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The Ringer MMA April Pound-for-Pound Rankings

Israel Adesanya seized sweet revenge at UFC 287—and a major boost up our rankings. The Ringer MMA team surveys the fight landscape and delivers its updated top-10 lists.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Who’s back? Izzy’s back.

Though he never admitted it, Israel Adesanya was a vulnerable man heading into his UFC sequel with Alex Pereira at UFC 287. The backstory of their rivalry was full of failures for Izzy, starting with a pair of losses against Pereira in the kickboxing ring and ending with a knockout loss to him at UFC 281 last November.

And in Miami on Saturday, it didn’t look too good for Adesanya at first. He had his back up against the wall (both literally and metaphorically) and was eating big shots when—out of nowhere—he fired off an impossibly beautiful right counter that absolutely stunned Pereira. He followed that up with a couple of shots that left Pereira on the canvas, unconscious and vanquished. Adesanya stood over his rival and shot three imaginary arrows into the ghost of his past.

With the dramatic win, Adesanya reclaims the middleweight title and his status among the division’s all-time elite. He moves up in this month’s pound-for-pound rankings, while Pereira hangs on by a thread.

The panel of Chuck Mindenhall, Ariel Helwani, Petesy Carroll, and producer Troy Farkas—known as 3PAC on The Ringer MMA Show—have ranked both the men’s and women’s P4P best, one through 10.

Our only criterion for these monthly rankings is that a fighter has competed within at least a calendar year of the publication date, or has at least had a fight booked within that window. That is why you will not see a fighter like Henry Cejudo listed among the P4P best, and it’s also the reason erstwhile UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is excluded.

Though most of the best fighters are currently in the UFC, these rankings are not UFC exclusive. We take into consideration all the major promotions, from Bellator to ONE Championship to the PFL.

Without further ado, the Ringer MMA P4P Rankings for the first half of April.

Men’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings

1. Jon Jones

UFC Heavyweight Champion
Last month: no. 1

That he needed only a couple of minutes to dispense of Ciryl Gane after three long years away from the Octagon was impressive enough for Jones to leap the entire P4P field and resume his status as the best fighter alive. Now the question becomes: What will happen next? A summertime showdown with former heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic feels like a gimme, though nothing is ever easy with booking the full-time fireman (or Jonny Bones, for that matter). With the departure of lineal heavyweight champ Ngannou, there are still plenty of “what ifs” to mull, but if the Miocic fight gets made, it’ll be one hell of a consolation prize for fans.

2A. Alexander Volkanovski

UFC Featherweight Champion
Last month: no. 2A

It’s back to the featherweight kingdom for Volkanovski after his failed bid to conquer the lightweight division, and he’s still the same ruling 5-foot-6 colossus he’s always been. He gave Islam Makhachev all he could handle at UFC 284, so much so that Volkanovski stays one notch ahead of the Dagestani fighter as we roll through spring. Next up is a date with Yair Rodríguez, the interim champ who broke through on the same card that Volk lost on out in Australia. They will fight during International Fight Week at UFC 290 in Las Vegas, and here’s one thing you can take to the bank: Yair is an untamed wildcat of a battler, and that scrap will be all kinds of berserk.

2B. Islam Makhachev

UFC Lightweight Champion
Last month: no. 2B

By winning a dozen straight fights, Makhachev is quietly moving out of the shadow of his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov. It’s true that Volkanovski made him look mortal, which will certainly give whoever Makhachev faces off with next some confidence heading in. But there’s nothing quite like the chip to prove how great he is on an unsung champion’s shoulder. Makhachev will have his eyes on the fight between Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush at UFC 288 on May 6 because the winner of that fight will likely have the inside track to becoming his next victim. Er, opponent.

4. Israel Adesanya

UFC Middleweight Champion
Last month: no. 9

Adesanya can breathe easy. He exorcised his demons by stopping the one man who has haunted his every move in combat sports, and now he carries the burden of that middleweight strap again. The UFC’s dilemma is what to do with Izzy next. The next three guys in the rankings are Robert Whittaker (whom he has already beaten twice), Marvin Vettori (whom he has also beaten twice), and Jared Cannonier (whom he beat in one of the most boring fights of 2022). Will the UFC look at booking him in the rubber match with Pereira? Will it give him a third fight with the deserving Whittaker, even with him down 0-2? Will it expedite a meeting with Khamzat Chimaev, who is flirting with a permanent move to 185? It’s wait and see, but order has been restored at middleweight, and Izzy is the king.

