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Top 10 MMA pound-for-pound fighter rankings

Jon Jones during UFC 247 ceremonial weigh-ins
Patricio "Pitbull" Freire celebrates his win over Michael
UFC fighter Dustin Poirier of Lafayette, Louisiana, gestures

Halfway through the 2021 fight calendar, and it's time for the second installment of the top 10 pound-for-pound MMA rankings. The second quarter of the year saw some movement in both the men's and women's rankings.

The list updates quarterly, give or take a week or so depending on the schedule of events, to avoid recency bias and to let the fighters do their thing and give them an even playing field to make their statements in the cage.

Men's pound-for-pound MMA rankings

10. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (Bellator, 32-4)

During his seven-fight streak in Bellator, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire captured both the featherweight and lightweight titles. He has three first-round stoppages in that span, including a 61-second knockout of Michael Chandler to add the lightweight title to his collection. Pitbull has made five straight featherweight title defenses.

Previous rank: NR

Next fight: vs. A.J. McKee in featherweight grand prix final at Bellator 263 on July 31

9. Max Holloway (UFC, 22-6)

Here's a weird but true fact about Max Holloway's fight resume: He has lost three of his last five fights. Two came against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (the second by split decision), and the other came against Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title. But in Holloway's last fight, against Calvin Kattar in January, it is hard to imagine any fighter looking better. Ever. Holloway flowed from strike to strike, connecting on 447 of his 746 strike attempts (59%), both UFC records. Holloway's 445 significant strikes also represents the most landed in any UFC fight. That includes both fighters.

Previous rank: NR

Next fight: TBD

8. Jan Blachowicz (UFC, 28-8)

Have a look at the last five opponents, from most recent on back, for Jan Blachowicz, all of whom he has beaten: Israel Adesanya, Dominick Reyes, Corey Anderson, Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold. That's quite an impressive two-year run for the Polish native. The light heavyweight champion's work against Adesanya, the middleweight champion, at UFC 259 solidified his spot in this list.

Previous rank: 8

Next fight: TBA

7. Stipe Miocic (UFC, 20-4)

Miocic is considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history, having successfully defended his title a record four times. But he did just get stopped by Francis Ngannou, Miocic's second KO loss as a heavyweight champion.

Previous rank: 7

Next fight: TBA

6. Dustin Poirier (UFC, 28-6, 1 no contest)

Yes, the broken tibia suffered by Conor McGregor at the end of the first round at UFC 264 may leave some wondering how Dustin Poirier would have done if the fight went into the second round. But the first 4:50 or so of that round should answer that question for the doubters: two judges scored the round, 10-8, in favor of Poirier. There has been just one hiccup in Poirier's last three-plus years of fighting: Khabib Nurmagomedov. Everyone else he's faced, he's beaten. The list: Dan Hooker, Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis and McGregor twice. Five stoppages, two unanimous decisions. All but Hooker were former UFC champions, be it undisputed or interim.

Previous rank: 9

Next fight: TBA

5. Alexander Volkanovski (UFC, 22-1)

Which 19 should we begin with for the UFC featherweight champion from Australia? Perhaps the 19 straight wins? Or maybe the 19 of a possible 30 scored rounds won against Max Holloway? His 55% striking accuracy is pretty good, too. Good enough for No. 2 in UFC featherweight history (minimum five fights). He coached the return season of "The Ultimate Fighter" against Brian Ortega, setting up that title match later this year.

Previous rank: 5

Next fight: vs. Brian Ortega at UFC 266 on Sept. 25.

4. Israel Adesanya (UFC, 20-1)

In his bid to become a double-champ, Israel Adesanya lost a decision to light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. Hard to hold that against him too much here. He still is in the prime of his career, and by pitching a shutout in his third consecutive middleweight title defense at UFC 263 against Marvin Vettori, Adesanya tied Chris Weidman for the second longest streak in the division. (Anderson Silva holds the record with 10 before losing to Weidman.)

Previous rank: 4

Next fight: TBA

3. Francis Ngannou (UFC, 16-3)

There was a time, way back in the first seven months of 2018 to be exact, when Francis Ngannou lost back-to-back fights. Since then, Ngannou has won five straight, all by knockout or TKO. Four of those wins came in the first round. Three of those wins lasted 45 seconds or less. His average fight time in the five fights is 1:43, boosted by having to go into the second round to knock out Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 to win the heavyweight title.

