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No matter where Cristiane
Justino
has gone, she has displayed a knack for bringing home
championship hardware.

“Cyborg” brought her usual brand of violence to the Bellator 238
headliner on Saturday night, capturing the featherweight crown with
a fourth-round stoppage of Julia Budd at
the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The Brazilian can add the Bellator
belt to a trophy case that already includes titles from the UFC,
Invicta FC and Strikeforce. While Justino was impressive in halting
Budd’s 11-bout winning streak, she remains entrenched at No. 3 in
our latest pound-for-pound poll behind Amanda
Nunes
– the last person to beat her – and UFC flyweight queen
Valentina
Shevchenko
.

Budd, meanwhile, falls one spot to 10th behind Bellator flyweight
queen Ilima-Lei
Macfarlane
, who has yet to taste defeat in 11 professional
appearances.

In other recent action, Seo Hee Ham
vanquished Ayaka
Hamasaki
on Year’s Eve to claim the No. 12 spot on the bubble.
Hamasaki falls one spot to 13, while Holly Holm,
who took a grinding verdict over Raquel
Pennington
, also falls one place to 14th.

It wasn’t a breathtaking knockout like some of her recent efforts,
but Nunes showed a different aspect of her game at UFC 245.
“Lioness” grounded Germaine de Randamie repeatedly and controlled
the majority of their fight from top position en route to a
unanimous decision victory in a bantamweight title clash at the
T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Additionally, Nunes had to survive a
few moments of adversity — something she hasn’t experienced of late
— to earn her 10th straight triumph in the Octagon. Nunes has said
she is interested in defending her featherweight crown next.
It was far from enthralling, but Shevchenko was in completely
control throughout her title defense against Liz Carmouche in the
UFC Uruguay headliner. Even though her volume was lacking, a
technical “Bullet” clipped her foe on a couple occasions and held
her own in grappling with the physical Carmouche. The end result
was a sweep of the scorecards and the fourth consecutive 125-pound
victory for the reigning champion. The 31-year-old Tiger Muay Thai
representative now owns victories over Carmouche, Jessica Eye and
Joanna Jedrzejczyk in title bouts and continues to look like one of
the most dominant champions in any UFC division. Shevchenko will
make her next title defense against Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 247 in
Houston.
Justino looked quite comfortable in her new home, as she
overwhelmed Julia Budd for a fourth-round technical knockout
victory in the Bellator 238 headliner at the Forum in Inglewood,
Calif., on Jan. 25. The victory gives “Cyborg” championships in
four major organizations over the course of her career – Bellator,
UFC, Invicta FC and Strikeforce – and re-affirms her position as
one of the greatest female mixed martial artists of all time. As
has been the case throughout her career, the heavy-handed Brazilian
could soon find the pickings slim when it comes to challengers in
Bellator’s 145-pound division.
Zhang was devastating on her home soil, putting an end to Jessica
Andrade’s title reign in just 42 seconds at UFC Fight Night 157 in
Shenzhen, China. “Magnum” pummeled Andrade with punches, elbows and
knees at close range for a surprisingly quick finish to become the
first Chinese champion in UFC history. Zhang’s professional winning
streak is now at 20, a run that includes four victories in the
Octagon. While the 30-year-old Black Tiger Fight Club member
figures to be a valuable asset as the promotion continues to make
inroads in China, she also showed she may just be scratching the
surface of her potential by dispatching one of the most powerful
women in the division. Zhang will make her first title defense
against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczk at UFC 248 on March
7.
Andrade’s championship reign proved to be short lived – one of the
shortest in UFC history, in fact – as she suffered a 42-second
technical knockout loss to Weili Zhang in the UFC Fight Night 157
headliner in Shenzhen, China on Aug. 31. The Brazilian’s
willingness to engage ultimately cost her when Zhang clipped her
with a right hook and unloaded with knees, elbows and punches in
close quarters for a surprisingly quick finish. That ends a
four-bout winning streak for “Bate Estaca,” who was coming off
consecutive knockout wins over Rose Namajunas and Karolina
Kowalkiewicz. Andrade will face Namajunas in a rematch at UFC
249.
Namajunas looked sharp in her second title defense at UFC 237. That
is, until challenger Jessica Andrade knocked her unconscious with a
slam 2:58 into the second round of their headlining bout in Rio de
Janeiro. Namajunas’ reaction after the defeat was one of relief,
and it seemed as though the 26-year-old was leaning toward an early
retirement. After taking some time off, Namajunas has elected
against calling it a career will return to the Octagon in a rematch
with Andrade at UFC 249 on April 18.
After a false alarm involving a weight-cut scare earlier in the
week, Jedrzejczyk was her usual dominant self come fight night at
UFC Tampa, cruising to a unanimous verdict against a game Michelle
Waterson on Oct. 12. Whether it was with crisp combinations and leg
kicks at range or knees and elbows in the clinch, the Polish star
was in top form in earning her second consecutive triumph at 115
pounds. Jedrzejczyk will attempt to recapture the strawweight crown
when she locks horns with Weili Zhang at UFC 248 on March 7.
De Randamie certainly had her moments against Amanda Nunes at UFC
245, but a lack of consistent takedown defense ultimately proved to
be her undoing. “The Iron Lady” had some success on the feet and
even threatened with a few submissions, but she was largely
controlled on the canvas in losing a unanimous decision at the
T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. As long as she’s active, the
Dutchwoman figures to remain a top contender, as her only two
defeats in nine bouts since 2012 have come at the hands of
Nunes.
Macfarlane was rarely threatened in her latest title defense, as
she cruised to a unanimous decision over Kate Jackson in the
Bellator 236 headliner at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.
Macfarlane was on the verge of a finish in the fourth and fifth
rounds, but Jackson relied on her tenacity to survive until the
final bell. Macfarlane now has four successful championship
defenses to her credit since winning the inaugural 125-pound belt
in November 2017. Interesting future challenges loom in the form of
streaking flyweight Juliana Velasquez along with recently-signed
training partner — and two-division UFC title challenger — Liz
Carmouche.
Budd tasted defeat for the first time since November 2011, falling
to Cristiane Justino via fourth-round technical knockout in the
Bellator 238 main event at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif, on Jan.
25. While “The Jewel” was able to remain competitive early on
thanks to her size and strength, she eventually wilted under
“Cyborg’s” trademark offensive pressure. Considering her dominance
in the division prior to Justino’s arrival, it’s not unreasonable
to think that Budd could earn herself a rematch in relatively short
order. Regardless, Budd’s losses are just about as impressive as it
gets in women’s MMA: Justino, Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes.

Other Contenders: Tatiana
Suarez
, Seo Hee Ham,
Ayaka
Hamasaki
, Holly Holm,
Nina
Ansaroff
.

Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled
by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Tristen
Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Ben Duffy, Jay Pettry,
Edward Carbajal, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Keith Shillan, Mike
Sloan, Patrick Auger and Tyler Treese.
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