Whose '0' will go? Ranking the best unbeaten fighters in MMA

Lerone Murphy takes on Edson Barboza in the main event at UFC Fight Night on Saturday. Photo by George Tewkesbury/PA Images via Getty Images

It's hard to remain unbeaten in mixed martial arts, especially once a fighter has reached a major promotion.

This weekend's UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas will see one such fighter in its main event when English featherweight Lerone Murphy (13-0-1) takes on Edson Barboza (24-11).

In a nod to Murphy's unblemished record, ESPN ranked the top 15 undefeated fighters in MMA today, based on a combination of résumé and future potential.

1. Ilia Topuria

Ilia Topuria celebrates after stunning knockout of Alexander Volkanovski

Ilia Topuria celebrates in disbelief after knocking out Alexander Volkanovski in the main event of UFC 298.

  • UFC featherweight champion

  • Record: 15-0, 7-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

Topuria has been talking a big game ever since he booked a title shot against Alexander Volkanovski earlier this year -- and until someone stops him, he's within his right to do so. He said he was going to knock out Volkanovski, and he did. Now, he's saying he'll be the highest-paid athlete in the world and bring the UFC to his home base of Spain. He's got a long way to go on that one, but if he keeps winning in spectacular fashion, who's to say what this man can't do? He's a 27-year-old UFC champ, ranked inside the top five pound-for-pound. Again, until someone takes that zero off his record, Topuria can say what he wants.

2. Usman Nurmagomedov

  • Bellator lightweight champion

  • Record: 17-0, 1 NC; 6-0, 1 NC Bellator

  • Next fight: TBD

Nurmagomedov hasn't recorded an official win in over a year -- his most recent victory in October was overturned to a no contest after he tested positive for a banned substance. He's the Bellator champ, but his future is a bit uncertain, as he's now dealing with injury and he's right in the middle of the new PFL-Bellator landscape. Where will his next challengers come from, considering PFL ransacked much of the Bellator roster for its 2024 season? Either way, Nurmagomedov is as legit as they come. He's one of the best lightweights in the world, and it will be tough for anyone to hand him his first loss.

3. Khamzat Chimaev

Khamzat Chimaev wins by decision over Kamaru Usman

Khamzat Chimaev wins a well-fought fight via majority decision against Kamaru Usman.

Chimaev's biggest problem -- his inability to stay active -- has continued to hold him back. We haven't seen him compete in seven months. If this activity problem never gets rectified, it'll be impossible for Chimaev to realize his full potential. That said, fingers crossed, because we're likely to finally see him take on the biggest opportunities of his career. That begins June 22, when he meets a former champion in what could be a No. 1 contender fight.

4. Shavkat Rakhmonov

Rakhmonov submits Oliveira in UFC debut

Shavkat Rakhmonov forces Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira to tap with a guillotine choke in the first round. The UFC 254 main card starts at 2 p.m. ET.

  • UFC welterweight

  • Record: 18-0, 6-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

Rakhmonov moves up two spots from the last time we did these rankings in November, and he still might not be high enough. Rakhmonov made it 17 finishes in a row in December with a submission of Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, who was highly motivated by trying to make what might be his final run at a UFC championship. Rakhmonov now appears to be one win at most away from a UFC title shot.

5. Tatiana Suarez

Tatiana Suarez submits Jessica Andrade in co-main event

Tatiana Suarez gets a huge victory over Jessica Andrade in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night.

  • UFC strawweight

  • Record: 11-0, 6-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

Suarez continues to be one of the most intriguing figures in the sport. With three current or former UFC champions on her résumé, her undefeated record stands up with any on this list. She was forced to pull out of her last fight in February due to a knee injury, so injuries remain her primary issue. Suarez has fought only twice in the past five years. But she's the healthiest she has been in years and seemingly on the cusp of a title shot against Zhang Weili.

6. Movsar Evloev

  • UFC featherweight

  • Record: 18-0, 8-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

Evloev faced his biggest test in January against Arnold Allen and came out on top -- with some adversity. Allen didn't make it easy on him, and some observers even felt Allen won. Evloev's bigger problem, however, is that UFC CEO Dana White has publicly made clear what we probably already knew: He doesn't love Evloev's fighting style. White called Evloev's last win "the least fun fight anybody's ever seen." That's not a great sign regarding opportunities to come, and all eight of Evloev's UFC wins have come by decision.

7. Umar Nurmagomedov

Umar Nurmagomedov doesn't need a full round to get big win

Umar Nurmagomedov knocks out Raoni Barcelos in Round 1 to get another big win at UFC Fight Night.

  • UFC men's bantamweight

  • Record: 17-0, 5-0 UFC

  • Next fight: Aug. 3 vs. Cory Sandhagen

An undefeated record connected to a member of Khabib Nurmagomedov's team has become one of the least surprising things in MMA. Umar Nurmagomedov has been pegged as a future champ for a while, even though his weight class is stacked. We said opportunities were coming in 2024, and they are. The first one will come against Sandhagen in August in Abu Dhabi.

8. Ian Machado Garry

Ian Garry's head kick leads to exciting TKO finish

Ian Garry connects with a head kick and finishes the fight to take a TKO win.

  • UFC welterweight

  • Record: 14-0, 7-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

Garry's knack for making headlines in and out of fight camp is surpassed only by his ability to show up on fight night. His performances have been remarkably impressive, even as the competition level increases. In fact, it might be because the competition level is going up. Garry is a gamer, and he has more than proved it at this point. Whoever eventually beats him will likely reap some big rewards from it, because his name continues to grow with every win. It's not going to be easy to beat him, though.

