Ah, the old 'pound-for-pound' discussion. Surely no other argument in combat sports provokes as much heated debate whilst being so meaningless.
The notion of who is the best fighter regardless of size has been debated in pugilism for nigh on a century. For most of this time, the debate has been who would come out on top if everyone was the same size, but for me at least that's been probably the most meaningless way of trying to fathom who the very best fighter is.
The way I've always read it, and it's how other historians and fight fans I converse with like to make their argument, is rather who is the best pound for pound regardless of size. For example, it's pretty obvious that Cain Velasquez would stomp Demetrious Johnson into the ground. But given his weight class, do his accomplishments stack up in comparison? Has he been forced the run the gauntlet in an equally challenging fashion?
I have never tried to justify my opinions on who the best pound-for-pound fighters are with any kind of ranking system. A complete thought comes in a millionth of a second for most of us, a quick scan of a division, era, a lineage just appears, and we can come to a conclusion based on that.
So I thought I'd try and break it down. I value strength of opposition, as what better way is there to prove yourself a formidable fighter than by beating top quality opposition. We've all seen fighters look like a demigod against woeful opposition only to look human when stepping up against merely decent fighters. The cream of the crop are those that look like deity's against similarly talented foes, surely?
Consistency is also important. Floyd Mayweather Jr. doesn't have the strength in numbers that a Harry Greb or Henry Armstrong has, but he has seldom looked less than flawless either. Some fans hold that particular attribute higher than most. For this study, I will be looking at champions only. If one person has proven themselves better than you in your own division, you can't possibly be ranked better than them pound-for-pound, can you?
However, taking kudos from fighters based on losses that happened when they were still developing fighters is also harsh. Going back to Floyd Mayweather again, the fascination with an unblemished record is a particularly modern one. With the boxing heroes of yesteryear, remaining undefeated with a heavy schedule against killers wasn't feasible. In mixed martial arts, with many avenues of victory (or indeed defeat) keeping your '0' is not essential to proving your overall quality if you show you can learn from a defeat.
The manner of victory is also important. This doesn't mean winning every fight in a prime Mike Tyson-esque manner (although that is astounding when pulled off against the top of the class) but it does mean that losing championship rounds, and going to very close decisions is taken into account.
In short, dominating the best available opposition is a sure fire way to prove pound-for-pound dominance.
I've assigned points to a number of categories in order to clarify my train of thought. Of course, what I deem important may not be important to you, so please comment after reading and chastise me for my opinions.
When taking the ranking of their opponent into account, I used the SB Nation/USA TODAY rankings, as the official UFC rankings can seem to change at times to facilitate marketing purposes.
Title fights: The UFC is generally regarded as the pinnacle promotion in MMA, and thus their champions are at the very top of their divisions. Proving your worth as a champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is for many fighters what they strive for in their careers. At times, lesser-deserving challengers can get a title shot. Taking this into account, I have deemed 5 points for winning or defending a title a fair amount, with an extra 5 points if the opponent beaten was in the top 5 at the time of the fight. Maximum points per fight: 10.
Finishes in title fights: The added pressure of being in the main event with UFC gold on the line has made some fighters proceed with caution, content to get a win at the expense of taking risks in order to finish the fight. Taking into account the poise and skill it takes to finish a top-ranked opponent in such a high-pressure situation, 5 points will be dished out to fighters who can end the bout within five rounds, regardless of the ranking of their opponent. An additional 5 points will be given if the opponent was in the top five when finished. Maximum points per fight: 10.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: Fighting your way into contention for a UFC title is often like running headfirst into a wood chipper. Solid victories at this stage of a fighters career add to the depth of their resume. Beating a fighter ranked between 6-10 will garner 3 points. If the opponent was in the top 5, that will earn a further 5 points. If the win was inside the distance, a further 3 points are added. Maximum points per fight: 11.
Former champions defeated: Beating a fighter who was previously at the top of your division shows you are superior to the prior era. For this, I am only including UFC and WEC champions (up to 145lbs) as well as PRIDE FC heavyweight champions. Taking wear and tear into account, and the fact that some fighters are past it regardless of their previous form, I have deemed 3 points per former champion as fair. If they were still at a good place in their careers when beaten, then the extra points will have carried over to either the 'title fights' category or the 'top ten opponents defeated in non-title fights' category. Maximum points per fight: 3.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: Whilst MMA judges are not the most reliable, losing rounds in title fights shows a lesser level of dominance.Taking into account the possibility of inept judging, only 2 points will be deducted per round scored against the fighter in question.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: As aforementioned, early career losses are not the be all and end all. It's also unfair to dismiss a fighter who has lost in his last few fights, as fighting at the very top level of the sport means losses do happen. I have used the cut off point as any fights happening under the Zuffa banner (so from when the WEC was acquired by Zuffa for anyone at 155lbs and below). I have assigned a 5 point deduction for a loss, with an additional 5 point subtraction if said fighter was finished in the loss. Maximum point deduction per fight: 10.
