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UFC Pound-for-Pound Fighter Rankings: Alexandre Pantoja maintains place in turning away Steve Erceg

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By holding serve when it comes to his placement among the many pound-for-pound greatest in UFC, flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja achieved one thing extra in his UFC 301 title protection towards Steve Erceg final Saturday. 

The 34-year-old Pantoja introduced some much-needed stability to the highest of the 125-pound division. 

Conceived in 2012 and fueled by a four-man match to resolve the primary champion, the lads’s flyweight division had lengthy been a showcase for future Corridor of Famer Demetrious Johnson to evolve his legendary recreation en path to a report 11 title defenses. Henry Cejudo’s short-lived reign was subsequent, though it might need succeeded principally in bringing sufficient star energy to forestall UFC from folding the load class, altogether. 

However the previous few years at flyweight have seen the title bounce round like a sizzling potato all through a memorable four-fight collection between Brandon Moreno and Deveison Figuereido, the place the title continually shifted arms. 

Enter Pantoja, a longtime and revered submission menace, who has used the final 10 months to fully take over the proceedings by outdogging Moreno for the title final summer time earlier than a pair of successive defenses. 

Though Pantoja has at all times been expert, it has been his aggressiveness and veteran moxy that has allowed him to remain on high. It has additionally been his grappling, notably towards Erceg, which allowed him to mute his opponent’s offense lengthy sufficient to win shut rounds on account of management time and top-game offense. 

For a division so well-known for its parity of late, Pantoja seems on his solution to doubtlessly carving out his personal period inside the division’s historical past. And the one shock about him turning into champion was that it occurred so late in his run, some 31 bouts into his professional profession and 13 into his UFC run. 

For CBS Sports activities’ up to date divisional rankings, click on right here.

Males’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Islam Makhachev — Light-weight champion

Document: 25-1 | Earlier rating: No. 1

A pair of title defenses towards former featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski, together with a head-kick knockout of their UFC 294 rematch, helped Makhachev seize fighter of the yr honors in 2023. The 32-year-old will make his return on June 1 at UFC 302 when he welcomes former interim titleholder Dustin Poirier. 

2. Jon Jones — Heavyweight champion

Document: 27-1, 1 NC | Earlier rating: 2

Jones’ first title protection at heavyweight, scheduled for final November towards former champion Stipe Miocic, was canceled after Jones suffered a pectoral tear in coaching. An eight-month restoration is anticipated for Jones, who turns 37 this summer time, as UFC stays steadfast that Miocic, and never interim champion Tom Aspinall, is up subsequent. 

3. Alex Pereira — Mild heavyweight champion

Document: 10-2 | Earlier rating: 3

The 36-year-old Brazilian slugger not solely headlined the promotion’s largest occasion in historical past at UFC 300 in April, he completed former champion Jamahal Hill with the primary important punch he landed. In simply eight UFC bouts, “Poatan” has already etched a singular place in historical past. And now he is teasing a attainable transfer as much as heavyweight. 

4. Leon Edwards — Welterweight champion

Document: 21-3, 1 NC | Earlier rating: 4

Edwards packed his UFC 286 trilogy win over Kamaru Usman with a second title protection in December towards long-time contender Colby Covington. The one factor unsure relating to Edwards is when he’ll return and towards whom as each Belal Muhammed and Shavkat Rakhmonov proceed to jockey for place.

5. Ilia Topuria — Featherweight champion

Document: 15-0 | Earlier rating: 5

A altering of the guard atop the 145-pound division at UFC 298 in February might need produced the subsequent breakout star of the game. Topuria did every part he stated he would towards Alexander Volkanovski, together with ending him within the first two rounds. His precision was solely trumped by his one-punch energy as Topuria patiently dismantled the most effective fighters in historical past.

6. Max Holloway — Featherweight

Document: 26-7 | Earlier rating: 6

Do not name it a comeback, Holloway has been among the many P4P elite for years. However it has been this explicit three-fight win streak at age 32 that has been so rejuvenating. Two years in the past, following his third defeat to Alexander Volkanovski, Holloway’s future was unsure. Now, he is the reigning BMF champion after his walk-off knockout of Justin Gaethje at UFC 300 and a title contender in two divisions.

