Pound-for-pound rankings: Israel Adesanya’s downfall makes top-10 voting a split decision

Israel Adesanya‘s stunning upset at the hands of Sean Strickland over the weekend was a major disruption for the UFC middleweight division — and for the ESPN pound-for-pound rankings.

When a champion such as Adesanya — a perennial top-five fighter — gets thoroughly trounced by someone well down in the divisional rankings and outside the P4P hierarchy, how far should the newly dethroned ex-champ fall? It was Adesanya’s second defeat in his last three fights, after all.

And what about Strickland? He went into the bout 2-2 in his last four, and this win was his first over a top-five opponent. But it was a big one. Does Strickland belong in the top 10?

The ESPN panel was split. Two of our six voters removed Adesanya from their top 10s, and the others moved him down just a bit. Two voters ranked Strickland.

Brett Okamoto kept things relatively stable. He previously had Adesanya at No. 4, like many others on the panel. But unlike the others, Okamoto dropped “The Last Stylebender” just one spot to No. 5.

“My thought process is pretty simple, really,” Okamoto said. “I understand Adesanya just suffered a rather convincing 25-minute defeat. When I ask myself, however, if I would still favor him over every fighter in his division, the answer is that I would. And when I ask myself, would I favor him over just about any other fighter in the world if they were all the same weight, the answer is that I would. A pound-for-pound ranking is results-based but it’s more so opinion-based, and one bad performance does not drastically change the fighter I believe Adesanya is.”

The “one bad performance” at UFC 293 did change the thinking on Adesanya for other voters. Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim, both of whom also had Adesanya at No. 4 in the previous rankings, removed him from their top 10s altogether. Taking things a step further, Raimondi is one of the two panelists — along with Carlos Contreras Legaspi — to add Strickland to their rankings.

Raimondi explains: “Strickland beat someone I had ranked No. 4 and did it in one-sided fashion. That carries a lot of weight for me. Strickland also has just two losses in the last five years, and one could make the argument he should have been given the nod by the judges against Jared Cannonier [in December]. Adesanya, meanwhile, has lost two of three and is just 4-3 in his last seven fights.”

Let the arguments begin.

The women’s top 10 remains the same — but stay tuned. No. 2 meets No. 3 on Saturday when Valentina Shevchenko bids to regain the flyweight title from Alexa Grasso. So expect some upheaval in a week.

For the ESPN divisional MMA rankings, click here.

Note: Results are current; rankings as of Sept. 12. In order to be eligible for the rankings, a fighter must have competed over the past 12 months or must have an upcoming fight booked. Fighters who have been dropped for inactivity can be reinstated only after they compete.

Men’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Alexander Volkanovski

UFC featherweight champion
Record: 26-2
Last: W (TKO3) Yair Rodriguez, July 8, 2023
Next: TBD

2. Islam Makhachev

UFC lightweight champion
Record: 24-1
Last: W (UD) Alexander Volkanovski, Feb. 11, 2023
Next: Oct. 21 vs. Charles Oliveira

3. Jon Jones

UFC heavyweight champion
Record: 27-1, 1 NC
Last: W (Sub1) Ciryl Gane, March 4, 2023
Next: Nov. 11 vs. Stipe Miocic

4. Leon Edwards

UFC welterweight champion
Previous ranking: 5
Record: 21-3, 1 NC
Last: W (MD) Kamaru Usman, March 18, 2023
Next: TBD

5. Charles Oliveira

UFC lightweight
Previous ranking: 6
Record: 34-9, 1 NC
Last: W (TKO1) Beneil Dariush, June 10, 2023
Next: Oct. 21 vs. Islam Makhachev

6. Kamaru Usman

UFC welterweight
Previous ranking: 7
Record: 20-3
Last: L (MD) Leon Edwards, March 18, 2023
Next: TBD

7. Israel Adesanya

UFC middleweight
Previous ranking: 4
Record: 24-3
Last: L (UD) Sean Strickland, Sept. 9, 2023
Next: TBD

8. Alexandre Pantoja

UFC flyweight champion
Record: 26-5
Last: W (SD) Brandon Moreno, July 8, 2023
Next: TBD

9. Sean O’Malley

UFC bantamweight champion
Record: 17-1, 1 NC
Last: W (TKO2) Aljamain Sterling, Aug. 19, 2023
Next: TBD

10. Aljamain Sterling

UFC bantamweight
Record: 22-4
Last: L (TKO2) Sean O’Malley, Aug. 19, 2023
Next: TBD

Other fighters receiving votes: Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway, Sean Strickland, Demetrious Johnson and Brandon Moreno.

How our panel voted

Brett Okamoto: 1. Alexander Volkanovski; 2. Islam Makhachev; 3. Jon Jones; 4. Leon Edwards; 5. Israel Adesanya; 6. Charles Oliveira; 7. Kamaru Usman; 8. Alexandre Pantoja; 9. Max Holloway; 10. Brandon Moreno.