P4P Credentials: This is perhaps the loosest and most opinion based of any of the criteria I am using. Judging how strong a division is, or the quality of the ranked opponents the fighters being assessed have beaten, is down to the eye test, and therefore personal preference. Whilst not imperative to being a great pound-for-pound fighter, beating fighters in different weight classes is a good indicator of your overall quality, although needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. This is also the section where I will take a look at the overall skill set and application of those skills of the fighter in question. For this section, I will assigns grades. An A+ is worth 50 points. An A is worth 40 points. An A- is worth 30 points. And a B+ is worth 20 points.
The run down will be in alphabetical order. So if you've spent the time reading the criteria, you'll want to see who is in the running. Should you not have the time to read through each fighters individual scores, scroll to the bottom of the article to see the final standings.
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Weight class: 145lbs (featherweight)
MMA record: 25-1 (14-0 WEC/UFC)
Title Fights: 9. Aldo won the WEC title from Mike Brown (#1), and defended against Urijah Faber (#3), Manny Gamburyan (#2), Mark Hominick (#8), Kenny Florian (#4), Chad Mendes (#2), Frankie Edgar, Chan Sung Jung (#7) and Ricardo Lamas (#4). All of these fighters were ranked at featherweight, with the exception of Frankie Edgar, who was ranked in the top five at lightweight. 80 points.
Finishes in title fights: 4. Aldo got back mount on Mike Brown and beat him defenceless with ground and pound, destroyed Manny Gamburyan inside two rounds, spun out of Chad Mendes' grip and blasted him with a flying knee and beat up an injured Korean Zombie. 35 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 0. Even though he has improved dramatically over the past few years, I was surprised to find out Cub Swanson wasn't ranked in the top ten when Aldo stopped him inside ten seconds with that double flying knee in a WEC featherweight title eliminator back in 2009.
Former champions defeated: 2. Urijah Faber had previously been the WEC champ at 145lbs, and Frankie Edgar was the former 155lb kingpin. 6 points.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 17 (2 vs Faber, 5 vs Hominick, 3 vs Florian, 4 vs Edgar, 3 vs Lamas) 34 point deduction.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 0. Aldo is undefeated going right back to his 8th professional fight in 2005, a rear-naked choke submission loss to Luciano Azevedo for the Jungle Fights promotion.
P4P credentials: Aldo came onto the scene with a penchant for blitzing very good opponents in very violent fashion, but since he has moved over to the UFC he has faced criticism for not finishing fights. I'd consider this unfair, as he has only shown another facet to his game, that of the consummate professional, and he has still shown flashes of his early career aggression, exploding into Chad Mendes' face with a knee and pouncing on, an admittedly injured, Chan-Sung Jung .
In terms of his skill set, Aldo's vaunted grappling rarely comes into play, and the most impressive aspect of his game is his striking, which isn't flashy, but is eye catching. Aldo uses punches sparingly nowadays (except his solid jab and to mask his kicks) and it's his leg kicks which remain the best aspect of his game.
'Scarface' has beaten a steady string of high-quality opponents, with the best win for solidifying himself in the pound-for-pound elite over Frankie Edgar, who is judged by many fans to be unlucky not to be the lightweight champion going into that fight. A highly competitive contest, but that's no surprise when fighters as good as Aldo and Edgar meet.
Now to the negatives. Aldo doesn't have the greatest stamina, and he's lost the fifth round a few times, getting dominated in top position by Mark Hominick and Ricardo Lamas (the former example being a drubbing) and these failings to distribute his stamina properly down the stretch are worrying for such a cerebral fighter as Aldo. The consensus opinion on this is that Aldo has sometimes struggled with the weight cut to 145lbs, and he has certainly looked dried out on the scale at times which would support that theory. Injuries have also dogged Aldo, although as active champions go he has had six fights in three years, which is one more than Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis and only three less than Jon Jones.
Overall, for me at least, Aldo is one of the best P4P fighters in the sport. Fading late in fights is a criticism that is too constant to ignore, but it doesn't detract from my high overall opinion of Aldo. Grade: A+ (50 points)
Overall Score: 137 points
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Weight class: 135lbs (Bantamweight)
MMA record: 10-2 (6-2 WEC/UFC)
Title Fights: 1. Dillashaw was already seen as a much-improved prospect that deserved to be taken seriously when he got the call to face Renan Barao for the UFC 135lb championship, but few fans or pundits gave him much of a chance going into the fight. Dillashaw shocked the MMA world, dominating Barao in every stage of the game to take the title. 10 points.
