Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thoughts of the USA Today Rankings (April 2012)

Ranking systems in MMA, and all sports for that matter, are a subjective and incomplete lot. No matter how many aspects you factor into the system, there are always those who feel that Fighter A should actually be ahead of Fighter B.

This is why the rankings that I tend to follow the closest are the USA Today/Bloody Elbow rankings.

Much like the USA Today newspaper, which is effectively an aggregation of the nationally focused news, these rankings are an aggregation of many national MMA ranking systems.

This month's featured 15 separate rankings, coming from multiple top MMA sites like Sherdog, MMA Mania, Heavy MMA, Yahoo! Sports, etc. While it isn't the perfect system, and flyweights still aren't listed, these are the rankings that I choose to follow and treat with the most legitimacy.

So let me share my thoughts on these rankings. This will be the first of a monthly look at these rankings and analyzing each division.


Unsurprisingly, all seven weight classes place the UFC World Champion as the No. 1 fighter, and I'm just fine with that. Junior Dos Santos has more than earned his position at the top of the mountain.

What needs to be noted in this weight class is the absolute dominance of the 265-lb. division that the UFC will have once they absorb Strikeforce. (Don't pretend it's not happening!) Once No. 7 Josh Barnett and No. 8 Daniel Cormier are in the UFC, 15 of the top 16 positions will be in one company.

Fedor Emelianenko still sits at No. 11 despite fighting no one of consequence since leaving Strikeforce on a three-fight losing streak, and the only other non-Zuffa fighter in the rankings is No. 17 Cole Konrad (Bellator champion.

If I had to say, Konrad is the most underrated fighter in these rankings and should be ahead of Cheick Kongo and the most overrated fighter, Fedor.

Nothing else is really there to complain about besides the fact that Brock Lesnar has not yet been taken out of the rankings.

Light Heavyweights

Does Zuffa own this weight class or what? Only one of the (active) fighters on this list came from a company besides UFC or Strikeforce: 'Babalu' Sobral.

I feel like this is the deepest weight class in MMA, but when looking at these rankings it's hard to tell. However, I think the dominance shows it well.

Look at it this way, Bellator's champion can't even crack the top 25 in this weight class because so many people of consequence are in this class at the highest level.

I agree with Jon Jones and Dan Henderson leading the rankings, and look forward to their match for the No. 1 spot.


Gee, I wonder who the top two were here. I am pumped for Silva-Sonnen II, and these two will provide quite the battle for the top position in the weight class.

Mark Munoz almost feels like a default No. 3 here, as really no one deserves to be in the same sentence as the top two right now.

No. 6 Luke Rockhold is by far the most overrated person in this class, and former Bellator champion Hector Lombard should be able to move up incredibly quickly here.


This is not a very compelling class now, but it could develop into something amazing.

After GSP, who sits at the top of the rankings, will have plenty of challenges with No. 2 interim UFC champion Carlos Condit, Jake Ellenberger and Nick Diaz to name a few.

I laugh a little at No. 7 Jon Fitch losing five rankings after his loss to No. 5 Johny Hendricks a few months back, but can't say I disagree. And I'm interested to see what happens to No. 19 Jay Hieron after leaving Bellator.


The deepest weight class in MMA is very UFC dominant, holding 17 of 25 positions.

Why Shinya Aoki is still in the top 10 and ahead of the man who just knocked him out is beyond me. If I were Eddie Alvarez, I'd make some phone calls.

Lastly, Anthony Pettis is vastly underrated here. He should be No. 5 or 6 right now (with Maynard as the debating point).


The only weight class where two non-Zuffa fighters are in the top five is here!

Seeing this weight class makes it very clear that Bellator is the No. 2 organization in the world, because they're the only company here besides the UFC with at least three fighters and people in every weight class (LHW excluded).

I hope Jose Aldo gets a match with No. 2 Hatsu Hioki soon, because I feel like the hype won't be there in a few months because he will get upset. Mark my words on that.


This is the most fledgling weight class measured, and it shows here. Once again, Bellator is the only non-Zuffa company of consequence, picking up seven spots, and otherwise only DREAM gets points for scoring two fighters.

Cruz and Faber's fight can't come soon enough, as No. 3 Renan Barao has been waiting far too long to prove his mettle for the top spot.

That's all my thoughts for this month. I'll see you next time!

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