UFC Pound for Pound Fighter Rankings: Israel Adesanya, Weili Zhang hold firm after title defenses
Adesanya and Zhang retained their spots in the rankings after vastly different UFC 248 showings
If we learned anything as far as the pound-for-pound rankings are concerned from the pair of title bouts atop UFC 248 in Las Vegas last weekend, it's that Israel Adesanya and Weili Zhang appear poised to challenge for the top spot for years to come after their first respective title defenses.
It goes without saying that the performances of middleweight champion Adesanya and women's strawweight Zhang were as different as night and day. The fact that Adesanya and Yoel Romero were nearly booed out of the building while Zhang was celebrating after co-authoring one of the greatest fights in the sport's history against Joanna Jedrzejczyk is hard to overlook.
Yet despite the differences in the type of challenge they received, both relied on their incredible intangibles to figure out a way to succeed in a pair of decisions that could have gone either way depending upon the judges' perspectives.
Adesanya certainly isn't excused from shouldering a portion of the blame for the lack of excitement his fight produced given Romero's passive and defensive game plan. What shouldn't be overlooked, however, was the championship adjustments he made in Rounds 3 and 4 to figure out a way to win rounds without taking reckless chances by focusing on jabs and leg kicks.
It certainly won't win him many new fans in the short term, especially given how much the preflight narrative centered upon Adesanya going out of his way to select Romero as an opponent and then guaranteeing a knockout. That doesn't mean it wasn't smart as "The Last Stylebender" made a longterm business decision to essentially survive and advance instead of playing into any of Romero's traps.
Adesanya is 8-0 since making his UFC debut two years ago, and the greatest compliment to his P4P standing just might be the fact that he's been forced to show such diverse elements of his skill set in his most important and recent fights: technique (Anderson Silva), toughness (Kelvin Gastelum), power (Robert Whittaker) and intelligence (Romero).
Zhang, the first Chinese champion in UFC history, wasn't afforded the same luxury of Adesanya because of how frenetic and brilliant the performance of the former champion Jedrzejczyk was in their split-decision thriller. With 115 pounds standing historically as the deepest and most dangerous women's division in UFC history, Zhang proved herself worthy of being the class of it by answering every single question that her 2019 first-round knockout of Jessica Andrade to win the title was unable to.
Zhang's reputation as a power-puncher was certainly on display with the way she disfigured Jedrzejczyk's face due to swelling. But it was her five-round stamina as well as incredible toughness and durability that won over fans most and cemented her as a possible superstar in the making.
For every adjustment Jedrzejczyk was able to make to stay in the fight, Zhang seemingly had an answer at each turn.
For CBS Sports' updated divisional rankings,.
Men's pound-for-pound rankings
| 1. Khabib Nurmagomedov||Lightweight champion||28-0||--|
|The mauling grappler from Dagestan, Russia, continues to evolve fresh off a shellacking of Dustin Poirier. The challenges only get stiffer from here atop such a historically-deep division as "The Eagle" prepares for an April showdown with Tony Ferguson that's among the most anticipated in all of combat sports. |
|2. Jon Jones||Light heavyweight champion||26-1 (1 NC)||--|
|Jones survived a massive scare against Dominick Reyes in a February bout at UFC 247 that left critics wondering if the judges had gotten it wrong. The victory helped "Bones" set a new UFC record for most wins in title fights with 14.|
|3. Henry Cejudo||Flyweight/bantamweight champion||15-2||--|
|The cringemaster recently vacated his flyweight title and will look to start fresh in 2020 after missing the last six months following shoulder surgery. A bevy of 135-pound contenders have piled up in his absence, including former featherweight king Jose Aldo who will face him May 9 in Brazil. |
|4. Stipe Miocic||Heavyweight champion||19-3||--|