Finishes in title fights: 1. See above. Dillashaw stopped Barao in the fifth round. 10 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 0. Dillashaw was probably unlucky not to get the nod against Raphael Assunção (#5) whilst on Assunção's home turf. Mike Easton seems to be a perennial fixture in the UFC's top ten regardless of how many fights he loses in a row, but he wasn't ranked in the top 10 by SB Nation when Dillashaw easily outscored him.
Former champions defeated: 0.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 0.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 2. T.J was stopped in the first round by John Dodson, who was more experienced in the pro game and who has gone on to prove himself one of the very hardest hitters in MMA. Dillashaw's second loss was the aforementioned decision loss to Assunção, which was a close one. 15 point deduction.
P4P credentials: Training with a gang of similarly-sized studs at Team Alpha Male and honing his striking under the tutelage of Duane 'Bang' Ludwig has seen Dillashaw improve an immeasurable amount since he lost out on winning the fourteenth series of The Ultimate Fighter.
There is no shame in falling to the dynamite fists of John Dodson, and if the Assunção decision had gone Dillashaw's way he'd have found himself with 10 extra points. The 135lb division isn't the strongest, but there's talent coming through and should T.J. go on an impressive title run he'll find himself on firmer ground among the pound-for-pound elite.
Dillashaw looks to have it all, and is arguably the most improved fighter in the sport. Bloody Elbow's 'Coach' Mike Riordan gives the best breakdown of T.J's wrestling background you'll find, but it's the quick advancement of Dillashaw's striking that is most impressive. Against Mike Easton he showed his ability to dominate with angles, and you'll be hard pressed to find a better combination puncher in MMA. Against Barao, he put it all together, and showed that with his speed, accuracy and diversity in his attack he could summon up frightening knockout power. Only the thinness of his resume stops him getting a higher grade. Grade: A- (30 points)
Overall Score: 35 points
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Johny 'Bigg Rigg' Hendricks
Weight class: 170lbs (welterweight)
MMA record: 18-2 (13-2 WEC/UFC)
Title fights: 1. Hendricks beat Robbie Lawler (#3) via decision at UFC 171 to win the vacant UFC welterweight championship. 10 points.
Finishes in title fights: 0.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 4. Hendricks stopped Jon Fitch (#2) in the first round, won a split decision over Josh Koscheck (#6), knocked out Martin Kampmann (#2) in the first round, and beat Carlos Condit (#3) via unanimous decision. 30 points
Former champions defeated: 0. I'm not including Carlos Condit being the former 'interim' welterweight champion.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 14 (8 Vs Georges St Pierre, 6 vs Robbie Lawler) 28 point deduction
P4P Credentials: You could say that Hendricks is a little unlucky not to have earned more points. The decision rendered in his title fight with GSP has been controversial to say the least. I personally had the bout 48-47 Hendricks, but I tend not to label a fight an outright robbery unless I cannot see any way, shape or form that the rounds could be scored any other way. I can kinda' see why the judges sitting cageside might've given the first roun to GSP, so I'm not going to cry about the decision.
When it comes to tight decisions, Hendricks is lucky to an extent. Both the Mike Pierce and Josh Koscheck fights were very close contests that could have gone either way, and his stock might be lower with fans if they had.
Hendricks' skill set is ever evolving. Coming into MMA as one of the best college wrestlers of his era (Mike Riordan with the breakdown again) he quickly became none for his sandbad fists. He proved his cast iron chin and showed off a more rounded striking game in his fight with Robbie Lawler earlier this year, mixing in knees to potent effect, as well as engaging Lawler in some of the most glorious mutual hand-fighting seen since Jack Johnson ruled the roost. Even more impressive is that Hendrick was fighting a killer like Lawler with a bicep injury, a problem which has seen him sidelined since.
A big knock on Hendricks has been his stamina and his fight IQ. He seemed to be struggling in the third round against Condit, and seemed to coast on an early lead against GSP which cost him the decision. He answered these critics somewhat by using his superior wrestling to grind out the win against Lawler to take the vacant title.
