Rankings. R-A-N-K-I-N-G-S. Hear that collective sigh followed by a dismissive groan? That's probably me cringing at the thought of debating subjectivity versus objectivity when it comes to the hotly debated topic of rankings in mixed martial arts. I know I'm not alone in my disdain for arguing with fans over where to place Shinya Aoki in the top ten lightweight ranking, but it's something that has interested fans of the sport for a very long time.
While many fans debate the various weight classes and where each fighter ranks, many fans solely focus on the Holy Grail of rankings -- The top ten pound-for-pound ranking. As we saw in the Ariel Helwani vs. Dana White debate regarding rankings , there are varying points of view when it comes to who should retain the top spot.
Unfortunately, most of the debates feature two individuals arguing under different ideas of what pound-for-pound actually means. Some people believe it simply means who is the absolute best fighter without the restraint of weight classes. Others get a bit more scientific in that they rank within the context that each fighter would retain their skills and battle other top fighters in each weight class. Would they be as victorious?
My own idea of the pound-for-pound ranking methodology falls in the latter theory. Comparing fighters as if they were exactly the same weight while retaining all skills they've displayed in their fights. Reach and height advantages could be given based on their own weight classes. If a fighter generally has a reach advantage against most of his opponents, he'd have a reach advantage over someone who normally doesn't within a different weight class.
Seems like a solid method to determining the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, right? Wrong. There are issues within any methodology of the pound-for-pound ranking that can't be solved. For instance, let's take a look at Yahoo! Sports' pound-for-pound ranking:
1. Anderson Silva
2. Georges St. Pierre
3. Fedor Emelianenko
4. B.J. Penn
5. Lyoto Machida
6. Jose Aldo
7. Mauricio Rua
8. Gegard Mousasi
9. Dan Henderson
10. Dominick Cruz
I don't think this is a bad ranking at all, and I am on the bandwagon that Silva does possess the skills to be at the top in various weight classes. Like other rankings, there isn't much crossover among these fighters with the exception of B.J. Penn fighting Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva battling in the light heavyweight division.There are obvious problems with such a ranking though, and it makes the entire process of thinking up ridiculous reasons as to where each fighter should rank pointless.
Firstly, how can speed even be calculated in such a ranking? Most fans would agree that Jose Aldo or Dominick Cruz would possess a huge speed advantage over some of these fighters, and there isn't any calculated way to diminish their speed as they rise in weight. We just have to "think" of how it would look in our minds.
If I go with my own idealogy that fighters retain skills as they move up in weight, Jose Aldo would probably flying knee Fedor Emelianenko as if he were a character in Street Fighter. We have no way of actually figuring out a diminishing factor for speed, and relying on people to accurately portray how that speed would diminish in their heads isn't something I'm keen on believing would happen. And then there is the issue of that factor remaining consistent across weight classes and with different fighters. Impossible.
What happens when someone like Brock Lesnar enters this fray? At lightweight, he'd be an enormous looking middleweight come fight time and have the power of nuclear fission in his hands in comparison to someone like B.J. Penn.
Pound-for-pound rankings are pointless. We have no accurate way to guage why exactly a fighter is one of the pound-for-pound best. In my own world, I think Anderson Silva is the best fighter regardless of weight class, but Jose Aldo would probably punch him 25 times before Silva even landed a punch if Aldo retained all speed in a move to middleweight. Pointless debates like that of Helwani vs. Dana White about who is the pound-for-pound best? I have better things to do.