|Miocic's never-say-die toughness was on full display in rallying to finish Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 to regain his title. Miocic very well may be the greatest heavyweight to ever step foot in the Octagon. DC's interest in a trilogy sets the stage for quite possibly the most important fight in terms of legacies in UFC history.|
|5. Israel Adesanya||Middleweight champion||19-0||--|
|"The Last Stylebender" struggled to edge a non-combative Yoel Romero by decision in his first title defense at UFC 248. Despite boos from the crowd, Adesanya employed a survive-and-advance strategy to avoid danger. Up next is unbeaten Brazilian slugger Paulo Costa in a fight that all but guarantees action. |
|6. Kamaru Usman||Welterweight champion||16-1||--|
|Usman capped off an impressive year by out-slugging Colby Covington over five brutal rounds to defend his 170-pound title at UFC 245. Up next could be his most marketable opportunity to date should UFC match him with red-hot Jorge Masvidal for all the marbles. |
|7. Alexander Volkanovski||Featherweight champion||21-1||--|
|There's a new sheriff in town at 145 pounds, and he won the title with brilliant efficiency in outpointing Max Holloway in December. Volkanovski's game plan and control of distance was nearly flawless as his victory opens up a new set of fun pairings atop the division. |
|8. Tony Ferguson||Lightweight||19-3-1||--|
|It looks like the fifth time will be the charm for Ferguson in an April fight against lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov. No one is more deserving than "El Cucuy" for a title shot after running off 12 straight wins in the sport's deepest division. |
|9. Daniel Cormier||Heavyweight||22-2 (1 NC)||--|
|Although he turned 41 in March, Cormier remains focused on one more fight in a trilogy against Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight crown. A victory would help DC cement his legacy as the greatest UFC fighter the division has ever known and one of the best overall in history.|
|10. Max Holloway||Featherweight||21-5||--|
Holloway saw his incredible 14-fight win streak at 145 pounds come to an end at UFC 245 against Alexander Volkanovski. Look for "Blessed" to likely be in the running for an immediate rematch this summer.
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Jorge Masvidal, Conor McGregor, Dominick Reyes, Robert Whittaker, Colby Covington, Dustin Poirier, Paulo Costa
Women's pound-for-pound rankings
|1. Amanda Nunes||Bantamweight/Featherweight champion||19-4||--|
The greatest female fighter in UFC history continued to cement her legacy by adding a second win over former 145-pound champion Germaine de Randamie in their bantamweight title bout. She will defend her featherweight crown next on May 9 against Felicia Spencer.
|2. Valentina Shevchenko||Flyweight champion||19-3||--|
|The best 125-pound fighter in the world looked unbeatable at UFC 247 in her flyweight title defense against Katllyn Chookagian. The gap between Shevchenko and the rest of the division is so wide, it's very likely her next defining fight comes against a champion below or above her. Up next is Joanne Calderwood at UFC 251.|
|3. Weili Zhang||Strawweight champion||21-1||--|
|Zhang's inevitable ascent to global stardom after becoming China's first UFC champion only continued in her first title defense at UFC 248. She co-authored quite possibly the best fight in women's MMA history against Joanna Jedrzejczyk and answered any remaining questions about her skills, toughness and cardio.|
|4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk||Strawweight||16-4||--|
|At 32, the former champion proved she's still got a ton left in the tank by pushing Weili Zhang to the limit in a split-decision loss. Jedrzejczyk suffered heavy damage including a grotesquely swollen face yet showed a limitless level of resolve. The loss drops her to 0-4 in title bouts since 2017.|
|5. Germaine de Randamie||Bantamweight||9-3||--|
|As far as moral victories go, "The Iron Lady" scored a resounding one in her decision loss to Amanda Nunes in their UFC 245 rematch. De Randamie earned the respect of Nunes after rocking her twice and nearly submitting her, which forced the women's G.O.A.T. to play it safe by wrestling. |
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Rose Namajunas, Tatiana Suarez, Jessica Andrade, Claudia Gadelha, Aspen Ladd, Marina Rodriguez
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