Last weekend delivered one of the most exciting and action packed fights the UFC strawweight has ever seen. After five rounds of stand-up combat, Zhang Weili retained her UFC Strawweight Championship against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a split decision. With the win, Zhang made her first defence of the belt she won in August.
With a respected challenger out of the way for Zhang, now is a good time to take a look at the landscape of the division. Here’s a breakdown of the UFC strawweight division’s rankings as of this week.
Champion: Zhang Weili (21-1)
Getting her 21st win in a row on Saturday, Zhang Weili proved to many that she has the skill to hang with a respected strawweight in Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Her talent wasn’t on full display before, with two of the four previous fights of hers being on cards in China. She won the belt off of Jessica Andrade in August in under a minute, overwhelming the champion with strikes in Shenzhen, China. The win on Saturday showcased the toughness of Zhang, as she sure endured her fair share of damage.
#1: Jessica Andrade (20-7)
The abrupt way Jessica Andrade lost her belt in August made a good case for a rematch. But, the way she won the belt against Rose Namajunas could make a similar case, ending due to a slam. Because of that, Andrade will fittingly be paired with Namajunas, with the winner likely being next in line for a title shot.
#2: Rose Namajunas (8-4)
Former Champion Rose Namajunas will start her campaign back to getting the belt in April, facing Andrade at UFC 248. She lost the belt in May, falling victim to a second round slam from Jessica Andrade. She has yet to fight since then, although will be back soon. Namajunas won the belt off of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2017, defending it in a rematch.
#3: Tatiana Suarez (8-0)
Tatiana Saurez is the wild card of the upper-ranked strawweights. Undefeated in eight fights, more than half of those in the UFC, Suarez has gained quite a rap sheet so far. What makes her continue to be the wild card is a neck injury which was precluded her from fighting for more than a few months now. For now, Suarez is out of the conversation. When she returns however, she will likely be thrown right into the mix.
#4: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4)
There’s no doubt that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is historically the best strawweight UFC has seen. A run with the belt that lasted five defences gives her the record of most in the division. However, after losing the belt to Rose Namajunas in 2017, Jedrzejczyk has struggled at the high level of the division. She is 2-3 in her last five, albeit one of those losses coming against Valentina Shevchenko in a flyweight fight. While her last fight was a loss, the fight undoubtedly upped the stock of both fighters in the process.
#5: Nina Ansaroff (10-6)
Nina Ansaroff’s four-fight winning streak in the UFC was put an end to in 2019, losing to undefeated Tatiana Suarez. Ansaroff’s MMA career is currently on hold however, as she is expecting a child in September. Per a post on Instagram, Ansaroff still plans to fight after pregnancy.
#6: Claudia Gadelha (17-4)
Claudia Gadelha has switched between wins and losses, but nonetheless been considered a high level fighter in the strawweight division for some time now. Her last fight was a win against Randa Markos in July, going to the scorecards against the Canadian fighter. Galdeha meets fellow ranked fighter Marina Rodriguez in May on the UFC on ESPN+ 32 card.
#7: Carla Esparza (15-6)
In a month, Carla Esparza has a big opportunity in front of her. Fighting in the UFC since 2014, a win for Esparza against Michelle Waterson would extend her winning streak to four in a row, the longest she’d have since joining the promotion. Before the momentum, Esparza lost to Claudia Gadelha and Tatiana Suarez.
#8: Michelle Waterson (17-7)
In the fall of 2019, Michelle Waterson was looked at as the possible next contender for the division’s gold. But, after a bloody loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she was knocked back down the rankings. Before the loss, Waterson had three wins in a row. The third of the trio was against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who is a well known name in the division over the years.
#9: Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2)
Since joining the UFC through TV series “Dana White’s Contender Series,” Marina Rodriguez has stayed undefeated. But, she hasn’t been stacking up wins only. Rodriguez has a rare 2-0-2 record in the UFC. Most recently, she went to a scorecard draw against Cynthia Calvillo. Rodriguez goes up against Claudia Gadelha in May.
#10: Cynthia Calvillo (8-1-1)
Cynthia Calvillo’s run in the UFC has been quiet, but also impressive. With a 5-1-1 record in the promotion, Calvillo looks to get back in the win column in late April, facing Antonina Shevchenko.
#11: Yan Xiaonan (12-1)
Yan Xiaonan is slowly but surely making a name for herself in the strawweight division. Her UFC run started quiet, as her first three fights were on cards in Asia (which tend to air in the early morning for American fans), all being wins. She won over Angela Hill in 2019 on a pay-per-view, and recently got a dominant win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz in Auckland, New Zealand.
#12: Felice Herrig (14-8)
Felice Herrig has been rather quiet lately. Her last fight was meant to be in April 2019, however an ACL tear forced her off the card. Herrig had a five-fight win streak before, which was put to a halt by Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She lost to Michelle Waterson after.
#13: Tecia Torres (10-5)
Tecia Torres finds herself in an important position on March 28th. Facing Mizuki, Torres will look to snap a four fight losing streak which started in 2018. For what it’s worth, all of those losses have come to currently ranked talent in the division. A win for Mizuki would see her crash the rankings most likely, although only 1-0 in her promotional run thus far.
#14: Alexa Grasso (11-3)
Alexa Grasso has held a 50/50 win-loss record since joining the UFC in 2016. Most recently, she’s found herself on the losing side, not being favoured in a majority decision against Carla Esparza. Grasso was meant to fight on UFC 246 in January, however missing weight forced her out of her fight with Claudia Gadelha. She is currently not booked for a new fight.
#15: Angela Hill (12-7)
Not only has Angela Hill taken the crown for busiest strawweight, she’s become the busiest worker in the whole UFC. Fighting six times in the last year, Hill has had her hands full. Not only that, she is currently on a three-fight winning streak, the longest she’s held since she fought in Invicta FC. The most recent of her three consecutive wins was against Thai fighter Loma Lookboonmee, who was in her second UFC fight.