A Re-imagined Approach to the UFC Ranking Criteria

It's been a lot of fun following the UFC's rankings over the last few months. I really like that we have Bloody Elbow representation and I've done a few posts breaking down the facts that back up the rankings. And, in many cases, the rankings really do get it right. However, we need to remember that the rankings are not just fun and games for the fighters. They have very real implications when it comes to a given fighters title chances and bargaining power. For that reason, I think its important that the UFC continue to look for ways to improve the rankings.

I had a thought about a rankings method that would allow for a more defined criteria for moving up and down and earning title shots. My hope is that it would eliminate some of the uncertainty when it comes to what warrants a fighter moving up the rankings. I'd like to present it here as a draft to be discussed by the community. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

  1. At the end of (or beginning of) the year, the UFC would use their current ranking system as a clean slate starting point for the coming year. They could even make it a yearly event where they make a big deal about the release of the rankings.
  2. The #1 contender automatically gets the next title shot in each weight class. The loser of those title bouts automatically moves to #10 in the rankings (essentially starting over at the end of the line) with everyone else in the rankings moving up one place as a result. The winner is, of course, the champion.
  3. The #10 ranked fighter at the beginning of the year must immediately prove his spot in the rankings against an unranked fighter. If the unranked fighter wins, he will take over at #9 above the recently vanquished title challenger.
  4. The match makers would continue to make whatever fights they see as relevant. But, a fighter who moves into the #1 position always gets the next shot. Whenever the #2 guy moves into the #1 spot after a title fight, he will be required to earn his shot by fighting whomever is the new #2 guy. The loser of the championship eliminator drops to #5 as penalty.
  5. Whenever 2 fighters match up and the lower ranked fighter wins, he automatically takes over the ranking of the guy he beat. So, if #7 beats #5, they flip flop rankings. But, if the higher ranked fighter wins as expected, the loser drops one spot in the rankings as penalty.
  6. Whenever a higher ranked fighter loses to a lower ranked fighter, he will have to prove himself in his next bout by fighting someone outside of the top 10. This will be how new fighters get a shot and breaking into the title picture.
  7. At the end of the year, the process starts over. However, when the media does their voting they will be starting with the most recent rankings. By rule, a fighter cannot be adjusted more than 2 spots above or below his current ranking. This will allow for minor corrections, but will avoid total re-hauls based soley on public opinion.

So, lets play out a hypothetical year in the Featherweight division as an example and check out the results.

The votes are in and here are our rankings!

Champion: Jose Aldo

1. Ricardo Lamas

2. Chad Mendes

3. Frankie Edgar

4. Cub Swanson

5. Korean Zombie

6. Dustin Poierier

7. Dennis Siver

8. Nik Lentz

9. Darren Elkins

10. Clay Guida

The Fallout:

- By rule, Aldo fights Lamas and Guida is matched with Erick Koch as a way to prove his place in the division

- Aldo wins and retains his belt, Lamas falls to #10. Koch beats Guida and moves to #9.

- In parallel, Cub Swanson is booked to fight Edgar and Frankie wins to maintain his spot in the rankings. (Meanwhile, Mendes KOs some guy from Pancrase that no one has ever heard of to hold steady at #2 :)

Champion: Jose Aldo

1. Chad Mendes

2. Frankie Edgar

3. Korean Zombie

4. Dustin Poieier

5. Cub Swanson

6. Dennis Siver

7. Nik Lentz

8. Darren Elkins

9. Erick Koch

10. Ricardo Lamas

- As shown above,with the results of the title fight in, Mendes moves to #1, but must first earn his title shot with a fight against #2 Edgar. Frankie beats Mendes to earn the next shot.

- In parallel, Zombie loses to Lentz and they swap spots and Elkins beats Siver with the same result.

Champion: Jose Aldo

1. Frankie Edgar

2. Nik Lentz

3. Dustin Poieier

4. Darren Elkins

5. Chad Mendes

6. Cub Swanson

7. Korean Zombie

8. Dennis Siver

9. Erick Koch

10. Ricardo Lamas

- Frankie loses and drops to #10

- Zombie beats Hioki to maintain his status in the top 10

-Dennis Siver loses his top 10 proving fight against Corassani and, as a result, Akira debuts in the top 10 at #7 after the shift

Here are the final rankings for the year before the big media vote....

Champion: Jose Aldo

1. Nik Lentz

2. Dustin Poieier

3. Darren Elkins

4. Chad Mendes

5. Cub Swanson

6. Korean Zombie

7. Akira Corassani

8. Erick Koch

9. Ricardo Lamas

10. Frankie Edgar

Now that I played that scenario out, I can see that the flaw in the system is inactivity. The best example here is Dustin Poieier who moves all the way to #2 just because he doesn't have a fight. To fix this, there would have to be a rule in place to penalize inactivity. If a fighter gets hurt, for instance, his ranking is frozen until he fights again.

What do you guys think? Any other ideas for an improved ranking system?

\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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