posted on February 09, 2014 15:42
Here’s a riddle: When does being #1 mean you’re NOT #1? For the answer, just look at the questionable UFC rankings.
The original intent of the rankings made a lot of sense. They added relevance to some lower-card fights by pointing out that ‘Fighter A’ was ranked #6 in the division while ‘Fighter B’ was ranked #8.
Fans could see a direct correlation to each fighter’s place in the weight class, and witness their ascension toward top-contender status. Fans would clearly know who was deserving of the next title opportunity, and a panel of UFC-approved writers vote on the rankings after each event.
But a quick look at the official UFC rankings seem to render any true significance moot. Most of the #1 contenders find themselves being leap-frogged for title shots and/or cannot even envision a championship fight in their near future.
John Dodson sits atop the flyweight rankings, but has already suffered a loss at the hands of champion Demetrious Johnson. Dodson instead finds himself facing #10-ranked Zach Makovsky (who has never stepped foot in a UFC Octagon) in a no-win situation.
The bantamweight division sees longtime bridesmaid Urijah Faber still sitting atop the contender rankings, despite losing (twice) to current champion Renan Barao. If the rankings hold true, we should pencil in another Barao-Faber contest sometime in late 2014. However, many are speculating that, not only will a Faber title shot not come anytime soon, it will never come at all. So, why is he still featured as the main threat to the crown?
Featherweight is even more head-scratching. Longtime kingpin Jose Aldo has wiped the floor with the fighters sitting in the top-five, and ponders a move to 155 pounds. #1 contender Chad Mendes has won five fights in a row since his loss to Aldo (the only loss of Mendes’ career), yet cannot secure a rematch. Mendes was stepped-over by a severely overmatched Ricardo Lamas last weekend. Should Aldo make the move to lightweight, UFC President Dana White has already said that the fight for the vacant featherweight crown would take place between #1 Mendes and #4 Cub Swanson, ignoring #2-ranked Frankie Edgar and #3 Lamas.
Former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, fresh off a one-fight winning streak, still finds his name at the head of the 155-pound challenger list, despite losing (twice) to current champion Anthony Pettis. Although he has defeated (questionably) #2-ranked Gilbert Melendez and (again, questionably) #4-ranked Josh Thomson, does anyone really expect Henderson to square off with Pettis a third time. What is Henderson wins? Does that set up a fourth and, potentially, fifth fight between the two, in order to even the series?
Let me preface the next one by saying that Anderson Silva is the greatest MMA fighter of all time. But, how in the world can a man who may not be healthy enough to fight for two years (and may never fight again anyway), who just posted a video of himself walking down a flight of stairs without crutches, and has lost (twice) to current champ Chris Weidman, be considered the top contender at 185 pounds? Add to this, the fact that Dana White has stated that if #4 Lyoto Machida can defeat unranked Gegard Mousasi next weekend, Machida will likely earn the next title opportunity.
The welterweight pseudo-retirement of Georges St-Pierre sees #1-ranked Johny Hendricks taking on #3 Robbie Lawler for the vacant 170-pound belt. While it is not an egregious error that #2 Carlos Condit was passed over (since Hendricks defeated Condit by decision last year), it is unclear why Condit is taking on #10 Tyron Woodley in a scenario to determine who will face the winner of Hendricks/Lawler. Are numbers 3 through 9 too pressed for time? Bear in mind this is the same division that saw top-ranked (by sources outside the UFC, prior to official company rankings) Jon Fitch line-jumped by various contenders for a period of several years.
In the light-heavyweight division, #1-ranked Alexander Gustafsson (according to UFC brass) did not deserve an immediate rematch with champion Jon Jones, despite a razor-thin decision victory by Jones in September. The title fight goes to #2 Glover Teixeira, which is totally warranted. However, why is top-contender Gustafsson squaring off with #11 Jimi Manuwa next month? If Manuwa wins…then what?
Finally, who’s clamoring to see Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos IV (after two consecutive, brutal Velasquez-generated beatdowns)? But, according to the rankings, that is what we should get.
The point is, if the UFC is going to use the rankings as a legitimate way to determine the next title challengers…fine. If the company is going to choose to ignore the rankings, book their own way, and only utilize the rankings to generate interest in a curtain-jerker bout on a Wednesday ‘Fight Night’ card, then what’s the point?