MMA pound-for-pound rankings: Francis Ngannou covers different ground to move up

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Francis Ngannou had a lot stacked against him at UFC 270. The heavyweight champion entered his Jan. 22 title defense with a severely compromised right knee. His challenger, Ciryl Gane, was coached by Ngannou’s own first MMA coach, from whom Ngannou was estranged. And the champ, competing in the final fight on his UFC contract, was locked in bitter negotiations with the promotion.

When Ngannou lost the first two rounds, showing little of the fearsome punching power for which he’s known, it was starting to look like there was too much going against him and there might be a dethroning in progress.

But Ngannou dug deep, showing off a wrestling and jiu-jitsu prowess no one had ever seen, while he was knocking out everyone stood in front of him. In an all-heart performance, Ngannou pulled out a decision victory that kept him at the top of the heavyweight heap as the baddest man on the planet.

The comeback also propelled Ngannou up a spot into the top three in the latest ESPN pound-for-pound men’s rankings.

There’s some other movement in the men’s and women’s top-10s as well. Check out the latest.

Note: Results are current; rankings as of Jan. 26.

Men’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Kamaru Usman

UFC welterweight champion
Record: 20-1
Last: W (UD) Colby Covington, Nov. 6, 2021
Next: TBD


2. Israel Adesanya

UFC middleweight champion
Record: 21-1
Last: W (UD) Marvin Vettori, June 12, 2021
Next: Feb. 12 vs. Robert Whittaker


3. Francis Ngannou

UFC heavyweight champion
Previous ranking: Tied for 4
Record: 17-3
Last: W (UD) Ciryl Gane, Jan. 22, 2022
Next: TBD


4. Alexander Volkanovski

UFC featherweight champion
Previous ranking: 3
Record: 23-1
Last: W (UD) Brian Ortega, Sept. 25, 2021
Next: TBD


5. Charles Oliveira

UFC lightweight champion
Previous ranking: Tied for 4
Record: 32-8, 1 NC
Last: W (Sub3) Dustin Poirier, Dec. 11, 2021
Next: TBD


6. Petr Yan

UFC bantamweight interim champion
Record: 16-2
Last: W (UD) Cory Sandhagen, Oct. 30, 2021
Next: March 5 vs. Aljamain Sterling


7. Max Holloway

UFC featherweight
Record: 23-6
Last: W (UD) Yair Rodriguez, Nov. 13, 2021
Next: TBD


8. Dustin Poirier

UFC lightweight
Previous ranking: Unranked
Record: 28-7, 1 NC
Last: L (Sub3) Charles Oliveira, Dec. 11, 2021
Next: TBD


9. Robert Whittaker

UFC middleweight
Previous ranking: Unranked
Record: 23-5
Last: W (UD) Kelvin Gastelum, April 17, 2021
Next: Feb. 12 vs. Israel Adesanya


10. Glover Teixeira

UFC light heavyweight champion
Previous ranking: Tied for 9
Record: 33-7
Last: W (Sub2) Jan Blachowicz, Oct. 30, 2021
Next: May 7 vs. Jiri Prochazka


Other fighters receiving votes: Deiveson Figueiredo, Justin Gaethje and Stipe Miocic.


How our panel voted

Brett Okamoto: 1. Kamaru Usman; 2. Israel Adesanya; 3. Alexander Volkanovski; 4. Max Holloway; 5. Petr Yan; 6. Charles Oliveira; 7. Francis Ngannou; 8. Robert Whittaker; 9. Dustin Poirier; 10. Glover Teixeira.

Marc Raimondi: 1. Kamaru Usman; 2. Israel Adesanya; 3. Francis Ngannou; 4. Alexander Volkanovski; 5. Charles Oliveira; 6. Petr Yan; 7. Dustin Poirier; 8. Glover Teixeira; 9. Robert Whittaker; 10. Max Holloway.

Carlos Contreras Legaspi: 1. Kamaru Usman; 2. Charles Oliveira; 3. Israel Adesanya; 4. Francis Ngannou; 5. Alexander Volkanovski; 6. Petr Yan; 7. Max Holloway; 8. Glover Teixeira; 9. Robert Whittaker; 10. Deiveson Figueiredo.

