The UFC is home to some of the best mixed martial artists on the planet, so it is no surprise that fans often debate how the elite fighters compare to one another.
Alongside its weekly-updated rankings for each weight class, the UFC has its own pound-for-pound rankings, containing 15 names – as with each list for every division.
Here, The Independent has constructed its own top 10, pound-for-pound rankings for men’s UFC fighters, to be updated throughout the year.
While there is no exact science to putting together lists such as this, a number of factors have been considered in making the rankings, including each fighter’s overall record, recent record, level of activity and calibre of opposition.
Without further ado…
10. Alex Pereira (8-2, light-heavyweight)
The Brazilian kickboxing extraordinaire enjoyed a rapid rise through the middleweight rankings after transitioning to MMA, culminating in a knockout victory of his old rival Israel Adesanya in November 2022 to take the title. Although Pereira was stopped by Adesanya to lose the gold in a rematch this April, he bounced back with a swift move up to light-heavyweight, where he outpointed former champion Jan Blachowicz. Pereira may yet fight for the title at 205lbs in his next fight or two, meaning he could achieve an impressive two-weight-champion status in record time.
9. Aljamain Sterling (23-4, bantamweight)
The Jamaican-American was mocked by some fans after winning the bantamweight title via DQ in 2021, when Petr Yan landed an illegal knee while leading the bout. In a rematch one year later, Sterling silenced some doubters and irked others by winning a narrow decision. He then dominated TJ Dillashaw en route to a TKO in October 2022, as the challenger battled a dislocated shoulder, and went on to beat Henry Cejudo this May, defeating the American – who had not fought in three years – via split decision. Some observers attached asterisks to each of Sterling’s title defences, but all three came against former world champions, before he dropped the gold to Sean O’Malley with a TKO loss in August.
8. Jiri Prochazka (29-3-1, light-heavyweight)
The Czech became the first fighter from his country to win a UFC title, when he submitted Glover Teixeira to win the light-heavyweight belt in June 2022. Prochazka’s late victory in that war – a fight of the year contender – marked the culmination of a rapid run to the gold; the 30-year-old won the title in just his third UFC fight, having previously knocked out ex-title challengers Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes in stunning fashion. Unfortunately the Czech suffered a shoulder injury ahead of his planned rematch with Teixeira, and he opted to vacate the belt rather than hold up the division. Prochazka has not fought since, but the dynamic striker’s return is eagerly anticipated.
7. Charles Oliveira (34-9, 1 NC; lightweight)
The Brazilian’s 2010 debut in the UFC gave way to an inconsistent record with numerous failed weight-cuts along the way, but the former featherweight then turned his career around. An 11-fight win streak over five years saw Oliveira claim and retain the lightweight title vacated by the retired Khabib, then submit Justin Gaethje in May 2022 – one day after being stripped of the belt for a narrow weight-miss. That win positioned him as No 1 contender as he looked to regain the gold. However, he was submitted by Islam Makhachev in October as the Russian won the vacant title. Oliveira bounced back in June 2023, though, with a TKO win over Beneil Dariush in the first round. That result extended Oliveira’s records for most finishes (19) and most submissions (16) in UFC history.
6. Kamaru Usman (20-3, welterweight)
In 2021, Usman was arguably the best mixed martial artist in the world, let alone the UFC, and our pound-for-pound No 1. The Nigerian-American is perhaps the most clinical wrestler in the promotion and has added knockout power to his game in recent years, and he was unbeaten for nine years between 2013 and 2022 – with a dominant welterweight title reign for the last three years of that run.
After five successful defences – two against Colby Covington, two against Jorge Masvidal, and one against Gilbert Burns – Usman dropped the belt to Leon Edwards last August, dominating his old opponent for much of the fight but falling to an incredible, late head kick. Edwards then outpointed Usman in London this March to retain the gold.
5. Israel Adesanya (24-2, middleweight champion)
One of the most exciting fighters to watch in the history of the sport. The former kickboxer routinely produces striking masterclasses against his opponents, simply proving too slick and too clever for his competition. Adesanya has faced a who’s-who of 185lbers, knocking out a number of them and losing to just one. The “Last Stylebender” suffered his first defeat in pro MMA in 2021, but there was even merit in that as the Nigerian-born New Zealander moved up a weight class to challenge then-champion Jan Blachowicz for the light-heavyweight title.
