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Rankings of best women boxers and MMA fighters

Rankings of best women boxers and MMA fighters
Amanda Nunes, top, battles Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 196. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Friday night's co-main event status for Los Angeles middleweight Maricela Cornejo at downtown's Belasco Theater is part of an increased effort by promoters and sanctioning bodies to showcase women's boxing.

While Ronda Rousey single-handedly launched the interest in women's mixed martial arts, boxing is still searching for a dynamic woman fighter to capture mass attention.

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Cornejo, who's acted in Spanish-language telenovelas, is among a group of women boxers drawing crowds and publicity with their charisma and skill. L.A.'s Seniesa Estrada, who fought on the Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez-Carlos Cuadras undercard last month, is also in that discussion with popular New York fighter Heather Hardy.

Will the women's rise in the ring continue, or is the phenomenon limited to one entertaining brawler in the octagon from Venice?

"Like any sport, it depends on the athletes themselves," said boxing promoter Tom Loeffler, whose company counts unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and women's unified champion Cecilia Braekhus in its stable. "It depends on the television exposure and the marketing … being photogenic and able to fight is a good thing for both men and women."

Below are  The Times' rankings of the current top women's boxers and MMA fighters.

BOXING RANKINGS

1. Cecilia Braekhus; Norway; welterweight; 29-0, 8 KOs.

The Colombian-born brawler, 35, has reigned since 2009 and last Saturday she successfully defended her unified titles by scoring a second-round technical knockout of Anne-Sophie Mathis, who knocked out former UFC champion Holly Holm in a 2011 boxing match.

Next fight: Braekhus has expressed willingness to fight anyone. She wants to make her U.S. debut next year and is interested in a boxing match against UFC fighter Cris "Cyborg" Santos.

2. Jelena Mrdjenovich; Edmonton, Canada; featherweight; 36-10-1, 19 KOs.

The two-belt featherweight champion has 13 years invested in the sport and is seen as the ideal foe for New Yorker Amanda Serrano in a possible main event in early 2017, according to Serrano promoter Lou DiBella.

Next fight: Saturday in France, in defense of her World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. belts against France's unbeaten Gaelle Amand (14-0).

3. Delfine Persoon; Belgium; lightweight; 36-1, 16 KOs.

The World Boxing Council lightweight champion since 2014 is a favorite in her native country and those who've seen her fight predict similar success when the timing is right for her to fight elsewhere.

Next fight: Has a Nov. 11 date scheduled, but, as happens in the women's fight game, she's awaiting the selection of an opponent.

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4. Christina Hammer; Germany; middleweight; 19-0, nine KOs.

The 26-year-old Kazakhstan-born World Boxing Organization champion has posted an impressive run of one-sided decisions or stoppages.

Next fight: Has a Nov. 5 date against a yet-to-be-named opponent in Munich.

5. Amanda Serrano; New York; featherweight; 29-1-1, 22 KOs.

The Brooklyn fighter and WBO featherweight champion shined in a summer bout aired in part on Showtime, and she has the backing of DiBella, sharing with World Boxing Council Chairman Mauricio Sulaiman the title of most effective proponent of women's fighting in the U.S.

Next fight: Oct. 18 against an opponent yet to be selected, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Others to watch: 6. Erica Farias, super-lightweight, Argentina; 7. Ava Knight, super-flyweight, Chico; 8. Heather Hardy, featherweight, Brooklyn; 9. Seniesa Estrada, light-flyweight, East Los Angeles, 10. Maricela Cornejo, middleweight, Los Angeles.

MMA RANKINGS

1. Amanda Nunes; Brazil; bantamweight; 13-4.

The UFC bantamweight champion won the belt from Miesha Tate in the UFC 200 main event and seems to be in a holding pattern as we await Rousey's return.

Next fight: Her ability to win with punching, athleticism and on the canvas makes her a formidable test for Rousey, a fighter who's taken more than a year off.

2. Joanna Jedrzejczyk; Poland; straw-weight; 12-0.

The champion makes a convincing case to be considered the most relentless and most skilled striker among UFC females. She defended her belt by sweeping the last three rounds against Brazil's Claudia Gadelha in July.

Next fight: She asked for and received a place on the three-title-fight UFC 205 in New York on Nov. 12, and will meet countrywoman Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

3. Miesha Tate; Las Vegas; bantamweight; 18-6.

Her long-denied opportunity to stand as champion was fleeting thanks to Nunes, but Tate could reposition for a title shot if Rousey is unable to return as planned around the new year.

Next fight: Returns to the octagon at the showcase UFC 205 New York debut against Holly Holm's first UFC opponent, Raquel Pennington.

4. Cris "Cyborg" Santos; Huntington Beach; 140-pound catch-weight; 16-1.

Her relentlessness and viciousness remain in full gear as evidenced by her second-round knockout of Lina Lansberg Sept. 24 in a return to Cyborg's home country, Brazil.

Next fight: She says she can't cut to 135 pounds, and who'd be daring enough to go outside their weight class to fight her? So Cyborg said last month she'll find contentment in taking the best fights possible.

5. Ronda Rousey; Venice; bantamweight; 12-1.

As uncertain as her interest in the sport seems, after an extended layoff that included time to recover from an injury suffered in  the November 2015 knockout loss to Holm, Rousey remains the sport's most marketable athlete, according to UFC President Dana White.

Next fight: Rousey's trainer Edmond Tarverdyan was asked Tuesday when she would fight next. His response: "Wait two more months."

Others to watch: 6. Valentina Shevchenko, bantamweight, Peru; 7. Julianna Pena, bantamweight, Spokane, Wash.; 8. Claudia Gadelha, straw-weight, Brazil; 9. Carla Esparza, straw-weight, Irvine; 10. Holly Holm, bantamweight, Albuquerque.

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