9. Johnny Eblen

  • Bellator middleweight champion

  • Record: 15-0, 11-0 Bellator

  • Next fight: TBD

Eblen drops a couple of spots from our past ranking of unbeatens, but that's based more on what some of those around him did than anything he did wrong. In February, he had a tough fight against 2023 PFL champion Impa Kasanganay but showed championship composure in securing the split decision win. And Kasanganay is a lot better than he gets credit for, even with the moniker of a PFL champion. If there is a game plan to beat Eblen, it still hasn't been shown and executed.

10. Muhammad Mokaev

Muhammad Mokaev submits Tim Elliott to remain undefeated

Muhammad Mokaev gets Tim Elliott to tap, grabbing the win to remain undefeated in the UFC.

  • UFC men's flyweight

  • Record: 12-0, 1 NC; 6-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

After two years of barking at ranked opponents and calling for a title shot, it might be the 23-year-old's time in 2024. Mokaev is ranked No. 8 in ESPN's flyweight rankings and is a front-runner to receive the next shot at champion Alexandre Pantoja. Stylistically, Mokaev's wrestling is a problem for anyone in his division -- and considering Pantoja relies so heavily on his grappling advantages in difficult fights, this matchup should be fascinating.

11. Tatsuro Taira

Tatsuro Taira finishes Carlos Hernandez at UFC Fight Night

Tatsuro Taira needs less than a minute into Round 2 to finish off opponent Carlos Hernandez in the prelims of UFC Fight Night.

  • UFC men's flyweight

  • Record: 15-0, 5-0 UFC

  • Next fight: June 1 vs. Joshua Van

Taira and Mokaev remain neck-and-neck in these rankings, just as they were last time. The only difference between the two at this point is name recognition. Taira has been equally if not more impressive than Mokaev, but he hasn't risen in the rankings as quickly because he hasn't secured ranked opponents. Still, he's oozing with talent and still shy of his 25th birthday. He's a storm coming at 125 pounds.

12. Lerone Murphy

Murphy KO's Amirkhani with his knee in the second round

Lerone Murphy lands a huge knee strike that knocks out Makwan Amirkhani in the second round.

  • UFC featherweight

  • Record: 13-0-1, 5-0-1 UFC

  • Next fight: May 18 vs. Edson Barboza

Murphy is the outlier on this list. Many of these undefeated fighters are young phenoms, plus a handful of established champions who have simply been too good to beat, even by elite competition. Murphy is a veteran who just hasn't really fought the best of the best, despite his age of 32. Well, that will change with this weekend's fight against Barboza. Murphy's undefeated record is a nod to his perseverance, skill and ability to win fights in different ways. If he is to keep that undefeated record, he'll have to do it against some of the biggest names in his career.

13. Bo Nickal

  • UFC middleweight

  • Record: 6-0, 3-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

It's impossible to keep Nickal off this list, even though he's still an infant in MMA. He was disappointed with his performance against Cody Brumage last month, when he only managed to finish the fight in the second round and didn't completely have his way from start to finish. That just shows the level of expectation that's on him right now. He's still a little raw, and his résumé is not as rock solid as some others, but we would be remiss in not getting him into the top 15 because what he's doing at this point in his career is undeniably brilliant. And odds are he will continue to hold that undefeated mark.

14. Azamat Murzakanov

Murzakanov remains undefeated after TKO win over Clark

Azamat Murzakanov drops Devin Clark, then pounces on him for the TKO finish to keep his undefeated record intact.

  • UFC light heavyweight

  • Record: 13-0, 3-0 UFC

  • Next fight: TBD

The UFC tried to see what it had in Murzakanov, booking him against Volkan Oezdemir and Khalil Rountree Jr. in the second half of 2023. Unfortunately, both of those fights fell apart. Murzakanov has been perfect so far (he wouldn't be on this list otherwise), but he hasn't fought the cream of the crop. Clearly, the UFC is in the same boat as the rest of us. It wants to know what to make of Murzakanov in this wide-open division. We should see it at some point this year.

15. Magomed Umalatov

  • PFL welterweight

  • Record: 15-0, 6-0 PFL

  • Next fight: June 28 vs. Brennan Ward

Very quietly, Umalatov is turning into one of the crown jewels of the PFL roster regarding straight skill set. He is a formidable welterweight who scored his highest-profile win against former Bellator champion Andrey Koreshkov in April. The PFL knows it has talent in Umalatov, and if he can remain healthy and active through this season, he should become far more recognizable. In his first appearance this year, he headlined a PFL event. And next, he'll take on Ward, one of the bigger names on the welterweight season roster.

Spotlight: Dakota Ditcheva and Josefine Knutsson

It's worth highlighting Ditcheva and Knutsson right now, because although their current résumés aren't stacked enough to crack the top 15, that could change very soon. Ditcheva looked amazing in her 2024 PFL season opener in April, and she has a favorable matchup in the second round. It will be sink or swim once she makes the playoffs, where there's a good chance she could meet Liz Carmouche or Taila Santos. As for Knutsson, she's a 28-year-old prospect out of the same Allstars Training Center in Sweden as Chimaev. She's only 1-0 in the UFC, but there's no question she's UFC-ready. Don't be surprised if you see her face a ranked opponent before the end of the year.