Cain Velasquez is the UFC Heavyweight Champion, and USA Today/SB Nation consensus #1 Heavyweight in MMA. Despite this, there are those who will refute that Cain is the top fighter in the division, claiming Fedor Emelianenko's MMA record is more than enough evidence as to why he is king of the mountain. To make things even more convoluted, Brock Lesnar solely sits between Velasquez and The Last Emperor at #2 in the consensus rankings. Other than winning and defending the UFC championship twice as a novice to the sport, what has Lesnar done to prove he is worthy of a superior ranking compared to a man who has won practically every fight he's been in for the past 10 years, and ammased 27 more victories to his resume?
Now, before you start grumbling about who should be ranked where, relax; This has nothing to do with my opinion on where specific fighters should be ranked. I believe that fans become too dependent on rankings, and that is the purpose of this article.
A few months back, an influx of front page articles and fanposts were flooding Bloody Elbow concerning rankings. People started questioning the accuracy of these systems. Several people provided their own personal format for rankings, some very elaborate and creative. Unfortunately, none of these proved to be a flawless solution, either.
Rankings have always been used in combat sports, and furthermore, almost every other type of sport for that matter. I don't expect them to be perfect, and I certainly don't intend for them to be given up on for their imperfections. What I want people to be aware of, is that they are not a guaranteed measure of which fighter is more talented, or if a particular athlete can acheive a victory over another 100% of the time.
What provoked me to express my opinions, aside from my long overdue first Fanpost, was a conversation I had with a couple other users on this very website regarding Fedor's upcoming fight against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. The majority of people commenting on that article were taking one of two stances. The first perspective was that Fedor is tarnishing his legacy, and taking a fight he feels he can easily win. The others took the opposite side of the debate, saying Silva is a top 10 fighter (Currently right at #10), and that there's nothing wrong with this match-up. Obviously, as in most situations, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I'll give my own opinion at the end of this, and encourage you to do the same in the comment section.
I believe that rankings can get miserably misconstrued by several factors, most importantly the fact that not all fighters are under the same organization, and therefore do not have the option to compete against each other. The only true way to find out who is the best of the best, is literally for everyone to fight each other. This is where the rankings are very useful, for people like Joe Silva whose jobs are trying to match-up evenly competitive fights, and thereby move athletes higher and lower in the ranks, according to the fight's outcome, to find out who's the very best. The only people who should really make it a point to care about a ranking system that goes beyond 5 or so fighters in a division are the individuals who have to create these cards. All we really need to worry about as fans is three categories of fighters: Who we think is currently the best, what few people have a chance at dethroning that man, and who either doesn't have a shot yet (or anymore). The only time you should bother having a debate about who's better than who, or who should be ranked where, is when the two fighters are in different organizations whom refuse to co-promote. Otherwise, sit back, relax... And eventually you'll be able to watch who is superior to who in reality, not in theory.
The last thing I want to add promptly, before I put the last of you still reading to sleep; The Heavyweight division is the weakest division in the sport. The only way you could argue that it has any depth, is if you were comparing it to women's MMA divisions (low blow, sorry). The Fedor vs. Silva debate gave me the motivation to write this, so it would be ridiculous of me to not give my opinion on this. Wherever "Bigfoot" may be ranked (#10, yes i know!), his level of accomplishments in this sport are nowhere near Fedor's. I believe when you've came to the point of your career where you've dominated for so long, and are obviously on the decline, that you should either take one of two approaches. Take the high-money fights, the ones the fans want to see most, and try to put on a few more spectacular nights before riding off into the sunset (See Hughes, Matt). Or know that you have one last shot to add something to your legacy, and test yourself as much as possible before your career is over (BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch). I understand that Fedor is tied down to M-1/Strikeforce, so I'm not clamoring for him to scurry to the UFC and fight Cain Velasquez. But since he is the most highly-decorated Heavyweight fighter in his promotion, I would have much rather he fight the top contender and draw in Alistair Overeem, or avenge his recent and incredibly surprising loss to Fabricio Werdum, rather than accept a fight against a rising prospect whom casual fans barely even know.
This is my first fanpost, so I appreciate all feedback, even if you'd just like to tell me I suck. I'd like to continue to do these in the future, whenever I actually have something interesting to say, so almost all input is helpful. Plus I'd love to hear your position on the relevancy of rankings and/or the current news of Fedor's next opponent. Thanks for reading!