Hendricks doesn't have the consistent title reign of some of the other divisional kings (and queen) but with the depth of 170lbs he'll have a chance to add to his resume. Grade: B+ (20 points)
Overall Score: 22 points
Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson
Weight Class: 125lbs (flyweight)
MMA record: 20-2-1 (10-2-1 WEC/UFC)
Title fights: 5. Johnson became the first ever UFC flyweight titlist with a split decision victory over Joseph Benavidez (#2). Johnson had to overcome the dangerous John Dodson (#4) to make his first successful defence. John Moraga (#5) was next, finished by armbar in the fifth and final round. The champ then became the first to ever stop Benavidez (#2) when he starched him in the first round of their December 2013 rematch. Most recently, Dagestani sambo-boxer Ali Bagautinov (#5) was easily defeated by decision, which seems more impressive now we've learned that a random drug test Bagautinov took before the fight came up positive for EPO. 50 points.
Finishes in title fights: 2. The aforementioned knockout and submission of Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga. 20 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 2. Miguel Torres (#5 bantamweight) via decision at UFC 150. And Ian McCall (no meta-critic rankings at time of fights, but consensus top five at flyweight) via decision at UFC on FX 3. 16 points.
Former champions defeated: 1. Miguel Torres was the former WEC 135lb champion. Ian McCall was considered by some to be the no.1 flyweight in the World when Johnson beat him, but as I'm not counting the Tachi Palace Fights title no points are given for that fight. 3 points.
Rounds/points lost in title fights: 11 (6 vs Benavidez, 5 vs Dodson) 22 point deduction.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 2. A very, very competitive unanimous decision loss to Brad Pickett in Johnson's first WEC fight, and a decent showing to then UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz at UFC on Versus 6. 10 point deduction
P4P Credentials: Looking at Johnson's credentials, this is where he shines. Undersized at 135lbs, he nonetheless looked a superb fighter, and fought his way to a title shot. Even in his first fight for the WEC Joe Rogan noted how Johnson was 'the fastest fighter (he'd) ever commentated on' and that if the 125lb weight class was brought in 'he'd be a real handful'.
Rogan was right. Since dropping down to 125lbs 'Mighty Mouse' remains undefeated.
An athletic freak, Johnson is one of the fastest pound-for-pound fighters in MMA. He has a toolbox so full it's a wonder how he ever keeps the lid shut. He uses his reflexes as his defence, and releases his hands and feet quickly, changing the angles up and rarely staying in one place at any one time.
His grappling is also much-improved, and he phase shifts between the different elements of mixed martial arts seamlessly. Not just in terms of takedowns, but in implementing the Thai clinch, which he uses to smash his opponents with knees. Not only does he do all this at lightning-quick speed, he maintains a fast pace throughout, with seemingly limitless stamina.
Arguably the most impressive facet of Johnson's game; his IQ. The rematch with McCall was a thorough domination, and in the titanic tussle with John Dodson, Johnson overcome being hurt in the early rounds to punctuate his performance with a dominant display in the clinch. He listens to trainer Matt Hume and carries out his instructions to immediate effect and good results.
There are no negatives to be discussed when it comes to his approach to the game, but there may be in terms of his current run. The decision he earned over Miguel Torres is a fairly sticky issue with fans, and he was lucky that a judging error stopped his first fight with Ian McCall going to an overtime round as he was being thoroughly dominated. The only title challenger of Johnson's that hasn't had much acclaim going into their bout was John Moraga, who was a top five fighter when the division was still in its infancy and has gone on to look less than stellar since.
In terms of his pound-for-pound ability, not only did Johnson show he could compete with naturally bigger fighters in the 135lb division, he has beaten fighters who also showed themselves forces at that weight. Before dropping down, Joseph Benavidez had given Dominick Cruz two of the toughest fights of his career, as well as having wins over numerous ranked fighters such as Eddie Wineland, Miguel Torres and Rani Yahya. John Dodson stopped the future (and current) bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in the first round.
It's hard to imagine now, but when Kid Yamamoto was brought into the UFC it was to rapturous fanfare. After fighting above his best weight for years, being back at bantamweight was thought to be a great move by the popular Japanese fighter, but Johnson welcomed him to the UFC by shutting him down.
The flyweight division is sometimes criticised for its lack of depth, but the quality at the very top is as strong as any other division, and 'Mighty Mouse' has pretty much cleaned it out in his two years as champion, in very impressive fashion. Grade: A+ (50 points)
Overall Score: 107 points
Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon 'Bones' Jones
Weight class: 205lbs (light heavyweight)
MMA record: 20-1 (14-1 UFC)
Title Fights: 8. Jones destroyed Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (#1) to win the UFC light heavyweight title, and since then he's turned away all comers, making seven defences in three years, the most of any active champion in MMA. Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson (#4) Rashad Evans (#3) Lyoto Machida (#6) Vitor Belfort (unranked), and Chael Sonnen (unranked) all fell to Jones, with only Evans hearing the final klaxon. Since then, Jones hasn't finished a fight, with Alexander Gustaffson (#2) giving Jones the toughest test of his career in September 2013, while Glover Texeira (#3) was barely competitive with Jones despite going the distance in April of this year. 65 points.
