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Valentina Shevchenko might not have scored any points with the fans at UFC Fight Night 156, but she did strengthen her foothold as one of the top female talents in the world.
“Bullet” cruised to a convincing decision victory over Liz Carmouche in Saturday’s headliner at at Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uruguay, sweeping all three judges’ scorecards by identical 50-45 counts. That makes four consecutive victories at 125 pounds for Shevchenko, and the division doesn’t appear to be narrowing the gap on the reigning champion. The 31-year-old Tiger Muay Thai representative will remain at No. 2 in our pound-for-pound poll behind the only woman to beat her in UFC competition, two-division champion Amanda Nunes. The only other person to defeat her during her 21-bout professional tenure? Well, it took nearly a decade for it to happen, but Shevchenko avenged that previous loss to Carmouche emphatically enough that there should be no need for a rubber match.
1. Amanda Nunes (18-4)Nunes continued to make her case as the female “GOAT” at UFC 239, where she patiently waited for an opening before dispatching Holly Holm with a head kick and follow-up punches 4:10 into the opening stanza of their co-main event encounter at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. That makes nine consecutive victories for “Lioness,” including six in title bouts. With a resume that also includes wins over the likes of Cristiane Justino, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Germaine de Randamie, the next task is simply finding a suitable challenge for the two-division champion. A rematch with “Cyborg” once looked to be on the horizon, but it now appears that Justino will be taking her talents elsewhere..
2. Valentina Shevchenko (18-3)It was far from enthralling, but Shevchenko was in completely control throughout her title defense against Liz Carmouche in the UFC Uruguay headliner. Even though her volume was lacking, a technical “Bullet” floored her opponent twice and did well in grappling exchanges with the physical Carmouche. The end result was a sweep of the scorecards and the fourth consecutive 125-pound victory for the reigning champion. The 31-year-old Tiger Muay Thai representative now owns victories over Carmouche, Jessica Eye and Joanna Jedrzejczyk in title bouts and continues to look like one of the most dominant champions in any UFC division..
3. Jessica Andrade (20-6)Andrade battled through adversity to claim strawweight gold at UFC 237. The Brazilian was confounded by Rose Namajunas in the early going of their main even bout in Rio de Janeiro, as “Bate Estaca” was bloodied and dropped by her opponent. Once Andrade was better able to close the distance, however, things changed, and she became the promotion’s fourth 115-pound queen after knocking Namajunas unconscious with a slam in the second stanza. In a somewhat surprising twist, Andrade’s first title defense will come against Weili Zhang in China on Aug. 31.
4. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (21-2)It was only natural to wonder how “Cyborg” would fare coming off her first defeat in more than 13 years, but the heavy-handed Brazilian bounced back nicely at UFC 240, earning a unanimous decision victory against Felicia Spencer in the evening’s co-main event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 27. It was the last fight on Justino’s UFC deal, and shortly thereafter promotion head Dana White confirmed that he was “out of the Cyborg business,” clearing the way for the ex-champ to join another organization. Regardless, Justino re-established herself as the clear No. 2 featherweight in the world.
5. Rose Namajunas (8-4)Namajunas looked sharp in her second title defense at UFC 237. That is, until challenger Jessica Andrade knocked her unconscious with a slam 2:58 into the second round of their headlining bout in Rio de Janeiro. Namajunas’ reaction after the defeat was one of relief, and it seems as though the 26-year-old could be leaning toward an early retirement. If she does decide to stick around, “Thug” Rose has shown a propensity to make great strides from bout to bout, and that includes UFC 237, where she battered, bloodied and dropped Andrade on the feet. Given a little more time to clear her head, it’s possible that Namajunas’ perspective could change, but don’t expect a quick turnaround either way.
6. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-3)Once regarded as the top female pound-for-pound talent in the sport, Jedrzejczyk now finds herself looking up at the top of two separate divisions following a loss to Valentina Shevchenko for the vacant flyweight strap at UFC 231. While the 31-year-old Poland native showed no quit in the bout, she simply had no clear answers for her opponent over the course of the 25-minute affair. Jedrzejczyk will return to 115 pounds for her next Octagon appearance when she faces Michelle Waterson at UFC Fight Night in Tampa on Oct. 12.
7. Germaine de Randamie (9-3)De Randamie made a great case to be the bantamweight No. 1 contender at UFC Sacramento, where she starched the previously unbeaten Aspen Ladd in just 16 seconds in the evening’s headliner. That makes five consecutive victories for the Dutch kickboxer, a streak that also includes wins over Raquel Pennington and Holly Holm. With Cristiane Justino out of the picture, “The Iron Lady” could be the next opponent for reigning two-division queen Amanda Nunes.
8. Julia Budd (13-2)Budd continued to display her newfound penchant for finishing fights at Bellator 224, as she wiped out the previously unbeaten Olga Rubin at the 2:14 mark of Round 1 in the evening’s headliner in Thackerville, Okla., on June 12. The 36-year-old “Jewel” extended her winning streak to 11 with the fastest stoppage of her career and has now finished three of her last four foes under the Bellator banner. Budd has already targeted matchups with recent signee Leslie Smith or Rizin powerhouse Gabi Garcia in a potential cross-promotional duel.
9. Ayaka Hamasaki (18-2)It took a strong third round to do so, but Hamasaki held off Invicta queen Jinh Yu Frey to win a unanimous decision in a champion vs. champion bout at Rizin 16. It was Hamasaki’s second victory over Frey – she also defeated the American under the Invicta banner – and fourth consecutive triumph overall. The 37-year-old Tokyo native has also bested Kanna Asakura, Mina Kurobe and Alyssa Garcia in Rizin bouts. Hamasaki will meet Suwanan Boonsorn in her next appearance at Rizin 18.
10. Tatiana Suarez (8-0)Suarez may still very well be a future champion, but she showed some flaws in a victory over Nina Ansaroff at UFC 238. The American used her wrestling to bank two rounds on the judges scorecards, but faded in the third round. Perhaps even more concerning was Ansaroff’s ability to land offense in the final stanza. Nonetheless, Suarez captured a unanimous decision for her fifth consecutive triumph within the Las Vegas-based promotion. The Milennia MMA product doesn’t feel as though she needs more seasoning: After the victory, she called out reigning 115-pound queen Jessica Andrade.
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Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Eric Stinton, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry, Jacob Debets, Keith Shillan, Edward Carbajal, Jason Burgos, Guy Portman, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Cole Shelton, Abhinav Kini, Mike Sloan, Tom Feely and Tyler Treese.