Gaming the System - My attempt to develop a fighter career ranking and why it was probably a stupid idea which I'll defend to the death anyway.



Fighting is not a numbers game, or at least not realistically so. KJ Noons/Ryan Couture was a sharp reminder of that. That no matter how clearly it seems that one fighter beat another, or how clearly the compu-stats reinforce it, winning and losing often comes down to a few subjective viewpoints. It is for this reason that fighter rankings are so often problematic. The idea that in the grand scheme of things Frankie Edgar moved down the board in MMA top ten lists and Ben Henderson moved up it, seems almost ridiculous to those who watched the fight, who remembered, or cared about the context.

And so time marches on, lists are largely discounted and we as fans (and even promotions) are left to judge fighters largely based on sentiment or a cutthroat "what have you done for me lately" attitude. But, perhaps, in between the worlds of subjection, sentiment, and compu-stat there exists a missed potential. A potential for judgement.

My goal when I put this idea together was to create a system by which we could give or retract some set amount of credit to a fighter for each fight in their career. Because while no single fight may define a fighter the aggregate of their fighting career can paint a fairly vivid picture. Anyway here was my initial system, what I did with it, what I planned to do with it, and how I tried to modify it.


+.5 for win over %0-%50 opponent
+1 for win over %50-%70 opponent
+2 for win over %70-%90 opponent
+3 for win over %90-%100 opponent (bonus only on 20+ fight fighters)
possible +4 for win over opponent w/TBD score
+1 for every KO/SUB win

-.5 for loss to %100-%90 opponent
-1 for loss to %90-%70
-2 for loss to %70-%50
-3 for loss to %50-%0
possible -4 for every loss to opponent w/TBD score
-1 for every KO/SUB loss

All opponents taken at time of fight

All wins over opponents with less than 10 fights get an automatic +1 if fighter has less than 10 fights. If fighter has more than 10 fights a win over a fighter with less than 10 gets +.5.

All losses over opponents with less than 10 fights get an automatic -1 if fighter also has less than 10 fights. After fighter has 10 fights any loss to an opponent with less than 10 fights is an automatic -2.


Anderson Silva:


BJ Penn:

Jeremy Horn:

*% is winning percentage (i.e. a fighter who is 10-5 has a 66% winning percentage)

*The second set of values at the end of the Silva and Horn sums represent the totals if wins over -%50/-10 fight fighters was reduced from .5 to .25.

First and foremost, you can see that Anderson Silva is head and shoulders above anyone else I tried to quantify. That surprised me, a lot. I expected he and Fedor to be more or less equal, but the big difference came from the fact that Fedor has never finished a top fighter who was at the very peak of their career. This in and of itself probably speaks a bit poorly of the system, but it's an interesting result none the less.

The second thing (and what I might expect to be the first question from many) is, why look at Jeremy Horn? And the obvious answer is that he, and fighters like him, are the most likely candidates to totally game this system, and unfortunately he does, sort of. Adjusting the lowest possible positive points downward to .25 solves a lot of this, he no longer outstrips Fedor and GSP as an all time great, but he's still way up the list. Maybe that shows the real respect that we should show him and guys like him for being able to climb in a cage 100+ times, and more often than not win. Probably not, but it's an interesting point.

Finally, and above all, this system is obviously circumloquitous. I feel a bit like Tycho trying to build a mathematical model of the Ptolemaic solar system. In which I keep building more complex mathematical models to account for small idiosyncrasies, rather than just scrapping the whole damn thing for something simpler.

Thoughts, ideas, ridicule, all are welcome.


Because it was brought up below, I figure I'll mention that the idea of creating a system which takes time into account did not escape me. I think there is serious room to analyze whether top fighters are currently fighting more or less than they used to, losing more or less than they used to, or getting finishes more or less than they used to. The combination of these factors could be used to do a certain amount of skewing of older fighters records, however the massive amount of time it would take to crunch that data, is something I really don't have. So that may potentially be a missing element of the formula above (which is probably useless in and of itself). But it would take a massive amount of work to develop, and I'm not sure that it would actually result in a meaningful shift in data.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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