Greetings, lineal title fans! As if you needed another reason to tune into the UFC event this weekend, I'm going to break down the lineal title significance of GSP vs Hendricks.
For those of you who may be new to the concept of lineal titles, allow me to explain. Championship belts are bound by the promotion that issues them. What this means is champions can sometimes be stripped of a belt without ever actually losing a fight. The concept of a lineal title was created to trace the path of a championship belt without the imaginary boundaries of promotions. A great example is Ben Askren. He won the original Bellator WW tournament to become the organization's first WW champion and has yet to lose a fight since. However, he has just been granted release from his Bellator contract by Bjorn. Of course, this means that Bellator will strip Askren of the WW title. While the actual Bellator title will no longer belong to Askren, the lineal title will travel with him to the UFC or where ever he ends up. Until he actually loses it in a fight, the Bellator lineal WW title belongs to Askren.
When GSP meets Hendricks in the octagon this Saturday night in Las Vegas, he'll be putting more than just the UFC strap on the line. GSP will be attempting to unify his 18 lineal titles with the 6 lineal titles that Hendricks brings into the cage. The winner walks away with 24 lineal titles and a spot at #3 on the Lineal Title Leaderboard behind Anthony Pettis (28 titles) and Cain Velasquez (26 titles). The result will represent 69% unification of the Welterweight belts that I track (24 of 35), with only 2 major unification opportunities remaining: Ben Askren (Bellator MMA and IFL titles) and Matt Brown (XMMA and Cage Fighting Championship titles).
As always, each of these lineal titles can be traced back to the original Welterweight belt issued by the respective promotions. Also, I do not count fights contested outside of the 170 lb WW limit when tracing these lineages.
Alternate Title History: (Ignoring Weight Class) Pat Miletich > Jutaro Nakao > Tetsuji Kato > Hayato Sakurai > Anderson Silva > Daiju Takase > Rodrigo Gracie > BJ Penn > Lyoto Machida > Mauricio Rua > Jon Jones
Title History: Hasegawa > Dong Hyun Kim > Carlos Condit > GSP
Title History: Hayato Sakurai > Anderson Silva > Yushin Okami > Jake Shields > GSP
5. King of the Cage
6. Gladiator Challenge
Title History: Joe Stevenson > Romie Aram > Dave Strasser > Karo Parisyan > GSP > Matt Hughes > GSP > Matt Sera > GSP
7. Cage Warrior
8. Sport Fight
Title History: Chris Wilson > Nick Thompson > Jake Shields > GSP
Title History: Nick Diaz > Carlos Condit > GSP
Title History: Nick Diaz > Karo Parisyan > Diego Sanchez > Josh Koscheck > GSP
Title History: Jake Shields > GSP
12. Cage Rage
14. Icon Sport
Title History: Mayhem Miller > GSP > Matt Sera > GSP
Title History: Eddie Alvarez > Nick Thompson > Jake Shields > GSP
16. Rumble on the Rock
Title History: Jake Shields > GSP
Title History: Frank Trigg > Matt Hughes > BJ Penn > GSP > Matt Serra > GSP
18. Ironheart Crown
Title History: Steve Berger > Jason Black > Shonie Carter > Marcus Davis > Dan Hardy > GSP
Title History: Pat Healy > TJ Waldburger > Johny Hendricks
21. Ring of Combat
Title History: John Howard > Jake Ellenburger > Martin Kampmann > Johny Hendricks
22. Tachi Palace
Title History: David Mitchell > TJ Waldburger > Johny Hendricks
23. Spirit MC
Title History: Jae Suk Lim > Steve Bruno > Chris Wilson > John Howard > Jake Ellenburger > Martin Kampmann > Johny Hendrix
24. Shark Fights
Title History: TJ Waldburger > Johny Hendricks
- The UFC belt was originally known as the Lightweight title when Miletich first won it. He would go on to lose the title outside of the promotion. A loss by Anderson Silva at 183 lbs is ignored as part of this lineage. I also had to include the Yushin Okami DQ win at 175 lbs, which was ROTR's Welterweight limit, in order to arrive at GSP, For fun, I've incuded the lineage if weight classes are ignored. Interestingly, Jon Jones also holds the UFC lightweight title and the WEC Heavyweight title, if you ignore weight classes. UFC Lightweight Title History (Ignoring Weight Class): Jens Pulver > Duane Ludwig > BJ Penn > Lyoto Machida > "Shogun" Rua > Jon Jones WEC Heavyweight Title History (Ignoring Weight Class): James Irvin > Mike Kyle > Devin Cole > Allan Goes > Alex Schoenauer > Mike Siesnolevicz > Andre Gusmao > Jon Jones > Matt Hamill > "Rampage" Jackson > Jon Jones
- The Deep belt is the 2nd iteration. The first dead ends at lightweight. What's really cool is that, if you follow the lineage without regard to weight class, you still end up at GSP. In order for it to work, you have to allow Nick Diaz's victory over Gomi that was deemed a NC once Diaz popped for Marijuana.
