FIGHT! Magazine’s MMA Fighter Rankings have been the the target of a lot of criticism over the last couple of years. Some of that criticism can be attributed to the fact that our mathematical rankings are objective and results-based, not subjective and based on potential. Most rankings are created by educated observers whose personal perspectives and biases color the results. We simply take the data (a fighter’s strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity), enter it into our database, and generate the rankings. Is it a perfect system? No, but in my three years with FIGHT! I’ve come to think that it’s the best system.
Of course there are anomalies – this is a young sport, and FIGHT! is a young company. We only have so many fights in our database and not all fighters were accurately ranked at the start. Some anomalies are more noticeable than others and one name has come up more than any other in critiques of our MMA Fighter Rankings.
When FIGHT! was launched, Monson was fresh off a win over Kazuyuki Fujita at PRIDE 34, which came five months after his loss to Tim Sylvia in a UFC title fight. His next fight was a loss to the highly ranked Josh Barnett followed by wins over Roy Nelson and Sergei Kharitonov. Losses to highly ranked fighters do not hurt fighters in our rankings as much as losses to lower-ranked fighters do, so if Monson started in the top 10, losses to two top-five guys weren’t enough to knock him out of the top 10. His win over Nelson was controversial but again, opinions don’t factor into our rankings, only results. When you factor in the relative weakness of the heavyweight division in 2007 – current top-10 guys Lesnar, Velasquez, Carwin, Dos Santos, and Rogers weren’t on the national radar – it makes sense that there might be a glaring anomaly in our rankings.
In an effort to produce more complete and accurate rankings, FIGHT! has begun entering certain smaller regional MMA shows into our rankings database. As an increasing number of fighters cycle into and out of major organizations (UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, DREAM, Sengoku), many of them are appearing on smaller shows around the world. The beauty of our rankings, and the sport itself, is that no lies are told in the cage. If you or we think a fighter is ranked too high or too low, it will be sorted out over time as more fight results are entered into the database. So when we entered the results of Saturday night’s XKL Evolution II card in Minneapolis, Minn., Jeff Monson fell from #6 to #15 in our Heavyweight Rankings. His split decision loss to Travis Wiuff lowered his ranking value to something more in line with his real standing in the division in 2010, and resolved one of those pesky anomalies in our system.
I’m sure we’ll continue to hear complaints about our rankings. We just won’t hear any about Jeff Monson.