Marc Raimondi: 1. Jones; 2. Makhachev; 3. Volkanovski; 4. Edwards; 5. Oliveira; 6. Sean O’Malley; 7. Pantoja; 8. Sean Strickland; 9. Usman; 10. Moreno.

Megan Anderson: 1. Volkanovski; 2. Jones; 3. Makhachev; 4. Edwards; 5. Oliveira; 6. Adesanya; 7. Usman; 8. Justin Gaethje; 9. Aljamain Sterling; 10. O’Malley.

Carlos Contreras Legaspi: 1. Volkanovski; 2. Makhachev; 3. Jones; 4. Edwards; 5. Oliveira; 6. Usman; 7. Adesanya; 8. O’Malley; 9. Holloway; 10. Strickland.

Eddie Maisonet III: 1. Volkanovski; 2. Makhachev; 3. Jones; 4. Oliveira; 5. Adesanya; 6. Edwards; 7. Usman; 8. Pantoja; 9. Demetrious Johnson; 10. Sterling.

Jeff Wagenheim: 1. Makhachev; 2. Volkanovski; 3. Jones; 4. Edwards; 5. Oliveira; 6. Pantoja; 7. O’Malley; 8. Usman; 9. Sterling; 10. Gaethje.

1. Zhang Weili

UFC strawweight champion
Record: 24-3
Last: W (UD) Amanda Lemos, Aug. 19, 2023
Next: TBD

2. Valentina Shevchenko

UFC flyweight
Record: 22-4
Last: L (Sub4) Alexa Grasso, March 4, 2023
Next: Sept. 16 vs. Alexa Grasso

3. Alexa Grasso

UFC flyweight champion
Record: 16-3
Last: W (Sub4) Valentina Shevchenko, March 4, 2023
Next: Sept. 16 vs. Valentina Shevchenko

4. Erin Blanchfield

UFC flyweight
Record: 12-1
Last: W (UD) Taila Santos, Aug. 26, 2023
Next: TBD

5. Carla Esparza

UFC strawweight
Record: 19-7
Last: L (Sub2) Zhang Weili, Nov. 12, 2022
Next: TBD

6. Yan Xiaonan

UFC strawweight
Record: 17-3
Last: W (KO1) Jessica Andrade, May 6, 2023
Next: TBD

7. Kayla Harrison

PFL lightweight
Record: 15-1
Last: L (UD) Larissa Pacheco, Nov. 25, 2022
Next: TBD

8. Larissa Pacheco

PFL lightweight champion
Record: 22-4
Last: W (TKO1) Olena Kolesnyk, Aug. 18, 2023
Next: Nov. 24 vs. Marina Mokhnatkina

9. Tatiana Suarez

UFC strawweight
Record: 10-0
Last: W (Sub2) Jessica Andrade, Aug. 5, 2023
Next: TBD

10. Seika Izawa

Rizin super atomweight champion
Previous ranking: 8
Record: 11-0
Last: W (Sub1) Claire Lopez, July 30, 2023
Next: TBD

Other fighters receiving votes: Liz Carmouche, Amanda Lemos, Raquel Pennington, Jessica Andrade, Manon Fiorot, Taila Santos and Mayra Bueno Silva.

How our panel voted

Brett Okamoto: 1. Zhang Weili; 2. Valentina Shevchenko; 3. Alexa Grasso; 4. Erin Blanchfield; 5. Tatiana Suarez; 6. Kayla Harrison; 7. Carla Esparza; 8. Jessica Andrade; 9. Larissa Pacheco; 10. Yan Xiaonan.

Marc Raimondi: 1. Zhang; 2. Shevchenko; 3. Grasso; 4. Blanchfield; 5. Esparza; 6. Yan; 7. Izawa; 8. Suarez; 9. Manon Fiorot; 10. Liz Carmouche.

Megan Anderson: 1. Zhang; 2. Shevchenko; 3. Grasso; 4. Esparza; 5. Blanchfield; 6. Yan; 7. Raquel Pennington; 8. Manon Fiorot; 9. Taila Santos; 10. Mayra Bueno Silva.

Carlos Contreras Legaspi: 1. Zhang; 2. Shevchenko; 3. Grasso; 4. Harrison; 5. Esparza; 6. Blanchfield; 7. Yan; 8. Pacheco; 9. Andrade; 10. Carmouche.

Eddie Maisonet III: 1. Zhang; 2. Grasso; 3. Shevchenko; 4. Blanchfield; 5. Pacheco; 6. Lemos; 7. Harrison; 8. Izawa; 9. Carmouche; 10. Yan.

Jeff Wagenheim: 1. Zhang; 2. Shevchenko; 3. Grasso; 4. Blanchfield; 5. Esparza; 6. Yan; 7. Carmouche; 8. Izawa; 9. Suarez; 10. Pacheco.

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