Finishes in title fights: As aforementioned, Jon Jones is deadly regardless of the magnitude of the event. He beat up 'Shogun' Rua before dropping him with a perfectly placed left hook to the liver. He choked out 'Rampage' and Machida, and made Vitor Belfort submit to an americana. Chael Sonnen was battered with elbows despite Jones having a badly broken toe. 30 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 1. Ryan Bader (#5) was utterly bamboozled by Jones before succumbing to a second round guillotine choke. 8 points.
Former champions defeated: 'Rampage', Machida, Evans and Belfort were all former UFC light heavyweight champions. 12 points.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 7 (2 vs Evans, 5 vs Gustafsson) 14 point deduction
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 1. This is the most unjust point deduction of the fighters being evaluated. Jones was dominating Matt Hamill and had turned him into a dead ringer for Captain American villain The Red Skull, when he was disqualified for illegal use of '12-to-6' elbows. Jones has never lost a decision or been finished. 5 point deduction.
P4P credentials: Before I'd even started with this article, I felt Jon Jones was the best fighter in the sport. He exploded onto the scene, and before the first year of his career was over he was in the UFC dropping a tough veteran like Stephan Bonnar with a spinning back elbow.
If his journey to 'hot prospect' was a short one, his rise to the top of his division has been meteoric. After Bonnar, no Jones opponent managed to last the distance with him, including three title fights. Although Jones received an enormous amount of backlash for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice at UFC 151 (a decision which saw the card get cancelled) he did take his shot on the title with only just over a months notice. This is a highly impressive achievement in my opinion, seeing as I come from a background as a boxing historian. This is an old school worth ethic.
Although Jones' footwork is still a little untidy, and his boxing is still a work-in-progress, offensively Jon Jones is a dynamo. Spinning attacks, high kicks, as well as popularising the use of oblique kicks in MMA, Jones is an intimidating fighter in terms of his striking. Whilst he seems to have ditched his offensive wrestling in recent fights, when he first came onto the scene he was known for suplexing his foes in aesthetically pleasing fashion. His ground and pound is among the most devastating in MMA, particularly his elbows, and although we have little to no idea about how good Jones is off his back, on top he's arguably the scariest man in mixed martial arts.
However, blessed with a tall and lanky frame, Jones' size has left some detractors wondering how he'd perform against someone he doesn't have big physical advantages over, especially considering the one opponent that could match him for height and reach, Alexander Gustaffson, pushed him to the wire. This seems a little unfair, seeing as how Vitor Belfort had some success as a heavyweight in his early days, and seeing as Jones gave up his reach advantage to sit in the pocket with Glover Texeira. A future fight with Daniel Cormier, an undefeated powerhouse formerly ranked in the top five of the heavyweight division, will go some way to proving Jones' detractors wrong. Despite Cormier's short stature, his success against larger fighters is inescapable, and Jones will have a chance to prove himself superior to a great number of quality heavyweights should he be able to succeed in being the first man to defeat 'DC'.
Jones' domination of his opponents is long established, but another issue with Jones is the perceived weakness of his division. With Belfort and Sonnen unranked at the time of their title shots, as well as being more established in the middleweight division at the time of those fights, they're not glittering additions to Jones' resume. Despite this, both had previously found a measure of success at 205lbs, and both picked up wins over ranked 205lbers subsequent to Jones beating them. Both also failed drug tests before and after they challenged Jones, so perhaps the champ was at some kind of disadvantage in those bouts as well.
However, with a rematch with Gustaffson booked for this coming September, as well as new blood such as Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier, Jones will have a chance to add more diversity to his list of scalps in the future.
Jon Jones' career so far has been pretty much flawless. One disqualification in a fight he was winning, one tight armbar he escaped from, and one very close fight with a top ranked challenger. In my eyes, he's the best fighter currently plying his trade in mixed martial arts. Grade: A+ (50 points)
Overall Score: 146 points
Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis
Weight class: 155lbs (lightweight)
MMA record: 17-2 (9-2 WEC/UFC)
Title Fights: 1. Pettis submitted Benson Henderson, the reigning UFC lightweight champion, in the first round back at UFC 164. 10 points.
