UFC Pound-for-Pound Fighter Rankings: Dricus du Plessis Enters Top 10 With Amazing Rise To Prominence

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In just over three years, Dricus du Plessis has gone from a UFC rookie to the middleweight champion of the world. And with that evolution comes the spoils, including critical respect among the world’s best pound-for-pound.

Du Plessis improved to 7-0 since making his Octagon debut in 2020 when he edged Sean Strickland via split decision to capture the 185-pound title last weekend in the their tight and technical duel over five rounds at UFC 297 in Toronto.

One of the main components of du Plessis’ meteoric rise has been the confidence he has shown from Day 1 as the South African native has never lacked the promise of becoming a world champion in the near future. But he quickly improved his overall game as he continued to climb the ladder past veterans like Darren Till and Derek Brunson.

It wasn’t until DDP upset former champion Robert Whittaker last July, however, that the fighter known as “Stillknocks” truly showed his combination of size and power. his to join calculated trades. But the growth didn’t stop there.

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Against Strickland, du Plessis showed over 25 minutes that he has a tournament-level gas tank, too, as he continued through severe facial swelling caused by his opponents’ strong and accurate jabs to take a timely departure and a heavy counterattack until two of the three judges favored him in an exciting title bout that could have gone either way.

Later, du Plessis preferred what appears to be the biggest fight available to him in the division in the form of Israel Adesanya, who he called after defeating him Strickland. The two had previously clashed inside the cage after Adesanya, still champion, was present for du Plessis’ concern over Whittaker until a minor injury opened the door for Strickland slide in for the title.

At the age of 30, du Plessis is improving at an alarming rate and could become the first UFC athlete to achieve the long-awaited promotion dream of bringing a fight card to a continent Africa.

Using criteria that take into account everything from achievements to current form, let’s take a closer look at the main fighters inside the Octagon.

For updated CBS Sports regional rankings, click here.

The men’s pound-for-pound rankings

1. Islam Makhachev – Lightweight Champion

Record: 25-1 | Previous Rank: No. 1

Charles Oliveira’s withdrawal from his UFC 294 title rematch allowed Makhachev a last-minute second chance against featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski, who he ended up knocking out in the first round through a head kick. The victory ended any P4P debate as Makhachev dominated the action from start to finish and now owns two stoppage victories in his last three fights against top-ranked P4P foes .

2. Jon Jones — Heavyweight champion

Record: 27-1, 1 NC | Previous rank: 2

Jones’ first heavyweight title defense, scheduled for UFC 295 in November against former champion Stipe Miocic, was canceled after Jones suffered a pectoral tear in training. An eight-month recovery is expected for Jones, who turns 37 this summer. Despite the serious injury that created more damage in the heavyweight title shot, Jones promised that he would be back.

3. Leon Edwards — Welterweight champion

Record: 21-3, 1 NC | Previous rating: 3

If anyone felt that Edwards’ run to the 170-pound title was a fluke, his UFC 286 trilogy over Kamaru Usman put those doubts to rest. His second title defense, against Colby Covington in December, gave Edwards another dominant win, but avoided much hype for inaction thanks to Covington.

4. Alexander Volkanovski — Featherweight champion

Record: 25-3 | Previous rank: 4

Volkanovski’s decision to risk everything on 12 days’ notice to take on Makhachev in Abu Dhabi proved disastrous as the reigning 145-pound king was not out of his ‘ first gear and seemed uncertain on his way to a knockout loss in the first round. Volkanovski will make a quick turnaround ahead of his title defense in February against top featherweight contender Ilia Topuria.

5. Alex Pereira — Light Heavyweight Champion

Table: 9-2 | Previous rank: 5

In just seven UFC bouts and a total of 11 pro MMA fights, “Poatan” is now a two-division champion after knocking out Jiri Prochazka for the vacant 205-pound title at UFC 295 in the – November The 36-year-old Brazilian slugger called out top contender Israel Adesanya in hopes of an MMA treble (and fifth fight overall).