7. Sean O’Malley — Bantamweight champion

Document: 17-1, 1 NC | Earlier rating: 7

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The “Suga Present” turned in fairly probably one of the best hanging efficiency of his profession over 5 rounds in dominating Marlon Vera at UFC 299 to make his first title protection. O’Malley avenged the one defeat of his professional profession however has an uphill problem subsequent as he is anticipated to defend his title towards Merab Dvalishvili this fall. 

8. Alexandre Pantoja — Flyweight champion

Document: 28-5 | Earlier rating: 7

After relying far more on his iron will than his P4P expertise to take the flyweight title from Brandon Moreno final summer time, the Brazilian submission professional has stayed busy since with a pair of title defenses towards Brandon Royval (of their rematch) and Steve Erceg. Pantoja’s ardour and dogged dedication has grow to be his calling card of late as his title reign continues to develop. 

9. Dricus du Plessis — Middleweight champion

Document: 21-2 | Earlier rating: 9

Unbeaten in his seven journeys to the Octagon, the proud native of South Africa can now name himself champion after edging Sean Strickland through cut up determination at UFC 297 in January. Du Plessis, who known as out former champion Israel Adesanya within the aftermath, has advanced at an alarming charge to combine method and a deep fuel tank to his huge energy and takedown menace. 

10. Merab Dvalishvili — Bantamweight

Document: 17-4 | Earlier rating: 10

By enhancing his win streak to 10 fights, Dvalishvili lastly secured a title shot due to his breakthrough win over Henry Cejudo at UFC 298. The victory now provides Dvalishvili three straight over former UFC champions. Dvalishvili, 33, has a fuel tank like no different and stays an issue for any fashion of opponent he’ll face as he continues to marketing campaign for the belt.

Dropped out: None
Simply missed: Alexander Volkanovski, Israel Adesanya, Sean Strickland, Aljamain Sterling, Dustin Poirier

Girls’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Zhang Weili — Strawweight champion

Document: 25-3 | Earlier rating: No. 1

Zhang improved to 9-0 within the UFC towards everybody not named Rose Namajunas when she outlasted Chinese language countrywoman Yan Xiaonan at UFC 300 and did so by counting on her cardio, IQ and improved grappling after almost scoring a pair of early finishes. Her hardest take a look at should be to come back, nonetheless, within the type of Tatiana Suarez. 

2. Alexa Grasso — Flyweight champion

Document: 16-3-1 | Earlier rating: 2

The native of Mexico teamed up with former champion Valentina Shevchenko to co-author an thrilling and tactical 125-pound title rematch at Noche UFC. A cut up draw was the consequence because the defending champion Grasso benefitted from a controversial 10-8 ultimate spherical to curtail defeat. The 2 fighters will coach reverse each other on “The Final Fighter” this spring forward of a fall trilogy combat.

3. Valentina Shevchenko — Flyweight

Document: 23-4-1 | Earlier rating: No. 3

The long run all-time nice almost regained her flyweight title from Alexa Grasso of their September rematch. A disputed draw was the consequence, with Shevchenko overtly contemplating an enchantment within the aftermath. Now, at 36, Shevchenko will coach reverse Grasso on TUF earlier than a probable third assembly at Noche UFC this fall. 

4. Manon Fiorot — Flyweight

Document: 12-1 | Earlier rating: 4

A shutout five-round determination over red-hot Erin Blanchfield appears to be the ultimate hurdle that the 34-year-old native of France should clear en path to a title shot. Fiorot’s takedown protection and skill to keep away from hazard on the bottom set the proper stage for her pinpoint hanging to shine. For now, Fiorot might want to look forward to the Grasso-Shevchenko rivalry to play out. 

5. Tatiana Suarez — Strawweight

Document: 10-0 | Earlier rating: NR

Regardless of shedding almost 4 years of her prime on account of power accidents, Suarez is again on the scene in a giant method. Her dominant submission of former champion Jessica Andrade in August is perhaps all Suarez wants to instantly return to 115-pound title rivalry. Few can match her grappling prowess alone and even much less can equal the relentless aggressive streak which fuels her resolve. 

Dropped out: None
Simply missed: Kayla Harrison, Erin Blanchfield, Rose Namajunas, Raquel Pennington, Julianna Pena

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