MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, May 2022: Alexander Volkanovski breaks up ‘Three Kings’ stranglehold, vaults into top 3

UFC 273: Volkanovski v The Korean Zombie Zombie

Welcome to the latest update to the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound rankings, where every month our esteemed panel of experts sort through the noise to answer one question: Who are the best overall male and female MMA fighters in the world?

Alexander Volkanovski finally has his respect. The UFC featherweight champion’s monster win over “The Korean Zombie” at UFC 272 headlined a month flush with action from many of the sport’s most talented athletes. There were many controversial results, statement wins and even some “y’all forgot” moments, all aimed at proving a point.

How did April impact the world’s pound-for–pound market? Let’s have a closer look.

Don’t forget to watch the MMA Fighting Rankings Show’s newest episode. The panel discussed the MVP of April, the craziness at light heavyweight and predicted the breakout title of an action-packed month. They also made a few mea culpas and did some other things.

Quickly, a refresher on some ground rules before we dive in:

  • The eight-person voting panel consists of MMA Fighting staffers Shaun Al-Shatti, Alexander K. Lee, Guilherme Cruz, Mike Heck, E. Casey Leydon, Steven Marrocco, Damon Martin and Jed Meshew.
  • Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
  • Updates to the rankings will be completed at the start of every month.
  • If a fighter declares their retirement, the panel will determine whether the fighter should be immediately removed from the rankings (or maintain their place until further notice). Let’s say this: We would have taken Khabib Nurmagomedov off our ranks a lot faster than the UFC.
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.

As a reminder, the notion of pound-for-pound supremacy is always going to inherently be subjective. When you’re debating whether someone like Stipe Miocic should be ranked below someone like Max Holloway, there is no true right answer. Our MMA Fighting Global Rankings serve a functional purpose. They are pound-for-pound lists. They’re just here for a good time. This means that it’s not serious business.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Make your voice heard in the comments below.


Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images



The “Three Kings” no longer have a stranglehold over the pound-for-pound top 3.

Alexander Volkanovski was there to make sure that. The UFC featherweight champion soared into the No. 3 spot on this month’s pound-for-pound list following his rout of “The Korean Zombie” at UFC 272. It was a flawless performance for Volkanovski, one that kept his undefeated 11-0 octagon record intact and finally pushed several of our panelists to recognize the talent of the best featherweight in the sport. While the UFC’s African-born champions are still dominant, Volkanovski deserves to be near the top.

There were two other champions who made giant leaps this month as well: The eternally disrespected Aljamain Sterling, who vaulted seven spots up to a No. 8 ranking following his revenge win over Petr Yan at UFC 272, and the eternally overlooked Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who climbed eight spots up to a No. 10 ranking after stopping the hype train of A.J. McKee at Bellator 277. Freire is now the highest-ranked male fighter on our pound-for-pound list — could a trilogy bout with No. 18 ranked McKee be next up on his docket?

Looking ahead to May will see all eyes turn towards the lightweights, when No. 5 ranked Charles Oliveira attempts to defend his UFC lightweight title against No. 16 ranked Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in one of the most anticipated fights of 2022.

April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Alexander Volkanovski def. Chan Sung Jung, No. 15 Aljamain Sterling def. No. 10 Petr Yan, No. 18 (tied) Patricio Freire def. No. 12 A.J. McKee

May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 5 Charles Oliveira vs. No. 16 (tied) Justin Gaethje (UFC 274, May 7), No. 19 (tied) Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic (UFC Vegas 54, May 14),

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Colby Covington (5), Jose Aldo (2), Ciryl Gane (2), Demetrious Johnson (2), Islam Makhachev (2), Adriano Moraes (2), Sergio Pettis (1), Ryan Bader (1)


Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images



The top of the month’s ranking remains unchanged after No. 4 ranked Cris Cyborg’s victory over Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 279, two other outcomes had a dramatic effect on the women’s pound-for-pound ranks. First was the controversial come-from-behind finish over Juliana Velasquez that not only forever enshrined Liz Carmouche as a champion at Bellator 278, but also propelled the new flyweight titleholder into a No. 11 pound-for-pound ranking. The second result was a non-cage outcome, with Germaine de Randamie losing her No. 8 ranking after crossing the 18-month threshold for inactivity.

De Randamie left the ranks, prompting a flood of green arrows from women below her. It’s not clear when “The Iron Lady”, will return.

As for what’s next, May is set to deliver a trio of bouts with pound-for-pound implications on the women’s side, but none are more important than UFC 274’s co-main event, which features the long-awaited rematch between No. 3 ranked Rose Namajunas and No. 8 ranked Carla Esparza more than seven years after the two TUF alums introduced the strawweight division to the masses with the UFC’s inaugural 115-pound title bout.

April results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 4 Cris Cyborg def. Arlene Blencowe, No. 7 Jessica Andrade def. Amanda Lemos, No. 17 Liz Carmouche def. No. 12 Juliana Velasquez, No. 16 Seika Izawa def. No. 18 Ayaka Hamasaki

May bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 3 Rose Namajunas vs. No. 8 Carla Esparza (UFC 274, May 7), No. 9 Holly Holm vs. Ketlen Vieira (UFC Vegas 55, May 21), No. 12 Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas (UFC Vegas 54, May 14)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Taila Santos (4), Julia Budd (2), Sarah Kaufman (2), Ketlen Vieira (2), Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (1), Raquel Pennington (1), Larissa Pacheco (1), Leslie Smith (1), Michelle Waterson (1), Xiong Jing Nan (1), Yan Xiaonan (1)