6. Charles Oliveira — Lightweight

Record: 34-9 | Previous rank: 6

The former 155-pound champion redeemed himself after losing his title by finishing Beneil Dariush in the first round at UFC 289. But the Brazilian submission threat suffered a costly cut above his eye right in sparring that pulled him from a title rematch at UFC 294 against Makhachev. “Your Bronx” now has to hope that the UFC doesn’t pass him up for the next bout for BMF champion Justin Gaethje.

7. Alexandre Pantoja – Flyweight champion

Record: 27-5 | Previous rank: 7

The Brazilian submission threat relied on much more than his chin and iron will to finish Brandon Moreno by split decision at UFC 290 in one of the most exciting and fierce fights in history fly weight. At 33, Pantoja now has three wins over Moreno and returned in December to record a hard-fought decision against Brandon Royval in his first defense.

8. Sean O’Malley — Bantamweight Champion

Record: 17-1, 1 NC | Previous rank: 8

The “Sugar Show” is alive and well in the sport’s deepest division after a second-round TKO of Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292. O’Malley silenced his critics by disqualifying Sterling from getting down and looks set to become a global superstar. his talent and charisma have long been mocked. A return in March, set for Miami at UFC 299, will bring a long-awaited repeat of O’Malley’s only loss against Marlon “Chito” Vera.

9. Max Holloway — Featherweight

Schedule: 24-7 | Previous rank: 9

A master of resumes, the 31-year-old Hawaiian star has yet to lose to anyone not named Volkanovski at 145 pounds since 2013. Holloway bounced back in a big way in 2023 by edging Arnold Allen in April before defeating “The Korean Zombie” in Chan Sung Jung’s retirement fight in August.

10. Dricus du Plessis – Middleweight Champion

Record: 21-2 | Previous rank: NR

Undefeated in his seven trips to the Octagon, the proud South African can now call himself champion after dispatching Sean Strickland via split decision at UFC 297 in January. Du Plessis, who was later called upon by former champion Israel Adesanya, has developed at an alarming rate to mix technique and a deep gas tank with his immense power and takedown threat.

Issued: Sterling Aljamain
Just lost: Israel Adesanya, Sean Strickland, Justin Gaethje, Dricus du Plessis, Khamzat Chimaev

Women’s pound-for-pound rating

1. Zhang Weili – Strawweight champion

Record: 24-3 | Previous Rank: No. 1

The first Chinese-born UFC champion regained his 115-pound crown by dominating Carla Esparza at UFC 281 via second-round submission. He continued with a statistical historical beat of Amanda Lemos in August and, at 34, she is at the top of her game.

2. Alexa Grasso – Flyweight champion

Record: 16-3-1 | Previous rank: 2

The Mexico native teamed up with former champion Valentina Shevchenko to co-author an exciting and tactical 125-pound title rematch at UFC Night. This was the result as defending champion Grasso benefited from a controversial 10-8 final to prevent defeat. Whether a fight trilogy is next in such a crowded category is uncertain.

3. Valentina Shevchenko — Flyweight

Record: 23-4-1 | Previous Rank: No. 3

The future superstar stepped up her game at the age of 35 and nearly reclaimed her flyweight title from Alexa Grasso in their rematch in September. It was a controversial result, with Shevchenko openly considering an appeal afterwards. Either way, it’s hard to imagine that Shevchenko’s days of fighting for UFC gold are behind her.

4. Erin Blanchfield — Flyweight

Table: 12-1 | Previous rank: 4

The New Jersey native is 6-0 in the UFC and appears close to a title shot after back-to-back wins against Jessica Andrade and Talia Santos. While Blanchfield’s catching skills are still her calling card, her striking has improved significantly. She also has a deadly gas tank, as evidenced by the speed she puts on Santos.

5. Manon Fiorot — The weight of a fly

Table: 11-1 | Previous rank: 5

Add Fiorot’s name to the list of those who could be next for a shot at the 125-pound crown. The French native is a dynamic kickboxer fresh off a unanimous decision win over former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas in September.

Dropped out: No
Just lost: Yan Xionan, Tatiana Suarez, Rose Namajunas, Raquel Pennington, Julianna Pena

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