Previous rank: 3

Next fight: TBA

2. Kamaru Usman (UFC, 19-1)

Kamaru Usman's 2021 so far looks like this: a third-round TKO of Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in February and then a second-round KO of Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in April. Not too shabby for the UFC welterweight champion on a 14-fight win streak in the UFC and an 18-fight win streak overall.

Previous rank: 2

Next fight: TBA

1. Jon Jones (UFC, 26-1, 1 NC)

Jon "Bones" Jones last fought on Feb. 8, 2020, making his third consecutive light heavyweight title defense (and 12th overall) against Dominick Reyes. Since then, he vacated that title and began bulking up for a run at heavyweight. He said in May 2021 that there's a very good chance he won't fight this year. Even with such a layoff, at least for now, Jones still remains No. 1 on this list. His fight resume is unmmatched.

Previous rank: 1

Next fight: TBA

Women's pound-for-pound MMA rankings

Amanda Nunes, right, punches Felicia Spencer in their
Rose Namajunas of the United States fights Zhang
Cris Cyborg defended her featherweight title with a

10. Kayla Harrison (PFL, 10-0)

While some may debate the quality of opponents thus far, PFL lightweight defending champion Kayla Harrison has done everything she is supposed to do in her MMA career thus far. Win, and win decisively. A two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist in judo, Harrison has eight stoppages, including one at featherweight in Invicta FC. Six of those finishes have come in the first round, four by submission and two by TKO.

Previous rank: NR

Next fight: vs. Genah Fabian at PFL semifinals on Aug. 27.

9. Carla Esparza (UFC, 18-6)

A five-fight win streak has boosted the stock of Carla Esparza, who seven years ago became the UFC's first women's strawweight champion. Her last three wins are against Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez and Xiaonan Yan, each of who are ranked in the top nine in the division.

Previous rank: NR

Next fight: TBD

8. Holly Holm (UFC, 14-5)

Holly Holm has wins in three of her last four bouts, with the one blip coming to Amanda Nunes, whose name you'll see toward the end of this list.

Previous rank: 9

Next fight: TBA

7. Germaine de Randamie (UFC, 10-4)

Her two losses in the past seven years? Both against Amanda Nunes. She picked up her first career submission win last October against Julianna Pena.

Previous rank: 8

Next fight: TBA

6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC, 16-4)

Seems hard to believe for the all-time UFC women's strawweight leader in strike differential (3.58), but facts are facts: Jedrzejczyk has dropped four of her last six fights, dating to losing her title to Rose Namajunas toward the end of 2017.

Previous rank: 7

Next fight: TBA

5. Zhang Weili (UFC, 21-2)

Her 20-fight win streak included UFC wins over Danielle Taylor, Jessica Aguilar, Tecia Torres, Jessica Andrade in 42 seconds and Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split-decision. Her one-fight losing streak includes a head-kick knockout in 78 seconds by Rose Namajunas.

Previous rank: 4

Next fight: TBD

4. Rose Namajunas (UFC, 10-4)

Where others tried, only Rose Namajunas succeeded. With his first-round head-kick knockout of Zhang Weili at UFC 261 in April, Namajunas became the first woman in UFC history to regain the title after losing it. An impressive feat for the strawweight champion, whose resumes includes a pair of wins of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the longest-reigning champion in that division's history.

Previous rank: 5

Next fight: TBD

3. Cris Cyborg Justino (UFC, 24-2, 1 no contest)

Still one of the all-time greats 11-plus years after her break into stardom. And she left no doubt as to who reigns over the Bellator women's featherweight division when in May she dismantled Leslie Smith for the better part of five rounds, eventually ending it via TKO from strikes with nine seconds left.

Previous rank: 3

Next fight: TBA

2. Valentina Shevchenko (UFC, 21-3)

Make it five straight women's flyweight title defenses for Valentina Shevchenko, the latest coming via TKO in the second round against Jessica Andrade at UFC 261 in April. In her last six fights, Shevchenko has lost two rounds.

Previous rank: 2

Next fight: vs. Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 on Sept. 25

1. Amanda Nunes (UFC, 21-4)

Amanda Nunes has defended both the UFC bantamweight and featherweight titles at least once. She hasn't lost since 2014, a run of 12 straight wins. Among the champions she has faced and dismissed: Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, Germaine de Randamie. When she beat Megan Andersen in 2:03 at UFC 259 last March, it was so one-sided, the announcers called it a "non event."

Previous rank: 1

Next fight: vs. Julianna Pena at UFC 265 on Aug. 7

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