MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Sean O’Malley vaults into the elite, but how high should he be?

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

With UFC 292 in the books, how have the past few weeks affected the global pound-for-pound landscape? Let’s take a look.

UFC 292: Sterling v O’Malley

A star is born.
Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

mens p4p aug 2023 REVISED

MMA Fighting

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Suga Era.

Yes, it’s Sean O’Malley’s world and we’re all just living in it after UFC 292’s seismic upset reshaped the pound-for-pound landscape. The new bantamweight champion debuted this month as the No. 8 fighter in the world following his highlight-reel knockout of Aljamain Sterling in Boston — a stunning result which sent Sterling tumbling down to the No. 14 spot. Opinions on O’Malley still appear to vary: “Suga” drew pound-for-pound ballots as high as No. 7 and as low as No. 14 from our eight-person rankings panel, but either way, there’s no longer any denying the talent of the UFC’s new budding superstar. And at 28 years old, O’Malley may only be getting started. Is a top-5 pound-for-pound ranking in his future?

Looking ahead, all eyes will soon turn back to one of the standard-bearers of the pound-for-pound ranks when No. 4 Israel Adesanya returns to action on Sept. 10 to defend his UFC middleweight title against Sean Strickland in Sydney, Australia. Can Strickland pull off the upset or will he serve as a mere appetizer for the eventual Adesanya vs. Dricus Du Plessis main course that remains on the horizon?

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): Sean O’Malley def. No. 6 Aljamain Sterling

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 4 Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland (UFC 293, Sept. 10), No. 12 Max Holloway vs. Chan Sung Jung (UFC Singapore, Aug. 26)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Brandon Moreno (5), Vadim Nemkov (4), Johnny Eblen (4), Robert Whittaker (3), Merab Dvalishvili (2), Jamahal Hill (2), A.J. McKee (2), Magomed Ankalaev (1), Jan Blachowicz (1), Colby Covington (1), Patchy Mix (1), Belal Muhammad (1), Usman Nurmagomedov (1)

UFC Fight Night: Andrade v Suarez

The next P4P queen?
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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MMA Fighting

Zhang Weili has her work cut out for her.

After polishing off one of the most statistically lopsided title defenses in UFC history against Amanda Lemos at UFC 292, the women’s pound-for-pound No. 1 already finds herself staring at a daunting task: Two top-10 ranked contenders champing at the bit for their shot at the throne. Yes, with new No. 8 Tatiana Suarez joining No. 10 Yan Xiaonan in elite company this month following a dominant win over Jessica Andrade, the chase is officially on at 115 pounds. The big question now is, which direction will the UFC go? Is a China vs. China mega-event in the world’s second-most populous country too lucrative to pass up, or will the promotion strike while the iron is finally hot with the oft-injured Suarez?

In the meantime, the next rankings cycle is all about the flyweights as four big names return to action: No. 5 Erin Blanchfield vs. No. 16 Taila Santos in a potential title eliminator, and No. 7 Rose Namajunas vs. No. 17 Manon Fiorot in a long-awaited divisional debut for Namajunas.

Recent results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 1 Zhang Weili def. No. 20 Amanda Lemos, No. 9 Larissa Pacheco def. Olena Kolesnyk, No. 14 (tied) Tatiana Suarez def. No. 12 Jessica Andrade

Upcoming bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 5 Erin Blanchfield vs. No. 16 Taila Santos (UFC Singapore, Aug. 26), No. 7 Rose Namajunas vs. No. 17 Manon Fiorot (UFC Paris, Sept. 2)

Fighters also receiving votes (number of ballot appearances shown): Ketlen Vieira (3), Lauren Murphy (2), Katlyn Chookagian (2), Virna Jandiroba (2), Irene Aldana (1), Maycee Barber (1), Marina Rodriguez (1), Juliana Velasquez (1)

Lastly, a refresher on some ground rules:

  • 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.
  • Updates to the rankings will be completed following every UFC pay-per-view. Fighters will be removed from the rankings if they do not compete within 18 months of their most recent bout.
  • Should a fighter announce their retirement, our panel will decide whether that fighter should immediately be removed from the rankings or maintain their position until further notice (let’s put it this way: we’d have taken Khabib Nurmagomedov out of our rankings a lot quicker than the UFC did).

As a reminder, the notion of pound-for-pound supremacy is always going to inherently be subjective. When you’re debating whether someone like Kamaru Usman should be ranked above someone like Max Holloway, there is no true right answer. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.

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

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