Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound rankings, where every month our esteemed panel of experts sort through the noise to answer one question: Who are the best overall male and female MMA fighters in the world?
By now you should already know: The UFC lightweight champion has a name, and his name is Charles Oliveira.
(Well, kind of.)
But after yet another spectacular title defense, this time over Justin Gaethje at UFC 274, should Oliveira be considered a top-3 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport?
That question divided our panel in this month’s rankings update.
So how did Oliveira’s monster win over Gaethje, which headlined a busy month of May, affect the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.
Don’t forget to listen to the newest episode of the MMA Fighting Rankings Show, where the gang debated the MVP of May, made sense of the Pokemon-esque game of rock-paper-scissors taking place at the top of 115 pounds, took a hard look at some of 2022’s most prospect-heavy divisions, and much more.
Quickly, a refresher on some ground rules before we dive in:
- The eight-person voting panel consists of MMA Fighting staffers Shaun Al-Shatti, Alexander K. Lee, Guilherme Cruz, Mike Heck, E. Casey Leydon, Steven Marrocco, Damon Martin and Jed Meshew.
- Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
- Updates to the rankings will be completed at the start of every month.
- Should a fighter announce their retirement, our panel will decide whether that fighter should immediately be removed from the rankings or maintain their position until further notice (let’s put it this way: we’d have taken Khabib Nurmagomedov out of our rankings a lot quicker than the UFC did).
- Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.
As a reminder, the notion of pound-for-pound supremacy is always going to inherently be subjective. When you’re debating whether someone like Stipe Miocic should be ranked below someone like Max Holloway, there is no true right answer. So while our MMA Fighting Global Rankings serve some sort of actual, functional purpose — pound-for-pound lists? They’re just here for a good time. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.
Charles Oliveira may not *technically* be holding the UFC title right now, but there is no question about his standing as the best unarmed lightweight combatant in the world.
“Do Bronx” continued his tour of raining hellfire on the naysayers at UFC 274 when he needed less than a round to choke out Justin Gaethje. That’s 11 straight wins now for Oliveira, a mark that’s beginning to approach the UFC’s all-time consecutive lightweight wins record of 13 currently held by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
But was it enough to move into rarefied air in the pound-for-pound rankings?
Apparently not, according to several of our panelists.
Just two members out of our eight-person panel voted to make Oliveira a top-3 fighter in the world. (Full disclosure, I am one of them.) However, three others are close to being convinced — while Oliveira may not have moved up in MMA Fighting’s combined rankings, five out of our eight panelists agreed on their individual ballots that the Brazilian talent is at least a top-4 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA. Baby steps.
What could be the final push to get Oliveira over the hump? A date with Islam Makhachev (or the winner of a Makhachev-Dariush fight) could likely do the job.
As for the next rankings cycle, all eyes will turn to UFC 276, when two-thirds of our top 3 compete on July 2, with No. 2 Israel Adesanya defending his middleweight strap against Jared Cannonier and No. 3 Alexander Volkanovski finally settling his business with No. 6 Max Holloway.
May results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Charles Oliveira def. No. 16 (tied) Justin Gaethje, No. 19 (tied) Jan Blachowicz def. Aleksandar Rakic
Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 2 Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier (UFC 276, July 2), No. 3 Alexander Volkanovski vs. No. 6 Max Holloway (UFC 276, July 2), No. 10 Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka (UFC 275, June 11), No. 15 (tied) Gegard Mousasi vs. Johnny Eblen (Bellator 282, June 24)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Colby Covington (5), A.J. McKee (3), Adriano Moraes (2), Ciryl Gane (2), Jose Aldo (1), Demetrious Johnson (1), Islam Makhachev (1), Yoel Romero (1)
Welcome to the top 5, Carla Esparza!
Yes, while it may not have been the most exciting fight of Esparza’s career, UFC 274’s co-main event was enough for “The Cookie Monster” to begin her second UFC title reign — and vault over Rose Namajunas to capture the No. 5 spot on our women’s pound-for-pound list. Who knows if Esparza’s championship run will be as brief as her first dalliance with the belt — many of our panelists seem to suspect as much — but either way, for now, she has worked her way into the conversation among the best fighters in the world.
Looking ahead, the upcoming slate is loaded on the women’s side of the game, with No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko, No. 8 Zhang Weili, and No. 9 Kayla Harrison all returning in the next few weeks, as well as a former champion who we last saw 27 months ago, when she delivered one-half of one of the greatest fights in MMA history: Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Jedrzejczyk’s inactivity has currently left her ineligible for a ranking on our lists, but that’s sure to change next month, regardless of the result of her rematch against Zhang.
May results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 8 Carla Esparza def. No. 3 Rose Namajunas, Ketlen Vieira def. No. 9 Holly Holm, No. 12 Katlyn Chookagian def. Amanda Ribas
Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 1 Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos (UFC 275, June 11), No. 8 Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 275, June 11), No. 9 Kayla Harrison vs. Julia Budd (PFL 6, July 1), No. 15 (tied) Lauren Murphy vs. Miesha Tate (UFC 276, July 2)
Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Taila Santos (5), Angela Lee (4), Ayaka Hamasaki (3), Julia Budd (2), Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (1), Irene Aldana (1), Raquel Pennington (1), Larissa Pacheco (1)