Eddie Maisonet III: 1. Kamaru Usman; 2. Israel Adesanya; 3. Francis Ngannou; 4. Alexander Volkanovski; 5. Charles Oliveira; 6. Dustin Poirier; 7. Robert Whittaker; 8. Petr Yan; 9. Max Holloway; 10. Justin Gaethje.

Jeff Wagenheim: 1. Kamaru Usman; 2. Francis Ngannou; 3. Israel Adesanya; 4. Alexander Volkanovski; 5. Charles Oliveira; 6. Petr Yan; 7. Stipe Miocic; 8. Glover Teixeira; 9. Dustin Poirier; 10. Robert Whittaker.


1. Valentina Shevchenko

UFC flyweight champion
Record: 21-3
Last: W (TKO4) Lauren Murphy, Sept. 25, 2021
Next: TBD


2. Amanda Nunes

UFC featherweight champion
Record: 21-5
Last: L (Sub2) Julianna Peña, Dec. 11, 2021
Next: TBD


3. Rose Namajunas

UFC strawweight champion
Record: 11-4
Last: W (SD) Zhang Weili, Nov. 6, 2021
Next: TBD


4. Cris Cyborg

Bellator featherweight champion
Record: 25-2, 1 NC
Last: W (KO1) Sinead Kavanagh, Nov. 12, 2021
Next: TBD


5. Julianna Peña

UFC bantamweight champion
Record: 11-4
Last: W (Sub2) Amanda Nunes, Dec. 11, 2021
Next: TBD


6. Zhang Weili

UFC strawweight
Record: 21-3
Last: L (SD) Rose Namajunas, Nov. 6, 2021
Next: TBD


T-7. Jessica Andrade

UFC flyweight
Record: 22-9
Last: W (TKO1) Cynthia Calvillo, Sept. 25, 2021
Next: TBD


T-7. Kayla Harrison

PFL lightweight champion
Previous ranking: 8
Record: 12-0
Last: W (Sub2) Taylor Guardado, Oct. 27, 2021
Next: TBD


9. Carla Esparza

UFC strawweight
Previous ranking: 10
Record: 18-6
Last: W (TKO2) Yan Xiaonan, May 22, 2021
Next: TBD


10. Holly Holm

UFC bantamweight
Previous ranking: 9
Record: 14-5
Last: W (UD) Irene Aldana, Oct. 3, 2020
Next: TBD


Other fighters receiving votes: Katlyn Chookagian and Marina Rodriguez.


How our panel voted

Brett Okamoto: 1. Valentina Shevchenko; 2. Amanda Nunes; 3. Rose Namajunas; 4. Cris Cyborg; 5. Kayla Harrison; 6. Zhang Weili; 7. Jessica Andrade; 8. Julianna Peña; 9. Carla Esparza; 10. Katlyn Chookagian.

Marc Raimondi: 1. Valentina Shevchenko; 2. Amanda Nunes; 3. Cris Cyborg; 4. Rose Namajunas; 5. Julianna Peña; 6. Kayla Harrison; 7. Zhang Weili; 8. Jessica Andrade; 9. Holly Holm; 10. Katlyn Chookagian.

Carlos Contreras Legaspi: 1. Valentina Shevchenko; 2. Amanda Nunes; 3. Rose Namajunas; 4. Julianna Peña; 5. Cris Cyborg; 6. Holly Holm; 7. Kayla Harrison; 8. Jessica Andrade; 9. Zhang Weili; 10. Carla Esparza.

Eddie Maisonet III: 1. Julianna Peña; 2. Amanda Nunes; 3. Valentina Shevchenko; 4. Rose Namajunas; 5. Zhang Weili; 6. Cris Cyborg; 7. Jessica Andrade; 8. Carla Esparza; 9. Kayla Harrison; 10. Marina Rodriguez.

Jeff Wagenheim: 1. Valentina Shevchenko; 2. Cris Cyborg; 3. Rose Namajunas; 4. Amanda Nunes; 5. Zhang Weili; 6. Jessica Andrade; 7. Julianna Peña; 8. Carla Esparza; 9. Kayla Harrison; 10. Katlyn Chookagian.

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