5. Leon Edwards

UFC Welterweight Champion
Last month: no. 4

There was a rather vocal subset of fans hoping Jorge Masvidal would somehow find a way to defeat Gilbert Burns at UFC 287, if for no other reason than to create a little chaos for the UFC matchmakers. With a win, Masvidal could’ve feasibly slid into a welterweight title fight against Edwards to resolve their bad blood. But alas, Masvidal lost (and retired), meaning we’ll likely be in for a different kind of chaos. As in Colby “Chaos” Covington, the polarizing contender who pisses plenty of people off. To borrow a wrestling term, Edwards will be the biggest babyface in the history of the fight game when he takes his shoes off for that showdown with Covington.

6. Aljamain Sterling

UFC Bantamweight Champion
Last month: no. 6

Sleeping on Sterling is one of MMA’s most beloved pastimes. When he fought Cory Sandhagen, plenty believed he was running into a buzz saw. He won that fight in 88 seconds. When he took on Petr Yan for the bantamweight title, people actively hated on him for not being able to continue after absorbing an illegal knee (and therefore inheriting the title). The rematch was supposed to be Sterling’s comeuppance, but instead they popped corks at Ray Longo’s gym back in New York. He didn’t just beat a compromised TJ Dillashaw; he sent him into eternity. Now he’s set to take on the former two-division champion Cejudo at UFC 288 on May 6, and guess what? Plenty are once again treating Sterling as a firm Posturepedic mattress to sleep on.

7. Kamaru Usman

Former UFC Welterweight Champion
Last month: no. 5

How arbitrary and cruel is the fight game? Usman was a couple of minutes away from making history at UFC 278 for tying the record for winning the most consecutive fights, only to see Edwards snatch a piece of his soul with the biggest knockout of 2022. The Usman-Edwards trilogy fight—which went down last month at UFC 286 in London—was Usman’s chance to prove that his defeat at Edwards’s hands was a fluke. This time he didn’t get knocked out, but he didn’t have enough to exact his revenge, either. He lost a sound decision, and now, since Usman is 35, the question becomes what’s left for him. He will sit behind the eight ball for as long as Edwards reigns.

8. Charles Oliveira

Former UFC Lightweight Champion
Last month: no. 8

Oliveira holds records for the most submissions (16) and finishes (19) in UFC history, which is mind-blowing. Namely because he never quite seems to get his due when it comes to the endless stream of legacy conversations. Oliveira now has the thankless task of taking on the man nobody on the planet wants to face, Dariush. Dariush doesn’t just beat guys; if he doesn’t knock you out (and he evaporated Scott Holtzman in one of the greatest KOs of all time), he’ll siphon the soul right out of your body. He pressures, suffocates, and grinds opponents into states of helplessness. Want to gaze into the abyss? If Oliveira overcomes Dariush, his reward is a date with Makhachev. That’s like getting through King Kong just to fight Godzilla.

9. Brandon Moreno

UFC Flyweight Champion
Last month: no. 10

After they had four fights together, Moreno finally punted his longtime rival Deiveson Figueiredo to the bantamweight division for good at UFC 283. That means flyweight is once again open for business. It would make sense for the UFC to give Alexandre Pantoja the next crack at Moreno’s title, mostly because the two have a history together. Pantoja beat Moreno via decision back in 2018, so there’s a revenge angle in play for Moreno. With Alexa Grasso, Rodríguez, and Moreno all holding titles, it’s the golden era of Mexican champions in the UFC. If the promotion doesn’t hold a card in Mexico at some point this year, that’d be what Showtime’s Luke Thomas would call “promotional malpractice.”

10. Alex Pereira

Former UFC Middleweight Champion
Last month: no. 6

Pereira had the look of a cold-blooded destroyer heading into his first title defense with Izzy. When they entered the cage in Miami, his pupils went black. For what seemed like an eternity, he stared Adesanya down without blinking. If a spider had crawled across his eyeball, we’re guessing he wouldn’t have blinked. Cold, cold, cold. And he did his thing against Adesanya in the fight, too. That second-round flurry genuinely looked like the beginning of the end for Adesanya, and Pereira could smell the blood in the water. Yet the next thing he knew, he had smelling salts in his nostrils, and Adesanya was pumping him full of imaginary arrows. Tough way to go out. Is a move to light heavyweight next?

