It took Rose Namajunas a little more than three minutes to alter the power structure in women’s mixed martial arts.
Long hailed as a future champion, her results caught up to those lofty expectations at UFC 217 on Nov. 4, as she upset pound-for-pound queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York. Jedrzejczyk, who had never before been defeated, succumbed to punches 3:03 into the first round. The Polish superstar’s unexpected fall moves UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes into the pound-for-pound penthouse for the first time, while Namajunas enters the rankings at No. 3 and Jedrzejczyk falls all the way to fourth. Finally, Namajunas’ unexpected rise meant the previously 10th-ranked Agnieszka Niedzwiedz slips off the list -- at least for now.
Two of the top 10 fighters in our rankings are booked for duty in the coming weeks, as Julia Budd puts her Bellator MMA women’s featherweight belt on the line against Arlene Blencowe on Dec. 1 and Jennifer Maia defends the Invicta Fighting Championships flyweight title against the aforementioned Niedzwiedz on Dec. 8.
Without further delay, the updated Sherdog Women’s MMA Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:
1. Amanda Nunes (15-4)Nunes made the first defense of her women’s bantamweight crown by absolutely destroying Ronda Rousey in 48 seconds at UFC 207 in December. Having taken a second win over Valentina Shevchenko to retain her title nine months later, “The Lioness” was penciled in to defend her crown at UFC 219 on Dec. 30. However, Nunes will need to find a different dance partner for her third title defense, as would-be challenger Raquel Pennington has suffered a broken leg and exited the picture for the time being.
2. Cristiane Justino (18-1, 1 NC)Do not think for a second that Justino’s truculent personality is going to disappear just because she now reigns over the UFC women’s featherweight division. Since UFC President Dana White stated that former bantamweight titleholder Holly Holm would likely be the first challenger for the 32-year-old Brazilian, “Cyborg” has been on the offensive, publicly complaining about the UFC offering her less money for a fight with Holm than she made in her win over Tonya Evinger on July 29. “Cyborg” and Holm have even taken to calling out one another over who has been more rigorously tested by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. All of it may be moot, as it MMAFighting.com reported on Nov. 8 that the fight was off the table and that Holm’s agent called it “dead.” For now, Justino awaits her first title defense.
3. Rose Namajunas (7-3)The first time Namajunas fought for an Ultimate Fighting Championship title, she was 22 years old and had all of three professional fights. The result was a third-round submission loss to Carla Esparza at “The Ultimate Fighter 20” Finale. A little less than three years later, her second UFC championship bid went far better than most pundits anticipated. In barely three minutes and as a 6-to-1 underdog, “Thug Rose” tore apart the pound-for-pound queen of the sport on Nov. 4, leveling Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a left hook and pounding her out to take the gold and cinch up the 2017 “Upset of the Year.” Namajunas will enter her first title defense on the strength of a two-fight winning streak.
4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1)With five title defenses under her belt, Jedrzejczyk’s UFC 217 encounter with Rose Namajunas seemed like another day at the office for “Joanna Champion.” That nickname will need to be struck from the record, at least for now, as the Polish standout was unseated in devastating fashion on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York. “Thug Rose” knocked her down and forced her to tap to strikes in barely three minutes, handing Jedrzejczyk the first loss of her pro career while crowning a new strawweight queen.
5. Jessica Andrade (17-6)When Andrade dropped from 135 to 115 pounds in June 2016, it was as if a beast had been unleashed. However, after three brutal wins, she was beaten like a drum for 25 minutes by Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 211 in May. The “Piledriver” rebounded and overcame a slow start to bloody and batter Claudia Gadelha at UFC Fight Night 117 on Sept. 23 in Saitama, Japan, slamming and pounding her for the final 11 minutes of their bout to win a unanimous decision and change the outlook for the 115-pound division.
6. Claudia Gadelha (15-3)In her last two wins over Cortney Casey and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, it seemed Gadelha’s move to the United States to train with Luttrell-Yee MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was paying rich dividends. However, “Claudinha’s” quest for a third crack at Joanna Jedrzejczyk and a second chance at her throne came to a screeching halt in Saitama, Japan, on Sept. 23, courtesy of Jessica Andrade. Gadelha started strong but faded after the first round, enduring a beating from her fellow Brazilian while surrendering her previously ironclad No. 2 status in the division.
7. Valentina Shevchenko (14-3)When Shevchenko met Amanda Nunes in March 2016, she started slow but turned up the heat late, leading onlookers to wonder what could have been with 10 extra minutes. Shevchenko on Sept. 9 finally got her 25-minute showdown with Nunes for the women’s bantamweight title at UFC 215 and controlled the middle portion of the fight. However, it was the champion who came on strong late, eventually eking out a split decision, much to the chagrin of Shevchenko, who remained adamant that she deserved the judges’ nod. With the UFC ready to crown its first women’s flyweight champion with the conclusion of “The Ultimate Fighter 26,” a move to 125 pounds could be in the offing for the woman they call “Bullet.”
8. Jennifer Maia (14-4-1)A pair of wins over Vanessa Porto and Roxanne Modafferi in 2016 gave Maia the two biggest victories of her pro MMA career, along with the Invicta Fighting Championships flyweight title. Now 29 years old, Maia may well have the chance to add another major name to her ledger before the year ends. In her next 125-pound title defense, she is penciled in to headline Invicta 26 on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, where she will square off against the undefeated Agnieszka Niedzwiedz.
9. Ayaka Hamasaki (14-2)Though she has enjoyed a distinguished career as a strawweight, Hamasaki would surely love to forget her return to 115 pounds, as the Invicta atomweight champion was torn apart by Brazilian Livia Renata Souza in 101 seconds on March 25. What better way to forget such a loss than to go back and defend the crown of the division you rule? Unfortunately for the 35-year-old Japanese fighter, her next title defense still figures to come against Jinh Yu Frey, who was soundly besting Hamasaki until the ringside physician halted the challenger on a cut in their September 2016 Invicta title fight.
10. Julia Budd (10-2)Budd is a perfect 4-0 inside the Bellator MMA cage, yet despite capturing the inaugural featherweight title against Marloes Coenen in March, the Dutch pioneer was not Budd’s toughest fight in the promotion. That distinction goes to little-known Australian Arlene Blencowe, a woman against whom Budd slipped past via majority decision in October 2016. Now, they will run it back, as Budd defends her championship against Blencowe at Bellator 189 on Dec. 1.
Sherdog’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10 is voted upon by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Jordan Breen, Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, TJ De Santis, Eric Stinton, Jesse Denis, Todd Martin, Josh Stillman, Nick Grinups, Jake Hughes and Anthony Walker.