramatic and savage fifth-round submission of Glover Teixeira at UFC 275. Prochazka is 23-1-1 since 2013, avenging his lone defeat by knockout. He has also shown an elite chin and gas tank to package with his fight-ending power.

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

Previous ranking: No. 8

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. Nagging injury will sideline him this summer.  

10. Petr Yan — Bantamweight (16-3)

Previous ranking: No. 9

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: Glover Teixeira

Just missed: Robert Whittaker, TJ Dillashaw, Colby Covington, Stipe Miocic, Brandon Moreno 

Women’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Valentina Shevchenko — Flyweight champion (23-3)

Previous ranking: No. 1

Shevchenko’s dominant run at 125 pounds was severely challenged in a split-decision win over Taila Santos at UFC 275. Although Shevchenko recorded her seventh straight title defense, she looked human amid Santos’ grappling success and was forced to rally to keep her title.

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

Previous ranking: No. 3

The G.O.A.T.’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, Nunes must first repair what was lost in a July rematch against Pena.

3. Rose Namajunas — Strawweight (11-5)

Previous ranking: No. 2

A baffling strategy of defensive circling led to Namajunas surrendering her 115-pound title to inaugural champion Carla Esparza in their May rematch. Namajunas was barely touched in her unanimous decision loss. Still, the miscalculation was a huge one. 

4. Zhang Weili — Strawweight (22-3) 

Previous ranking: NR 

The former champion looked completely reborn following consecutive defeats to Namajunas when she sent Joanna Jedrzejczyk to retirement via vicious knockout in their UFC 275 rematch. The native of China has evolved her striking and added offensive wrestling to increase her overall danger.

5. Carla Esparza — Strawweight champion (19-6)

Previous ranking: No. 4

Esparza simply took what was dealt to her and made the most of it by edging out Namajunas in their disappointing strawweight title rematch at UFC 274. Although the win won’t do a ton for her critically, it will go a long way in adding to her resume as the now two-time champion extended her win streak to six while adding a second victory over Namajunas. 

Dropped out: Julianna Pena

Just missed: Pena, Jessica Andrade, Marina Rodriguez, Holly Holm, Talia Santos

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