At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity.
UFC 121 answered a lot of questions, questions like whether Cain Velasquez could really be, as his trainer Javier Mendez put it several years ago, the Muhammad Ali of MMA, is Jake Shields really deserving of a shot at GSP, and is Tito Ortiz still a threat at 205? The answers to those questions, along with analysis of how the fights affected our rankings, are below. Full results of the night’s fights can be found here.
While Brock Lesnar was the odds maker’s favorite, Cain Velasquez was the popular pick to take the UFC Heavyweight Championship and showed why in a tick more than four minutes Sat. night in Anaheim, Calif. The referee stoppage victory moves Velasquez from #2 into the top spot in our Heavyweight Rankings, while the loss drops Lesnar back to #5. Lesnar’s size didn’t prove to be a functional advantage, as Velasquez’s athleticism, conditioning, and well-rounded skill set allowed him to pressure the larger man for the entirety of the bout. Junior Dos Santos is up next for Velasquez in a bout where Cain figures to be the favorite, while Lesnar is available for a marketable rematch with Shane Carwin (assuming Carwin gets past Roy Nelson) and a rubber match with Frank Mir (assuming Mir does something compelling enough to warrant it).
In other heavyweight action, two young guys put themselves in line for contendership status as The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights vets Brendan Schaub and Jon Madsen both notched wins on Sat. night. Schaub scored a unanimous decision win over former top contender Gabriel Gonzaga and moved from #31 to #19 in the rankings, while Gonzaga falls from #25 to #38. Madsen stopped Gilbert Yvel inside of two minutes of the first round, jumping from #33 to #17 while Yvel falls from #32 to #46.
Jake Shields collected a gaggle of title belts before signing with the UFC to chase the most prestigious belt of all. But fans’ worst fears came to pass at UFC 121 as Shields, who enjoyed a run of seven straight stoppage wins before less-than-thrilling nationally-televised wins over Jason Miller and Dan Henderson, wrestled his way to a split decision over Martin Kampmann. Shields came into the fight at #2 in our Welterweight Rankings but slipped to #4 after the fight; split decision wins over lesser-ranked opponents hurt a fighter’s score in our rankings formula. Kampmann might have lost the fight but he jumped into the top ten with a strong performance against a highly-ranked opponent, moving from #12 to #7.
Several other welterweights came into the night fighting for relevance in the division. Diego Sanchez topped Paulo Thiago and returned to the top 20, moving from #28 to #19, while Thiago falls from #24 to #47. In undercard action, Daniel Roberts notched his third qualifying fight and entered our Welterweight Rankings at #39 with a submission win over Mike Guymon, who falls from #91 to #107 and may find himself returning to regional cards after a 1-2 run in the UFC.
Tito Ortiz arrived at The Pond on an 0-3-1 skid with hopes of proving that he still mattered at 205. Unfortunately for him, Matt Hamill took the fight on all judges cards, dropping Ortiz from #16 to #22 in our Light Heavyweight Rankings and moving Hamill from #19 to #11. To be fair, Hamill is probably not that close to the top 10 but the one shortcoming of our ranking formula is that Hamill’s DQ victory over Jon Jones helps him and hurts Jones, even thought Hamill was being dominated before Jones threw the illegal elbows.
In middleweight action, Court McGee finished Ryan Jensen with a third-round choke, dropping Jensen from #70 to #87 in FIGHT!’s Middleweight Rankings. Currently unranked, McGee will enter our rankings after he notches his third qualifying fight. In the night’s other bout contested at 185 pounds, Tom Lawlor decision Patrick Cote, moving Lawlor up from #50 to #26 and dropping Cote from #30 to #55.
At 155 pounds, Sam Stout fell from #37 to #44 in our Lightweight Rankings following his split decision win over new lightweight Paul Taylor, who creeps up from #74 to #71. No other ranked fighters appeared on the card.