Finishes in title fights: 1 (see above) 10 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 1. Pettis obliterated the teak tough Donald Cerrone (#5) in the first round of their fight in January 2013. 11 points.
Former champions defeated: 0.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 0.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 2. Pettis' first lost was a close one to Bart Palaszewski, in one of those fights where takedowns held more sway with the judges than striking (although Pettis was knocked down himself in the third round). The only other defeat in the career of 'Showtime' so far was in his first fight for the UFC, when he was out grappled by Clay Guida. 10 point deduction
P4P credentials: Looking back on the time before the WEC lightweights had a chance to prove their worth against the best fighters in the UFC, it's crazy to think the likes of Benson Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis didn't even scrape the top ten. Pettis misses out on at least 3 points for his first victory over Benson Henderson, although he gained a lot of attention for the, now iconic, 'Showtime Kick' which sealed the decision win for him.
Known for his flashy striking, and his head kicks in particular, Pettis also has a slick ground game and serious power in all his points of attack.
Pettis has erased the memory of the loss to Clay Guida by showing his craftiness off his back against the rubber-limbs of Benson Henderson, who seemed nigh on unsubmittable in his prime.
The only slight on Pettis so far is that he is injury prone. The knock-on effect of that is his inactivity. With four fights in 2010 culminating in his scintillating victory over Ben Henderson, Pettis has only fought five times since. He is now tied up with his coaching role on the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter, though is due back in action against Gilbert Melendez at the end of 2014. Grade: B+ (20 points)
Overall Score: 41 points
Credit: Jayne-Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
'Rowdy' Ronda Rousey
Weight class: 135lbs (women's bantamweight)
MMA record: 10-0 (5-0 Zuffa-owned Strikeforce/UFC)
Title Fights: 6. Rousey beat Miesha Tate (#1) for the Strikeforce women's bantamweight title by armbar in the first round when Tate was coming off of her impressive arm-triangle submission of Marloes Coenen. Rousey beat Sarah Kaufman (#top 5*) just the same to defend the title, then defended the UFC version of the belt with a submission of Liz Carmouche (#top 10*) after escaping a neck crank. Rousey than beat Miesha Tate (#5) in a rematch, which saw Rousey go further than the first round for the first, and so far, only time in her career. Since the Tate rematch, Ronda has been showing off the improvements in her striking game, stopping Sara McMann (#5) and Alexis Davis (#4) in the first session. 55 points.
*It's hard to ascertain just how well regarded Rousey's opponents were earlier on in her career. Bloody Elbow only started ranking the women's bantamweight division in 2013, so I've gone off my own knowledge of the division in terms of ranking Rousey's opponents at the time she beat them.
Finishes in title fights: 6. Only Liz Carmouche was outside the top five of the division when Rousey defended against her. 55 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 0. With the women's bantamweight division being thin, feel free to correct me if you think that Julia Budd (undefeated in Invicta FC since Rousey armbarred her) was one of the top 5 featherweights at that time.
Former champions defeated: 2. Sarah Kaufman and Miesha Tate. 6 points.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 0.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 0.
P4P credentials: Put simply, Ronda Rousey is a monster. An Olympic bronze medalist in Judo at the 2008 Beijing games, Rousey's opponents have no answer to her trips and throws. The best grappler in women's MMA, the best natural fighter, and with ever-improving striking, there seems to be no ceiling for Rousey's ability. She has absolutely destroyed everyone she has faced, with her whole 10 fight career coming in under the duration of one five round title fight!
There can be no criticisms of Rousey in terms of how she does her business, but in the grand scheme of things the women's bantamweight division is fairly low on quality and depth.
Our very own Zane Simon:
A few things of note here, the biggest of them being that I'm putting Liz Carmouche at no. 10 because, despite her gutsy performance against Rousey her record is still terribly thin, and she hasn't done anything to separate herself from the rest of the pack. In fact if she hadn't fought for the title I'd probably replace her with Elana Maxwell or Leslie Smith.
A title challenger that barely justifies a top ten ranking? I said previously that John Moraga was likely a circumstantial title challenger in the men's flyweight division, but he was still a proven top ten fighter.
Bloody Elbow's Fraser Coffeen has also touched on the lack of depth in the 135lb division:
There's really nothing to say about Rousey at #1 - she's clearly the best there is. As for #2, yes Kaufman was easily defeated by Rousey, but most are, and she still holds wins over the likes of Davis and Carmouche. Right now, I see the top 5 of this division as a pretty clear step above the bottom 5. McMann has the definite potential to be a top 5 fighter - she just hasn't quite had the fights to get there yet. I'm hoping with her in the UFC, she'll get to show what she has against the likes of Tate or Kaufman.