- The Shooto belt is the 3rd iteration. The first two belts go back to the very early days of MMA and were not reliably contested at 170 lbs.
- The KOTC belt begins with Joe Stevenson, which represents the second iteration of the belt. Erik Meaders was technically the first champion, but he won the belt in his very first professional fight and then lost a series of fights that were outside of the 170 lb division. Even if you trace Meader's lineage, the belt ends up at a dead end outside of the WW division.
- The Pancrase title is the 2nd iteration, the 1st dead ends outside of the WW division.
- The Ring of Combat title is the 2nd iteration, the 1st was never contested again in the WW division.
- The Spirit MC title is referred to as a Middleweight belt by the promotion, but the bouts are contest at 80kg, which is closer to 170 lbs.
Previous Lineal Title Post
Lineal Title Leaderboard
As you will see below, there are no bigger unification opportunities than what we have coming up on Saturday. As I referenced above, there are two other Welterweight title holders on the Leaderboard, which could be of interest for future fights. Matt Brown defends his two lineal titles against Carlos Condit, while Ben Askren awaits his possible move to the UFC. The other Welterweights with one lineal title in the division include: Steve Carl (WSOF), Rashid Magomedov (M-1 Global), Dong Hyun Kim (Legacy FC), Patrick Cote (Cage Fury), John Hathaway (UCMMA), Eddy Ellis (BAMMA), Akihiro Murayama (Sengoku - WVR).
After Saturday, the next big unification opportunity will occur in February, when Jose Aldo puts his 9 lineal titles on the line against Ricardo Lamas' 3. The winner walks away with a unification percentage of 46 in the FW division. Notably, Daniel Straus recently snagged 4 lineal titles from Pat Curan (Bellator MMA, XFC, PFC, and Shark Fights), representing the largest potential unification opportunity in the division. Of course, Bellator remains the biggest obstacle in terms of making that fight a reality.
|#||Name||# of Titles||Unify|
|10||Eight fighters tied with 2 titles||2|
|Upcoming Unification Bouts||#||Date|
|GSP vs. Hendricks||24 titles||16-Nov|
|Aldo vs Lamas||12 titles||1-Feb|
|Cruz vs Barao||6 titles||1-Feb|
|Vegh vs. Newton||3 titles||TBD|
|Other Titles on the Line||#||Date|
|Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov||1 title||16-Nov|
|Volkov vs Minakov||2 titles||22-Nov|
|Corassani vs Maximo Blanco||4 titles||30-Nov|
|Matt Brown vs. Carlos Condit||2 titles||14-Dec|
|Mendes vs Lentz||1 title||14-Dec|
|Mighty Mouse vs Benevidez||5 titles||14-Dec|
|Mousasi vs Machida||1 title||8-Feb|
|Jones vs Texiera||17 titles||22-Feb|
|Manuwa vs Gustafson||1 title||8-Mar|
|Velasquez vs Werdum||26 titles||TBD|
|Pettis vs Thomson||28 titles||TBD|
|Karakhanyan vs TBD||3 titles||