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 after each pay-per-view-event.

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.

Without further ado… Here are our rankings after UFC 296 in December:

Top 10

10. Kamaru Usman (20-4, welterweight) ↔️

Kamaru Usman was a dominant welterweight champion from 2019 until 2022


In 2021, Usman was arguably the best mixed martial artist in the world, let alone the UFC, and our pound-for-pound No 1. The Nigerian-American, 36, is one of the most clinical wrestlers in the promotion and has added knockout power to his game along the way. He was unbeaten for nine years between 2013 and 2022 – with a dominant welterweight title reign for the last three years of that run. He dropped the belt to Leon Edwards in August 2022, dominating his old opponent for much of the fight but falling to an incredible, late head kick. Edwards then outpointed Usman in London last March to retain the gold, before the “Nigerian Nightmare” suffered a third straight loss when he was outpointed by Khamzat Chimaev this October. However, Usman did himself justice in that narrow points defeat, in which he stepped in on 10 days’ notice, moved up to middleweight, and faced a fearsome, unbeaten prospect.

9. Jiri Prochazka (29-4-1, light-heavyweight) ➖2️⃣

Jiri Prochazka is one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC

(Getty Images)

The Czech became the first fighter from his country to win a UFC title, when he submitted Glover Teixeira to claim the light-heavyweight belt in June 2022. Prochazka’s late victory in that war – a fight of the year contender – marked the culmination of a rapid run to the gold; the 31-year-old won the title in just his third UFC fight but unfortunately suffered an injury ahead of his planned rematch with Teixeira, and he opted to vacate the belt rather than hold up the division. The awkward striker’s return came against Alex Pereira in November, with the vacant belt on the line. Prochazka suffered a second-round TKO loss, although many fans felt that the stoppage was premature.

8. Aljamain Sterling (23-4, bantamweight) ↔️

Aljamain Sterling recorded three successful title defences at bantamweight, all against ex-champions

(Getty Images)

The Jamaican-American, 34, was mocked by some fans after winning the bantamweight title via DQ in 2021, when Petr Yan landed an illegal knee while leading the bout. In a rematch one year later, Sterling silenced some doubters and irked others by winning a narrow decision. He then dominated TJ Dillashaw en route to a TKO in October 2022, as the challenger battled a dislocated shoulder, and went on to beat Henry Cejudo this May, defeating the American – who had not fought in three years – via split decision. Some observers attach asterisks to each of Sterling’s title defences, but all three came against former world champions, before he dropped the gold to Sean O’Malley with a TKO loss in August.

7. Israel Adesanya (24-3, middleweight) ➖1️⃣

Israel Adesanya ahead of his fight with Sean Strickland at UFC 293 in September

(Getty Images)

One of the most exciting fighters to watch in the history of the sport. The former kickboxer regularly produces striking masterclasses against his opponents, proving too slick and too clever for them. Adesanya has beaten a who’s-who of 185lbers and twice reigned as champion. The “Last Stylebender” suffered his first defeat in pro MMA in 2021, but there was even merit in that, as the Nigerian-born New Zealander moved up in weight to challenge then-champion Jan Blachowicz at light-heavyweight.

While Adesanya began to “lap the opposition” at middleweight with back-to-back rematch wins against Marvin Vettori and Robert Whittaker, prior to a decision victory over Jared Cannonier, he has since hit a sticky patch. He suffered his first defeat at 185lbs in losing the title to old kickboxing foe Alex Pereira in November, when the Brazilian scored a late TKO. Although Adesanya regained the belt with a stunning KO of Pereira in April, he lost it again in his next bout: a decision defeat by Sean Strickland – one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

6. Alex Pereira (9-2, light-heavyweight champion) ➕3️⃣

Alex Pereira beat Jiri Prochazka via TKO to win a UFC title in a second weight class

(Getty Images)

The Brazilian kickboxing extraordinaire enjoyed a rapid rise through the middleweight rankings after transitioning to MMA, culminating in a knockout victory of his old rival Israel Adesanya in November 2022 to take the title. Although Pereira was stopped by Adesanya to lose the gold in a rematch this April, he bounced back with a swift move up to light-heavyweight, where he outpointed former champion Jan Blachowicz. In his next fight, Pereira fought for the vacant 205lbs title, beating another ex-champion in Jiri Prochazka to secure two-weight-champion status in record time. Pereira, 36, sealed that feat with a second-round TKO. He also holds a knockout win over reigning middleweight champion Sean Strickland.

5. Charles Oliveira (34-9, 1 NC; lightweight) ↔️

Charles Oliveira has the most finishes and submissions in UFC history

(Getty Images)

The Brazilian’s 2010 debut in the UFC gave way to an inconsistent record with numerous failed weight-cuts along the way, but the former featherweight then turned his career around. An 11-fight win streak over five years saw Oliveira claim and retain the lightweight title then submit Justin Gaethje in May 2022 – one day after being stripped of the belt for a narrow weight-miss. That win positioned him as No 1 contender as he looked to regain the gold. However, he was submitted by Islam Makhachev in October as the Russian won the vacant title. Oliveira bounced back in June 2023, though, with a TKO win over Beneil Dariush in the first round. That result extended Oliveira’s records for most finishes (20) and most submissions (16) in UFC history.