Sara McMann never did get a chance to prove her worth against the best in the division. She was thrown in with Rousey after a single UFC victory, over Sheila Gaff who was cut immediately after the fight.
However, McMann is the best opponent on Rousey's record for my liking. She had the pedigree (Silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Olympic Games) as well as the physical strength and strong top game to look like she would be able to give Rousey a stiff test.
Rousey blasted her with a knee to the gut a little over a minute into the fight.
After decimating Alexis Davis inside 20 seconds this past weekend at UFC 175, there seemed to be few options for Rousey in terms of viable opponents that could help raise her stock any higher than it currently is. With the recent announcement of former boxing champion Holly Holm being signed by the UFC, as well as Cat Zingano's return being confirmed, it looks likely Rousey will have some high quality in the future. As it stands, with the way Rousey has proven herself the best fighter pound-for-pound in women's MMA, there can be no doubt she's one of the best fighters today regardless of gender. Grade: A (40 points)
Overall Score: 111 points
Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Weight class: Heavyweight (up to 265lbs)
MMA record: 13-1 (11-1 UFC)
Title Fights: 4. Though there was much argument from fans at the time over who was the better heavyweight, Brock Lesnar was ranked #1 in the rankings I'm using and Fedor Emelianenko hadn't been facing the best opposition around that time so I think it's perfectly reasonable. After losing the UFC belt in his first defence against Junior Dos Santos, Velasquez won it back from JDS (#1) via dominant decision a little over a year later. He defended against Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva (#5) with a routine first round stoppage, before defending against JDS (#2) in their rubber match. 40 points.
Finishes in title fights: 3. Cain beat down Brock Lesnar to win by first round TKO, knocked 'Bigfoot' Silva out and wore down Junior Dos Santos with his pace to the extent that Dos Santos fell over and knocked himself out. All three fighters were ranked in the top five at the time. 30 points
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (#4) was still near the top of the heavyweights despite being a veteran of forty fights. Cain stopped 'Big Nog' with strikes, only the second man at that point to do so. Cain bloodied up 'Big Foot' Silva (#10) with elbows to force a stoppage in the first round of their first fight. 14 points
Former champions defeated: 2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pride FC heavyweight champion) Junior Dos Santos. 6 points.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 0.
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 1. Junior Dos Santos knocked Velasquez out in the first round of their November, 2011 title fight. 10 point deduction
P4P credentials: Cain Velasquez's gas tank isn't just impressive for the heavyweights, it's just about the most impressive in any division given his work rate. Whether he's using his bulk to press his man against the cage, hitting takedowns, or chipping away with short punches, the Mexican-American star is relentless.
There have been some knocks on Velasquez though. For a while after his fight with Cheick Kongo it was thought that Cain didn't have the strongest jaw. This was compounded when Junior Dos Santos clipped him with a right hand and put him out to win the UFC heavyweight title.
At heavyweight though, it only takes one shot from a 230lb plus man in four ounce gloves to do damage. Velasquez has been stopped as many times as Roy Nelson, who is praised for his ability to withstand punishment.
Junior Dos Santos might well be the best puncher in mixed martial arts. The fact that Velasquez came back to dominate him twice shows that, dodgy chin or not, he has learnt to fight around it.
The other knock on Cain is that he didn't have much power, but he has shown that with his accuracy and persistence he can hurt challengers to his crown with single shots as well as beating them up with accumulative strikes. He has the most stoppages in UFC heavyweight history, with nine, one more than Dos Santos, which should close the book on whether or not Cain has power.
In terms of his title fights, some will say that Fedor was the number one in the world during Brock Lesnar's reign, and that Cain beating Brock only saw him win a paper championship. Cain is without a doubt the undisputed champion now, as tracing the lineage of Fedor's Pride FC title you go from Fedor, through Fabricio Werdum, to Alistair Overeem, to Antonio Silva. When Cain smashed Silva inside a round for the second time, he unified both major heavyweight title lineages.
The only thing stopping Cain from a higher grade is his inactivity, which are due to several injuries, and the fact that since he won the title he has only fought two different opponents. As formidable as Junior Dos Santos is, and even with 'Big Foot' Silva's stock being at an alltime high subsequent to his victories over Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem, Velasquez doesn't have a diverse list of scalps. Fighting Fabricio Werdum in November will give him a chance to add another quality opponent to his C.V. Grade: A- (40 points)
Overall Score: 140
Credit: Jayne-Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Weight class: Middleweight (185lbs)
MMA record: 12-0 (8-0 UFC)
Title Fights: 3. Weidman was tipped by some to defeat long-reigning middleweight king Anderson Silva (#1), but blasting him unconscious on the feet was a huge upset. Weidman defended against Silva (#2) five months later, dominating the fight up until a precise check of a Silva leg kick left the 'The Spider' writhing around in agony with a broken leg. This past week Weidman defended against former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida (#3). 30 points.