Voting Results

Troy Farkas Ariel Helwani Petesy Carroll Chuck Mindenhall
Troy Farkas Ariel Helwani Petesy Carroll Chuck Mindenhall
1. Jon Jones 1. Jon Jones 1. Jon Jones 1. Jon Jones
2. Islam Makhachev 2. Alex Volkanovski 2. Islam Makhachev 2. Alex Volkanovski
3. Alexander Volkanovski 3. Islam Makhachev 3. Alexander Volkanovski 3. Islam Makhachev
4. Israel Adesanya 4. Leon Edwards 4. Israel Adesanya 4. Israel Adesanya
5. Leon Edwards 5. Israel Adesanya 5. Leon Edwards 5. Leon Edwards
6. Aljamain Sterling 6. Kamaru Usman 6. Aljamain Sterling 6. Charles Oliveira
7. Kamaru Usman 7. Aljamain Sterling 7. Kamaru Usman 7. Aljamain Sterling
8. Charles Oliveira 8. Charles Oliveira 8. Alex Pereira 8. Kamaru Usman
9. Brandon Moreno 9. Brandon Moreno 9. Charles Oliveira 9. Brandon Moreno
10. Alex Pereira 10. Alex Pereira 10. Brandon Moreno 10. Alex Pereira

Women’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings

1. Amanda Nunes

UFC Bantamweight and Featherweight Champion
Last month: no. 1

The UFC has never seen as many rematches, loaded sequels, trilogies, and quadrilogies as it has in 2023. The next trilogy in the string belongs to the women’s P4P queen, Nunes, who will take on Julianna Peña for the third time at UFC 289 in Vancouver. Look, it’s a nice gesture for the UFC to give Peña another chance to take Nunes’s belt—it’s ultimately the right thing to do (especially now that Valentina Shevchenko is out of the picture). But that Nunes-Peña fight back at UFC 277 was a rout for Nunes, who cleared away any ideas that she might be on the downswing. It’s a fight, meaning you never know … but there’s no reason Nunes shouldn’t be able to repeat the process.

2. Zhang Weili

UFC Strawweight Champion
Last month: no. 2

The waiting game for Weili continues, but if you take out a pencil and do the math, the page starts to bleed. Weili beat Carla Esparza in November to win back the strawweight title. She has lost twice against Rose Namajunas, so a title defense happens against Namajunas only if UFC matchmakers are masochists (besides, Namajunas is in no hurry to get back in the cage again). Amanda Lemos is out there with a nice little win streak. She’s got to be a leading candidate to take on Weili next, right? I mean, right? Hello?

3. Alexa Grasso

UFC Flyweight Champion
Last month: no. 3A

Grasso did the impossible by knocking off Shevchenko in shocking fashion at UFC 285. Most didn’t give her much of a chance since Shevchenko was the superior striker, the superior grappler, and maybe the superior everything. Yet Grasso saw her chance and took it. She torqued Shevchenko’s face until it turned a sunburned red, forcing a tap. Upset of the year? It’s definitely in the running. Now we’re looking at a rematch, and though there are plenty of people who think Shevchenko just had an off night, the fact is that Grasso is primed to make history repeat itself.

4. Valentina Shevchenko

Former UFC Flyweight Champion
Last month: no. 3B

In defeat, Shevchenko has been straightforward, not offering any excuses for what happened against Grasso. The good news is that as a tenured champion—and as the best women’s flyweight fighter we’ve seen—she’ll get another crack at Grasso. The bad news? She hasn’t looked particularly Valentina-like in her last couple of times out. She narrowly beat Taila Santos two fights ago and couldn’t find a good rhythm against Grasso her next time out. She’s 35 years old and has competed most of her life. Has Father Time caught up to her? Let’s just say there’ll be a lot for her to prove in that next fight.

5. Cris Cyborg

Bellator Featherweight Champion; Former UFC Featherweight Champion
Last month: no. 5

It would be nice to see Cyborg fight in MMA again at some point in the not-so-distant future, as it’s been a year since that unceremonious beatdown of Arlene Blencowe. Right now she’s enjoying popping up at odd events, holding her Bellator title for everyone to see, and smiling for pictures. It’s a wonderful smile. She seems genuinely happy. But MMA fans are getting restless, and her moonlighting as a boxer isn’t scratching the itch. What people want to see is her continue her run of destruction as she Jan Finneys people with merciless abandon. Cat Zingano is coming off a victory over Leah McCourt. Zingano’s a ripe candidate.

6A. Carla Esparza

Former UFC Strawweight Champion
Last month: no. 6A

Rarely does anyone want to fight Esparza. In fact, even when somebody like Tatiana Suarez comes along—somebody who might make sense against Esparza next—there’s always a cold draft when the name Esparza is brought up. “I don’t think anybody wants to see me fight Carla again,” said Suarez, who defeated Esparza by knockout back at UFC 228. “Let’s be real, like, I would catch a case twice. No, we’re not doing that.” Most fighters have no interest in being consumed by the nom-nom-nom of the “Cookie Monster.” That’s why when Amanda Ribas called out Esparza, people had to do a double take to make sure they heard what they thought they heard.

6B. Rose Namajunas

Former UFC Strawweight Champion
Last month: no. 6B

It’s been nearly a year since Namajunas lost her strawweight title to Esparza, and she doesn’t seem in any particular hurry to fight again. Should we come around to next month without her being booked, she will fall out of the P4P rankings due to inactivity. Let’s be real, though: Namajunas does things the way she does things. The good news for her is that she has already beaten the current champion, Weili, twice, which sits like an asterisk on Weili’s résumé. So long as they keep Namajunas the hell away from Esparza, there are nothing but positive vibes for her eventual return.

8. Julianna Peña

Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
Last month: no. 8

The countdown is on to June 10, when Peña must prove her second fight with Nunes didn’t mean that the first fight was a fluke, that, indeed, the third fight shows the second fight was actually the outlier. Confusing? It is, it is. But Peña’s entire fighting existence rests on this series with Nunes. Should she beat the great champion again, Peña’s place in the pantheon of triumphant underdogs will be solidified forever. Lose, and … well … that first fight will look glaringly like a fluke.

9. Erin Blanchfield

UFC Flyweight Contender
Last month: no. 9

It was fun to contemplate the 23-year-old Blanchfield’s chances of dethroning Shevchenko during that brief window between Blanchfield’s victory over Jessica Andrade and Shevchenko’s loss to Grasso. Now that the title belongs to Grasso and the title picture will be tied up with a rematch, those contemplations have cooled. What is fun, though, is watching a young phenom like Blanchfield roll through opponents like they’re so many bowling pins. A fight against Santos or Manon Fiorot would qualify as a title eliminator depending on how things at the top play out. We’re guessing that Blanchfield won’t be choosy. She sees a title not as something that could happen at some point down the line, but rather as something that’s inevitable.

10. Manon Fiorot

UFC Flyweight Contender
Last month: no. 10

With her knee surgery behind her and a return to action drawing near, the question of where Fiorot fits in the women’s flyweight title picture is a complicated one. If Shevchenko had taken care of Grasso at UFC 285, Fiorot would have been in the pole position to get the next shot, as she currently sits as the no. 1 contender in the division. With Grasso having done the unthinkable, Fiorot once again waits behind the eight ball as a rematch is inevitably booked. Best-case scenario is that Shevchenko isn’t ready—or something unforeseen happens to get Fiorot back into the picture—but the outlook is blurry. If Fiorot has to take on Santos for a title eliminator, that will at least keep her busy. If she has to fight Blanchfield before she gets her title chance? Well, see, now that’s just cruel.

Others receiving votes: Jessica Andrade

Voting Results

Troy Farkas Ariel Helwani Petesy Carroll Chuck Mindenhall
Troy Farkas Ariel Helwani Petesy Carroll Chuck Mindenhall
1. Amanda Nunes 1. Amanda Nunes 1. Amanda Nunes 1. Amanda Nunes
2. Valentina Shevchenko 2. Zhang Weili 2. Zhang Weili 2. Zhang Weili
3. Zhang Weili 3. Alexa Grasso 3. Alexa Grasso 3. Cris Cyborg
4. Alexa Grasso 4. Valentina Shevchenko 4. Valentina Shevchenko 4. Alexa Grasso
5. Cris Cyborg 5. Cris Cyborg 5. Cris Cyborg 5. Valentina Shevchenko
6. Julianna Peña 6. Carla Esparza 6. Rose Namajunas 6. Carla Esparza
7. Rose Namajunas 7. Rose Namajunas 7. Carla Esparza 7. Rose Namajunas
8. Carla Esparza 8. Erin Blanchfield 8. Julianna Peña 8. Erin Blanchfield
9. Erin Blanchfield 9. Jessica Andrade 9. Manon Fiorot 9. Julianna Peña
10. Jessica Andrade 10. Julianna Peña 10. Erin Blanchfield 10. Manon Fiorot