Oliveira was then set for a rematch with Makhachev but suffered a severe cut over his eye, leading him to be replaced on short notice – by the next man on this list…

4. Alexander Volkanovski (26-3, featherweight champion) –1️⃣

Alexander Volkanovski unified the UFC featherweight titles by beating Yair Rodriguez

(Getty Images)

After suffering the first defeat of his professional career in 2013, Volkanovski won a stunning 22 fights in a row. In fact, his only pro losses have come against a welterweight champion and a lightweight champion.

Two of those defeats came in 2023, with Volkanovski losing a narrow decision to Islam Makhachev in February while challenging for the 155lbs belt, then suffering a shock, early knockout against the Russian in their October rematch. Those results have seen the Australian, 35, drop from No 1 to No 3 here, but he still receives significant credit for stepping in to fight Makhachev on 11 days’ notice on the latter occasion – and for his phenomenal, ongoing featherweight title run.

Volkanovski outpointed Max Holloway to win the belt in 2019 and has twice repeated that trick against the former champion, while also recording successful defences against Brian Ortega, Chan Sung Jung and Yair Rodriguez. Volkanovski has been unbeatable at featherweight, and impressively active. Next up, as he looks to get back to winning ways, is a fight with Ilia Topuria in February.

3. Leon Edwards (22-3, 1 No Contest; welterweight champion) ➕1️⃣

Leon Edwards after beating Colby Covington in December 2023

(Getty Images)

Edwards became Britain’s second ever UFC champion with a stunning, last-gasp knockout of Kamaru Usman in August 2022. After taking down the Nigerian-American – something no fighter had ever done in the UFC – in Round 1, Edwards continually rose to his feet amid an onslaught of grappling pressure from the champion over the next few frames, keeping himself in the fight. Then, with a minute left on the clock, Edwards knocked Usman out cold with a perfect head kick to take his gold.

Then, in March 2023, Edwards outpointed Usman in London to solidify his status as champion, before further cementing that status by beating Colby Covington in December. Edwards put on clinical displays in both decision wins, showing just how well rounded he is – one of the best examples of the modern mixed martial artist.

The Jamaican-borns southpaw has won 12 fights in a row since a points loss to Usman in 2015 (save for a No Contest against Belal Muhammad in 2021).

2. Jon Jones (27-1, 1 NC; heavyweight champion) ↔️

Jon Jones returned to the UFC in March to collect a title in a second division

(Getty Images)

When Jon Jones returned to the UFC in March after a three-year absence, winning the heavyweight title by submitting Ciryl Gane in the first round, many believed that the American confirmed himself as the greatest of all time. A lot of fans also felt that he should go straight to the top of any and all pound-for-pound lists. And Jones’s victory certainly was impressive, particularly due to the manner in which it was achieved and the factors around the 36-year-old’s heavyweight debut.

It was also enough for the former two-time light-heavyweight champion to shoot straight into our rankings at No 2. However, his lack of activity keeps him below our No 1, and that has not been helped by his injury in October, which will keep him out for around eight months – and which derailed his planned clash with heavyweight ‘GOAT’ Stipe Miocic. It is unclear what is next for Jones, but a unification bout with interim champion Tom Aspinall could be on the cards…

1. Islam Makhachev (25-1, lightweight champion) ↔️

Islam Makhachev silenced the doubters with his knockout of Alexander Volkanovski

(AFP via Getty Images)

Some used to question the Russian’s credentials, given a lack of top-tier opponents on his record, though that was arguably due to highly-ranked fighters’ tentativeness to risk their spots against a dangerous up-and-comer. Others accused Makhachev of benefiting from his connection to Khabib – his childhood friend and now one of Makhachev’s coaches. Regardless, the 31-year-old banished any doubt in October 2022 when he submitted Oliveira to win the vacant lightweight title, suggesting that he would have done the same to most contenders at 155lbs.

Makhachev then made it 13 wins in a row by beating Volkanovski twice in eight months, retaining his title against the featherweight champion on both occasions. In February, Makhachev outpointed the Aussie in Perth, then in October, he knocked out “Alexander The Great” with a head kick in Round 1, stunning those in attendance. Volkanovski had stepped in on short notice, but Makhachev was also affected by the late replacement – after Oliveira, his original opponent, suffered a cut over his eye.

Those victories saw Makhachev rise to No 1 in our rankings. Next up? Perhaps a rescheduled rematch with Oliveira, or maybe a clash with the UFC’s ‘BMF’ champion: Justin Gaethje.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *