Very cool! Fronted by Kid Nate.
After frustrating myself with an inability to successfully use the data from the FightLines graph into a reasonable power ranking, I lost interest in the project. However, this post from Kid Nate made something click in my head:
Honestly after poring over all these rankings - especially the ones like MMA-ELO and Fightmatrix that have "objective" scoring systems - I’m more convinced than ever that ranking fighters is an almost purely arbitrary exercise.
I realized that the data in the graph was useful in and of itself: as a graphical representation of where a fighter stands in his division.
So what exactly is FightLines and how does it work?
It's really very simple. The purpose is to provide a completely objective method of ranking. To do that, it's fed the most basic information - wins and losses. Using the results of the past 3 years, the data is put into hierarchical graphing software. The output showing a line from one fighter to another represents a win over that opponent.
The twist is when something like this happens:
Because you can't objectively say that any of the 3 fighters is above any other, the data points are removed or "looped" out. Loops are not limited to just 3 fighters as above. A loop can extend to 4, 5, 6, and more fighters.
If you check out the old FightLines blog above, you might notice that the graphs are unwieldy with large amounts of fighters involved. While I still am drawn to such massive looking images, for the sake of simplicity and practicality I've come up with a strict qualification system:
1) Any fighter on a legitimate top 10 list is included (with the recent comeback of the meta-rankings, I will be using them as my basis). If this provides an insufficient sample size, I use the Fightmatrix rankings to add additional fighters.
2) Any fighter who has fought 2+ fights against fighters in qualification 1 is included.
Here's the pilot graph for the light heavyweight division (too big for here, opens in new window).
And the loops are:
Arona = Silva
Liddell > Silva > Jardine > Liddell
Griffin > Bonnar > Jardine > Griffin
What does this graph show us?
To start, be careful about how you interpret the graph. For instance, Sam Hoger is not ranked higher than Forrest Griffin, even though he appears on a higher plane. This is simply how the graphing software lays out the nodes. The important thing is to see who is at the top/middle/bottom of each path.
For instance, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, and Thiago Silva are all at the top of their paths. Jackson and Machida's status are more clear cut, however, as their paths have 11 fighters underneath them while Evans and Thiago Silva have 8 and 3 respectively.
That being said, the FightLines system agrees with the notion that Lyoto Machida's next fight should be for the light heavyweight title. If Machida does not get a title shot next, the next best bout would appear to be Thiago Silva (though he is rumored to be fighting Wanderlei Silva) or Rashad Evans (who is fighting Chuck Liddell).
What are the potential after effects of the next two big light heavyweight bouts (Jackson/Griffin and Liddell/Evans)?
Jackson win: Does nothing for his standing as he already holds a path to Griffin (through Liddell via Ortiz).
Griffin win: Murks up the 205 division. Causes a Jackson > Liddell > Ortiz > Griffin > Jackson loop (Liddell only holds one win over Ortiz in the timeframe, so he loses his path over him). Chuck would essentially become a floating node. Ortiz would be stuck under Machida. Quinton would hold a lone path through Dan Henderson.
The Liddell/Evans fight has much broader implications. As you can see, they are both at or near the top of their respective paths. These paths are also pretty exlusive from one another. So, a win for either is huge (and a Liddell win also helps Quinton out as well) and would determine the next logical contender after Lyoto Machida.
There's more interesting data nuggets in there, but I don't want to overload the reader. This is definitely a work-in-progress and I would enjoy hearing comments, criticisms, and complaints. I'll also do my best to answer any questions (I'm sure my explanation of the idea and implementation wasn't exactly pristine).