Women’s UFC Pound-for-pound rankings: Carla Esparza edges closer to the top-5

UFC pound-for-pound rankings
Sep 20, 2019; Mexico City, MEX; Carla Esparza poses during weigh ins for UFC Fight Night at JW Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC pound-for-pound rankings define the very best fighters in the promotion and the planet. It’s a list filled with the most skilled, strategically brilliant, and battle-tested fighters that sport has to offer. It’s also a list that is heavily debated and as subjective a topic that exists in the MMA realm. And it’s no different when deciding the best of the best in either gender.

With that said, here are the official MixedMartialArts.com women’s UFC pound-for-pound rankings.

Women’s UFC pound-for-pound rankings

10. Holly Holm (14-5)

Holly Holm has had a difficult 2021. Major matchups against Julianna Pena and Norma Dumont fell through, and cost “The Preacher’s Daughter” a year of activity. Having just turned 40, the window of opportunity and relevancy is closing fast on Holm, and her spot in the pound-for-pound rankings is on shaky ground as well. The former bantamweight champion needs a fight and win early in 2022 or her days being seen as pound-for-pound talent could be officially over.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

9. Germaine de Randamie (10-4)

Germainne de Randamie has not fought in a year. That should be reason enough to land outside the top-five. However, “The Iron Lady,” has lost only twice in the last nine years, and both came against women’s MMA GOAT Amanda Nunes. And in their rematch, “The Lioness” needed to eek out a wrestle heavy decision to win. At 37, the former 145-pound champion only seems to be getting better and is constantly hovering around the latest conversation for a bantmaweight and featherweight title fight.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

8. Katlyn Chookagian (16-4)

Katlyn Chookagian may not be lighting the MMA world on fire with thunderous knockouts or slick submissions, but there aren’t many fighters on the lady’s side of the bracket that has been more consistent than the Pennsylvania native in recent years. Over the last two years, she has gone 5-2, with her only losses coming to a former and current champion, as well as two women above her on this list, in Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade. “Blonde Fighter” is a legit high-level competitor in the UFC.

  • Next fight: vs. Jennifer Maia on January 15

7. Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2)

Marina Rodriguez is the next best Brazilian thing in the UFC’s strawweight division. By beating MacKenzie Dern in her last bout — a second straight main event booking — she has fully taken the mantel from Claudia Gadelha as the division’s top star from the South American MMA hotbed. She is only behind champion Rose Namajunas, Zhang Weili, and Carla Esparza in the rankings. A title eliminator rematch against Esparza seems logical unless the UFC likes what they have seen so far, and let the 34-year-old jump ahead to face the Namajunas/Zhang rematch winner after UFC 268.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

6. Carla Esparza (18-6)

Carla Esparza is in the midst of her best runin the organization since becoming their first strawweight champion after winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 20. However, after being passed up for a rematch with Namajunas — a woman she’s beaten previously — she’s in limbo. She could wait for the winner Zhang/Namajunas, and role the dice with the UFC’s sketchy title fight booking, or put a stamp on her top contender spot by facing Rodriguez next. What she does — waiting seems like her preferred choice — will be pivotal in deciding her championship hopes.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

5. Jessica Andrade (22-9)

Losing three of your last five shouldn’t earn a spot as high as #6, but Jessica Andrade’s losses are to a former champions in Zhang, a close split decision to current queen Namajunas — who she beat previously — and a setback to Valentina Shevchenko. All women on this list’s top five. Suffice to say, it takes an elite talent to beat “Bate Estaca,” because her skills are an absolute handful if you aren’t a championship-level talent.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

4. Zhang Weili (21-3)

Zhang Weili had a 21-fight run of dominance in MMA until she stepped into the Octagon with Namajuans at UFC 261 in April. That run of utter superiority can’t be forgotten. “Magnum” gets a lot of finishes and put on a landmark women’s MMA moment against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in March of 2020. Her back-to-back losses to division queen Rose Namajunas are setbacks, but she still remains one of the top female fighters in the sport.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

3. Rose Namajunas (11-4)

Rose Namajunas is one of the most skilled strikers the 115-pound division has ever seen. And her victories over Zhang [twice], Jedrzejczyk [twice], and Andrade have proven that. Avenging her 2014 The Ultimate Fighter finale loss to former division champion Carla Esparza seems like the most logical next defense for the champ.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

2. Valentina Shevchenko (22-3)

UFC pound-for-pound rankings
Sep 25, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Valentina Shevchenko celebrates her TKO victory against Lauren Murphy during UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Valentina Shevchenko is an MMA marvel. Her run of destruction in the women’s flyweight division is akin to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones at the peak of their powers at middleweight and light heavyweight, respectively. She is head and shoulders above the entire division and 2022 may go by before the UFC finds an actual threat in her title defenses. The only thing that can stop “Bullet” right now would be a career-threatening injury or a trilogy fight with the GOAT in our top spot.

  • Next fight: Waiting for next booking

1. Amanda Nunes (21-4)

Amanda Nunes is the best there is, the best there was, and maybe the best there ever will be when it comes to women’s MMA. She’s beaten a murder’s row of talent and rarely has seen a difficult moment in the Octagon. Like Shevchenko, there don’t seem to be any real tests on the horizon — including her December opponent Julianna Pena. At this point, despite having two wins over her, a third fight with Shevchenko may be in the competitive best interests of both women.

  • Next fight: vs. Julianna Pena at UFC 269
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