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MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings, August Update: Jon Jones out, A.J. McKee in; Dustin Poirier enters elite company

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 mixed martial arts fighters in the world?

After a busy month of July, it’s time to wave goodbye to one legend and say hello to a potential future star who may be a fixture on pound-for-pound lists for years to come.

All that plus Dustin Poirier makes his way into the elite of the elite and more.

Let’s refresh on some ground rules before we dive in.

  • Our 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.
  • 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).
  • Holding a promotion’s title does not guarantee that fighter will be viewed as the best in their promotion.
  • Regarding all the above rules, any possible exceptions will be discussed internally and noted in the article.

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. So while our MMA Fighting Global Rankings serve an actual functional purpose, the following pound-for-pound lists are just here for a good time. In other words: It’s not serious business, folks.

In case you missed it, last month’s MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings can be seen here.

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


Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Even if it was inevitable, it’s still a little bizarre to see a men’s pound-for-pound MMA list without Jon Jones slotted somewhere near top.

After long being a shoo-in as one of the best fighters in the world, Jones became a victim of his own inactivity in this month’s update. His removal after crossing beyond the 18-month cutoff window of eligibility caused a ripple effect that was felt across the men’s ranks. And there doesn’t appear to be an end to it in sight — after forfeiting his UFC light heavyweight title, bulking up to heavyweight, then reaching a contract impasse with UFC officials, Jones remains stuck in no man’s land for the foreseeable future. Whenever he fights again, “Bones” will surely land back on this list. But when that will be is anyone’s best guess.

In the meantime, July marked a mammoth month for Dustin Poirier. Not only did Poirier win his big-money rubber match against Conor McGregor at UFC 264, he crossed into elite company alongside the UFC’s three African-born champions as a top-4 pound-for-pound male fighter in the world. “The Diamond” may not be a current UFC champion, but he is clearly the best lightweight in MMA and his body of work deserves to be recognized alongside the résumés of Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya, and Francis Ngannou.

Still, the biggest riser in this month’s update was also July’s breakout star: Bellator featherweight champion A.J. McKee.

McKee’s two-minute romp over the man many hailed to be the Bellator GOAT, Patricio Freire, sent him rocketing up the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. McKee bagged himself a top-3 spot in our featherweight rankings and debuted as the No. 11-ranked male pound-for-pound fighter in the world. With three featherweights now slotted inside our top 11, the elite of the 145-pound division is starting to outpace the rest of the field in our pound-for-pound list.

August looks to be a quiet month for the men’s side of the game, but there is one fight, in particular, worth keeping an eye on: No. 19 Gegard Mousasi is set to defend his middleweight title against ex-UFC fighter John Salter at Bellator 264.

July results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 5 Dustin Poirier def. Conor McGregor (UFC 264, July 10), A.J. McKee def. No. 9 Patricio Freire (Bellator 263, July 31)

August bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 19 Gegard Mousasi vs. John Salter (Bellator 264, Aug. 13)


Bellator MMA

While the men had a busy July, there wasn’t much to report for the women’s side of our pound-for-pound list.

The lone ranked fighter to compete was Bellator flyweight champion Julianna Velasquez, who eked out a somewhat controversial split decision over Denise Kielholtz to retain her No. 12 spot. Velasquez’s win ultimately wasn’t decisive enough for our panelists to vault her higher on their lists, though the 34-year-old is certainly creeping up on No. 11-ranked Kayla Harrison in our internal scoring system.

Otherwise, the introduction of UFC strawweight Marina Rodriguez into the No. 20 position was the only other major change from July’s rankings. Rodriguez didn’t actually gain any additional votes from last month, however Miesha Tate’s successful comeback at UFC Vegas 31 siphoned off just enough votes from our previous No. 20-ranked fighter, Yan Xiaonan, to allow Rodriguez to slip in through the back door.

Looking ahead to August, all eyes will be on the undefeated Harrison, who hopes to make another push toward PFL playoff glory. The two-time Olympic gold medalist begins her hunt for a second tournament title on August 19 against Genah Fabian, the cousin of City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman.

July results for ranked fighters (previous ranking shown): No. 12 Juliana Velasquez def. Denise Kielholtz (Bellator 262, July 16)

August bouts featuring ranked fighters: No. 11 Kayla Harrison vs. Genah Fabian (PFL 2021 #8, Aug. 19)

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