Finishes in title fights: 2. As above, Anderson Silva failed to get out of the second round with Weidman in two attempts. 20 points.
Top ten opponents defeated in non-title bouts: 2. Weidman beat Damien Maia (#6) via a competitive decision, in a fairly underwhelming performance. It must be noted he took the bout, and a big weight cut, on very short notice. Weidman announced himself as a legitimate contender when he battered Mark Munoz (#3) in the first round back at UFC on Fuel TV 4 in July 2012. 14 points.
Former champions defeated: 2. Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. 6 points.
Rounds/Points lost in title fights: 4 (vs Lyoto Machida) 8 point deduction
Losses in Zuffa organisations: 0
P4P credentials: Grade: Now that the dust has settled on Weidman's exciting title defence over Lyoto Machida this past week, it seems an appropriate time to assess just what he's achieved thus far into an improbably young professional fighting career that is just over five years old.
Knocking off the fighter most considered not only the best active pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, but possibly of all time, is a huge achievement. With such mythical rankings Weidman's knockout victory over Silva didn't immediately elevate him into 'The Spider's' lofty standing, but it showed he was a fighter with the potential to be a formidable champion.
With wins over just four different top ten ranked fighters, Weidman's resume is top heavy, but the skill he has displayed in his recent outings makes up for the lack of depth. Weidman is an insanely talented grappler, who took his Division-1 wrestling experience into the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As proof of his prowess, he qualified for the ADCC tournament, where he lost to Andre Galvao, one of the best in the world. As if you needed further proof, Weidman avoided being submitted by one of the best in that sport, despite only having a years worth of BJJ experience.
He has taken to MMA in much the same way. He beat eventual TUF runner-up Urijah Hall in his way up the regional circuit, and upon arriving in the UFC beat Alessio Sakara, Jesse Bongfeldt and 'Filthy' Tom Lawlor to announce himself as a prospect to keep an eye on.
His striking seemed to have peaked when he turned an elbow down into Mark Munoz's face before turning him to mush, but he also showed real guile in feinting Anderson Silve into that left hook, and showed off his improved defence when he caused that leg break. Being able to hang on the feet with an awkward offensive beasts-cum-defensive savants such as Silva and Machida is proof a fighter is of the highest calibre, at least in my eyes.
At 29 years old, there's always the chance Weidman will continue to improve, and that is a scary thought indeed. Grade: A+ (50 points)
Overall Score: 112 points.
Final Standings and Conclusions
1. Jon Jones (146 points)
2. Cain Velasquez (140 points)
3. Jose Aldo (137 points)
4. Chris Weidman (112 points)
5. Ronda Rousey (111 points)
6. Demetrious Johnson (107 points)
7. Anthony Pettis (41 points)
8. T.J. Dillashaw (35 points)
9. Johny Hendricks (22 points)
I have to say, I'm surprised by the final results. In my head, I had Jose Aldo second, and Demetrious Johnson fourth. Due to my thinking that Ronda Rousey's division was very weak, I didn't think she'd make the top five, but due to her long title reign and impeccable run of finishes she's only a point behind Chris Weidman!
What I'm really surprised about is Johny Hendricks. Even if he'd won the decision against GSP he'd still only have made eighth place (assuming he doesn't lose as many points in the 'rounds/points lost' category as well as getting 10 points for the win as well as only losing 5 points for the Story loss)
Regardless of my findings here, I know maths and statistics aren't the only way to judge the quality of any given fight, just as Compubox/FightMetric isn't always the best indicator of how a fight went down.
What say you faithful reader who has either read through this stat-for-stat or skimmed to the end to find out the results?
Are achievements and quality of opponents/division the best way to judge a fighters qualities?
Do you feel the categories I value highly are all that important when judging a fighters pound-for-pound quality?
Do you agree with the grades I've given to the fighters discussed here?
Does Rousey deserve an A+ for the way she's been dispatching opponents, or does she deserve a lower score due to the weakness of her division? Does Jose Aldo deserve an A+ despite his tendency to struggle with pacing into the championship rounds?
Are there top contenders in divisions with higher quality across the board that deserve a higher pound-for-pound ranking than the champions in weaker divisions?
I look forward to your comments, criticisms, and general ridiculing of me for spending so much time doing something so pointless.