Photo by Tracy Lee via Yahoo Sports
If we learned anything last night at UFC 125, it should be this simple lesson: think twice before anointing UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo as one of the sport's pound for pound elite. Josh Grispi's decimation at the hands of the unknown and unheralded Dustin Poirier should make it perfectly clear that we don't know much about who's good and who's great in the featherweight division.
Josh Grispi was supposed to challenge Aldo for the title on this show. Think about that. Grispi, still a great young prospect with lots of room to grow, was exposed by a fighter no one had ever heard of. Poirier, a hard hitter who trains with Tim Credeur, dropped down from 155 pounds and immediately showed the world a ton of flaws in Grispi's game. Grispi was outclassed on his feet and Poirier shrugged off numerous submission attempts like he was a man in with a boy. In a sense, he kind of was.
Luke Thomas has been preaching this point for some time on his MMA Nation radio show. The featherweight division just hasn't settled in yet - it's too new to have even determined who the best fighters in the division are, let alone how they fit in the broader framework of MMA. And now that there is UFC money in the division, everything is going to change. It will be a cataclysmic year for featherweight rankings as tons of fighters just like Poirier will try their hand at 145.
Aldo supporters don't want to hear about this. After all, he is the champion, the best fighter in the division. No one disputes that, only what it means in the bigger picture. They want to believe becoming the WEC champion propelled him into the sport's elite. But that just wasn't true - at least not yet. Aldo carries a title that is built on the credibility of Jens Pulver, a fighter who went from making Urijah Faber a star to losing five consecutive fights. Before Faber's win over Pulver, many MMA pundits considered the strong crop of Japanese featherweights to be the world's best. Faber's growing notoriety quelled that talk and pushed the WEC title into the spotlight.
Aldo won gold from Mike Brown, a career journeyman at 155 who failed against the top competition in the UFC and Japan. Brown was able to beat Faber twice, suddenly going from UFC also ran to many people's top pound for pound list. The Ultimate Fighter runner up Manny Gamburyan made a similar transition from UFC loser to WEC star. If guys who never made it in the big show like Brown and Gamburyan were able to run roughshod over the featherweight class, imagine what undersized UFC lightweights who are actually competitive and winning fights in their current weight class will do when they make the cut to 145.
The featherweight division, as we know it, is an artificial construct. The rankings are all meaningless, even our great USA Today/SBNation rankings. Until the UFC level talent at 155 settles into the division and makes their mark, everything is a guessing game. What happened in the WEC is irrelevant. A guy like Poirier, a 155 pounder who lost a preliminary undercard bout to Danny Castillo in the WEC a few short months ago, just wrecked the WEC's top featherweight contender. Forget what you think you know. Until further notice the featherweight division should be promoted with an asterisk that reads "Under Construction."