He then began to “lap the opposition” with back-to-back rematch wins against Vettori and Whittaker prior to his decision victory over Jared Cannonier at UFC 276. Adesanya then suffered just his second MMA defeat – and first at middleweight – in losing the title to old foe Alex Pereira in November. Pereira, who twice beat Adesanya in kickboxing bouts across 2016 and 2017, stopped the Kiwi in the final round to dethrone “Stylebender” at the end of a thrilling encounter. But Adesanya finally exorcised his demon by knocking out Pereira in the second round in April, regaining the title and reasserting himself as the best middleweight in the UFC.
4. Leon Edwards (21-3, 1 NC; welterweight champion)
Edwards became Britain’s second ever UFC champion with a stunning, last-gasp knockout of Usman in August. After taking down the Nigerian-American – something no fighter had ever done in the UFC – in Round 1, Edwards continually rose to his feet amid an onslaught of grappling pressure from the champion over the next few frames, keeping himself in the fight. Then, with a minute left on the clock, Edwards knocked Usman out cold with a perfect head kick to take his gold, beating the man who outpointed him seven years earlier. Then, this March, Edwards outpointed Usman in London to solidify his status as champion.
Edwards’ first win over Usman saw him enter our list, while the second propelled him up the rankings. Since his 2015 loss to the “Nigerian Nightmare”, Edwards is unbeaten with 11 straight wins (save for a No Contest against Belal Muhammad in 2021).
3. Islam Makhachev (24-1, lightweight champion)
Some used to question the Russian’s credentials, given a lack of top-tier opponents on his record, though that was arguably due to highly-ranked fighters’ tentativeness to risk their spots against a dangerous up-and-comer. Others accused Makhachev of benefiting from his connection to Khabib – his childhood friend and now one of Makhachev’s coaches. Regardless, the 31-year-old banished any doubt in October when he submitted Oliveira – the fighter with the most submission wins in UFC history – to win the vacant lightweight title, suggesting that he would have done the same to most contenders at 155lbs.
Makhachev then made it 12 wins in a row by outpointing Alexander Volkanovski in February, matching the Australian’s record streak for an active fighter while retaining his title against the featherweight champion in a very close contest. In advance of that fight, many suggested that a Makhachev win would make him the new pound-for-pound No 1, but Indy Sport was more impressed by Volkanovski’s showing in a higher weight class and would like to see Makhachev add some more notable names to his resume. As such, the Russian was our No 2, until…
2. Jon Jones (27-1, 1 NC; heavyweight champion)
When Jon Jones returned to the UFC in March after a three-year absence, winning the heavyweight title by submitting Ciryl Gane in the first round, many believed that the American confirmed himself as the greatest of all time. A lot of fans also felt that he should go straight to the top of any and all pound-for-pound lists. And Jones’ victory certainly was impressive, particularly due to the manner in which it was achieved and the factors around the 35-year-old’s heavyweight debut.
It was also enough for the former two-time light-heavyweight champion to shoot straight into our rankings at No 2, with his long-term resume standing out more than Makhachev’s (Jones has beaten numerous world champions), but his lack of activity keeping him below our No 1 – for the time being, at least.
1. Alexander Volkanovski (26-2, featherweight champion)
After suffering the sole defeat of his professional career in 2013, Volkanovski won a stunning 22 fights in a row. In fact, his only pro losses have come against a welterweight champion and a lightweight champion.
All of the Australian’s recent fights have pitted him against top names. In 2022, Volkanovski put on a clinic against fan favourite Chan Sung Jung before producing a masterclass to outpoint Max Holloway for the third time, leaving no doubt about his superiority over the man he dethroned in 2019. In doing so, the 34-year-old enhanced his own claim to be labelled the 145lbs GOAT. He even holds a win against the other standout contender for that status – Jose Aldo – as well as victories over Chad Mendes, Brian Ortega, and Yair Rodriguez.
Volkanovski is as dynamic, composed and well rounded as they come. He had the chance to confirm his status as pound-for-pound king when he challenged lightweight champion Makhachev on home turf in February, in a bid to become just the fifth ever dual-weight UFC champion, and – although he narrowly lost on points – he remained our No 1. That is due to the stunning performance produced by the Aussie in that fight, with Volkanovski dropping Makhachev twice, neutralising the Russian in many of the grappling exchanges, and arguably winning the bout despite a significant size disadvantage. He then returned to featherweight to stop interim champion Rodriguez in July.
Volkanovski also keeps the returning Jon Jones at bay, for now…