UFC rankings: The Independent’s pound-for-pound fighters list

The UFC is home to some of the best mixed martial artists on the planet, so it is no surprise that fans often debate how the elite fighters compare to one another.

Alongside its weekly-updated rankings for each weight class, the UFC has its own pound-for-pound rankings, containing 15 names – as with each list for every division.

Here, The Independent has constructed its own top 10, pound-for-pound rankings for men’s UFC fighters, to be updated monthly.

While there is no exact science to putting together lists such as this, a number of factors have been considered in making the rankings, including each fighter’s overall record, recent record, level of activity and calibre of opposition.

Before diving into the top 10, here are some honourable mentions:

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Colby Covington (16-3, welterweight)

The former interim welterweight title holder is surely the second best 170lber on the planet, behind only Kamaru Usman, who has retained his belt against Covington twice in the last two years.

Glover Teixeira (33-7, light heavyweight champion)

Beat Jan Blachowicz in October to become the second-oldest UFC champion ever. The 42-year-old is on a six-fight win streak at light heavyweight, though his record was patchy prior to that and Blachowicz is arguably the only elite name the Brazilian has beaten on his current run.

Max Holloway (23-6, featherweight)

The former featherweight champion has lost three of his last six fights, though one of those defeats came at lightweight and one was a controversial points loss. Despite what recent results suggest, the Hawaiian seems to be in his prime, shining even in defeat and producing mesmerising performances in victory.

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10. Brandon Moreno (19-5-2, flyweight champion)

Brandon Moreno won the UFC flyweight title by submitting the dangerous Deiveson Figueiredo

The Mexican has two draws in his last six outings but is in any case unbeaten in three-and-a-half-years. He won the title at 125lbs with a stunning submission of the incredibly dangerous Deiveson Figueiredo in June, after outstriking the Brazilian for the best part of two rounds. Will complete a trilogy with Figueiredo in January.

9. Dustin Poirier (28-7, 1 no contest; lightweight)

Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor twice in 2021

One of just three non-champions on this list, the American has only two defeats in the last five years – coming against the greatest lightweight of all time in Khabib Nurmagomedov and the greatest lightweight in the world right now in Charles Oliveira. Holds seven wins against five different former world champions of the sport.

8. Petr Yan (16-2, interim bantamweight champion)

Petr Yan is seen by many fans as the true UFC bantamweight champion

Went exactly five years without a loss until he was disqualified while defending the bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling in spring 2021, in a fight he looked well on course to winning. The Russian responded by claiming the interim gold by outpointing Cory Sandhagen in a fight of the year contender. Deemed by many fans to be the true champion at 135lbs, despite his naive foul against Sterling.

7. Stipe Miocic (20-4, heavyweight)

Stipe Miocic holds the record for most successful UFC heavyweight title defences

The consensus heavyweight GOAT, the part-time firefighter holds the record for most successful title defences in the division – the hardest weight class at which to put together a sustained run. Surrendered the belt to Francis Ngannou and the French-Cameroonian’s freakish knockout power in March, but prior to that achieved back-to-back wins against one of the greatest ever in Daniel Cormier.

6. Robert Whittaker (23-5, middleweight)

Robert Whittaker holds one of the most impressive resumes in MMA

The third and final non-champion in these rankings, the Australian has tasted defeat just once in the last seven years – dropping the middleweight title to the phenomenal Israel Adesanya in 2019. Since then, the “Reaper” has three straight wins against elite competition, and his earlier run to the belt saw him successfully navigate a murderer’s row of opponents that is almost incomprehensible. Set to rematch Adesanya in February.

5. Francis Ngannou (16-3, heavyweight champion)

Francis Ngannou (right) carries hellacious knockout power

Surely the hardest hitter the sport has ever seen, and honorary ‘baddest man on the planet’ as UFC heavyweight champion. All of his wins have come via stoppage, with 12 knockouts to his name – a number of them achieved in fewer than 60 seconds. After suffering back-to-back decision losses in 2018, the French-Cameroonian recorded four-straight first-round KO wins before avenging a defeat by Miocic to secure the gold with another vicious finish.

4. Charles Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC; lightweight champion)

Charles Oliveira has the most finishes and submission wins in UFC history

The Brazilian’s 2010 debut in the UFC gave way to an inconsistent record with failed weight-cuts along the way. The former featherweight has completely turned his career around, however, winning 10 in a row over the last three-and-a-half years to emerge as the retired Khabib Nurmagomedov’s successor atop the lightweight division. Oliveira holds the records for most finishes (18) and most submission wins (15) in UFC history. Of his 32 wins as a professional, a remarkable 29 have come via stoppage.

3. Alexander Volkanovski (23-1, featherweight champion)

Alexander Volkanovski is riding a 20-fight winning streak

Since suffering the sole defeat of his professional career in 2013, Volkanovski has won a stunning 20 fights in a row. The Australian’s last five fights in particular have come against elite featherweights, with some fans unfairly holding a grudge against the champion due to the controversial nature of one of his two decision victories over Holloway. As dynamic, composed and well-rounded as they come.

2. Israel Adesanya (21-1, middleweight champion)

Israel Adesanya is one of the most engaging fighters in the world

One of the most exciting fighters to watch in the history of the sport. The former kickboxer routinely produces striking masterclasses against his opponents, simply proving too slick and too clever for his competition. Adesanya has faced a who’s-who of 185lbers, beating them all and knocking out a number of them. Suffered his first defeat in pro MMA in 2021, but there was even merit in that as the Nigerian-born New Zealander moved up a weight class to challenge then-champion Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title.

1. Kamaru Usman (20-1, welterweight champion)

Kamaru Usman went 3-0 in 2021, retaining the UFC welterweight title with each win

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In 2021, the welterweight champion became the best mixed martial artist in the world, let alone the UFC. The Nigerian-American is the most clinical wrestler in the promotion and has added knockout power to his game. Usman is unbeaten in eight years, his ongoing 19-fight win streak including a dominant title win in 2019 and five successful defences since.

Also of great merit is the fact that the 34-year-old fought three times in 2021, more than any other fighter on this list with the exception of Poirier. Two of his three victories in 2021 came via stoppage, and the “Nigerian Nightmare” is now “lapping the opposition” in his own words, having beaten almost every divisional contender of note at least once – some of them twice.

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