Due to the consistent logjam at the top of the Heavyweight division thanks to Cain/Werdum 2 being pushed to all the way to March, along with the return of Fedor (likely to the UFC), there's been a lot of talk about rankings currently and, of course, all time.
But let's be real here, aside from a certain few, how do we rank the greatest fighters of all time? Many have lost after their prime, or to each other. It's difficult to place a fighter who may have accomplished more in his career over someone who beat them horribly. So I am going to attempt to create an objective system with point values assigned to victories and defeats to try and sort out the question of who belongs among the pantheon of greatness known as the Greatest of All Time.
The most important thing of course will be titles. They are worth the most and fighters who reach the pinnacle of title holder must be recognized for their accomplishments. The way I would like to do it is by splitting this into two categories; a title win is worth 10 points and each title defense is worth 10 plus the number of the title defense in that fight. For example, Randy beating Tim Sylvia to win the title is worth ten points. His title defense against Gonzaga was his first one so it's 10 + 1 = 11 points. In addition, interim titles are worth the same amount of points as are interim title defenses. The titles included here will be the UFC, Pride, and Strikeforce HW belts (this does not include the Strikeforce tournament belt).
Next on our list is beating a former champion in one of the three organizations listed above. This will be worth 8 points. Being able to best a former champion in the ring or cage is a big deal and a huge feather in the cap of a fighter.
Beating a top ten Heavyweight is next on our list and it shall receive 5 points for the fighter who wins. I was thinking of splitting it into top five and top ten but decided against it simply because there have never been universal rankings. Because of this, it's difficult to gauge exactly who should be ranked where. However, generally top ten is more uniform and should be easier. I will choose from respected websites/lists when figuring who is top ten.
Beating un-ranked (not top ten) fighters will not earn points for the fighters on the list. This is to avoid giving points to fighters who may just fight more often then others. It doesn't really indicate who is the best anyway.
Now we get to losing and removing points. I do feel it's necessary for the best to consistently prove it. If they can't continue to win, then their greatness does suffer.
Losing a championship fight is worth noting but it's hardly something to really impact the fighter's legacy. Most great champions lost their titles or a title fight at some point so it will only remove 1 point from their totals.
Losing to a former champion is a bit more telling of the ranking in history to me. While still nothing to be ashamed of, it is an indicator of where a fighter is on the totem pole. This will deduct 3 points.
Next, losing to a top ten fighter will deduct 5 points from the fighter.
Finally, I feel that losing to an un-ranked (not top ten) fighter is where one should really los some points. 10 points to me. It's really a bad look for a fighter trying to contend for a list of the greatest to lose to un-ranked Heavyweights. I should specify that un-ranked only applies to Heavyweights. Being ranked in another division does not count.
One key thing to note is that points from different categories will not mix. This means that, for instance, beating a former champion in a title defense will not to the point total. Each point category remains separate to ensure a more fair distribution (for example, the Pride and Strikeforce titles were passed around a lot less and it would leave them at a disadvantage).
All wins and losses at Heavyweight only will count once the fighter debuts in one of the big organizations. Losses before debuts in Pride, UFC, or Strikeforce will not count against the fighter. I think that is it for the rules so let's get right to it.
1) Fedor Emelianenko - 76 points in total
No surprise to anyone I think. We all know Fedor is the HW GOAT and the numbers back it up. His resume is amazing and despite his losses at the end of his career, Fedor held on to his lead by a wide margin. However, with his return he could sink further down the list, especially since a few of the men here are still fighting for the foreseeable future.
1 title win over Big Nog - 10 points
3 title defenses over Big Nog, Cro Cop, and Mark Hunt - 36 points
5 wins over former champions Mark Coleman x2, Kevin Randleman, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski - 40 points
2 top 10 wins over Semmy Schilt and Brett Rogers - 10 points
2 top 10 losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva - minus 10 points
1 loss to un-ranked Dan Henderson - minus 10 points.
2) Cain Velasquez - 54 points
The former HW kingpin could have been ranked #1 all time had he managed to stay healthy. However, Cain still has time to make up for his previous lack of activity and is set to rematch Werdum in March. If he can keep winning, he may very well be able to surpass the legendary Fedor for GOAT status.
2 title wins over Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos - 20 points
2 title defenses over Antonio Silva and Junior Dos Santos - 23 points
1 win over former champion Big Nog - 8 points
1 top 10 win over Antonio Silva - 5 points
2 title fight losses to Junior Dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum - minus 2 points
3) Tim Sylvia* Either 47 points or minus 3 points
This is up to you but according to the specific rules, only fights at Heavyweight count for or against the fighter in question. By those rules, many of Sylvia's fights don't count against his HW resume simply because they took place at Super Heavyweight. However, I included his point totals for both so you can decide.
2 title wins over Ricco Rodriguez and Andrei Arlovski - 20 points
3 title defenses over Gan McGee, Andrei Arlovski, and Jeff Monson - 34 points
4 losses in title fights to Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski, Randy Couture, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - minus 4 points
1 loss to former champion Fedor Emelianenko - minus 3 points
5 losses to un-ranked Ray Mercer, Abe Wagner, Satoshi Iishi, Tony Johnson, and Ruslan Magomedov at SHW - minus 50 points
4) Junior Dos Santos - 42 points
While the former champion may have faltered in recent years, many still remember what a destroyer he was not too long ago. JDS laid waste to the rankings and has made it quite clear that he absolutely is among the best HW's of all time. Considering he is still relatively young and active, he can conceivably climb even higher on the list.
1 title win over Cain Velasquez - 10 points
1 title defense over Frank Mir - 11 points
1 win over former champion Shane Carwin - 8 points
3 wins over top 10 Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, and Stipe Miocic - 15 points
2 title losses to Cain Velasquez - minus 2 points
5) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - 38 points
The legendary Brazilian fighter who displayed unfathomable toughness was the longtime #2 to Fedor while Pride was around. Had he cut his career just a few years shorter, Big Nog would likely be sitting around the #2 spot. Alas, his less than stellar UFC run has dropped him down. His last two losses in particular to unranked fighters actually knocked him down from second to being tied in 5th. However, it's undeniable that Minotauro is one of the best HW's of all time.
3 title wins over Heath Herring, Mirko Cro Cop, and Tim Sylvia - 30 points
3 wins over former champions Mark Coleman, Ricco Rodriguez, and Josh Barnett - 24 points
3 wins over top 10 Heath Herring, Fabricio Werdum, and Brendan Schaub - 15 points
3 title losses to Fedor x2 and Frank Mir - minus 3
1 loss to former champion Josh Barnett - minus 3
1 loss to top 10 Fabricio Werdum - minus 5
2 losses to un-ranked Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve - minus 20 points
5) Randy Couture - 38 points
Captain America has won the UFC title on 3 separate occasions, besting men he was not expected to beat and even defending the title multiple times at one point. While he cannot be considered the best, he's definitely earned his spot among the pantheon of great Heavyweights. He has a very impressive record and deserves recognition for it.
3 title wins over Maurice Smith, Kevin Randleman, and Tim Sylvia - 30 points
3 title defenses over Pedro Rizzo x2 and Gabriel Gonzaga - 34 points
1 win over top 10 Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - 5 points
3 title losses to Josh Barnett, Ricco Rodriguez, and Brock Lesnar - minus 3
1 loss to former champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - minus 3 points
1 loss to top 10 Valentijn Overeem - minus 5 points (I was shocked by this)
2 losses to unranked Enson Inoue and Mikhail Ilyukin - minus 20 points
5) Fabricio Werdum - 38 points
The current UFC Heavyweight champion has been a consistent top 10 fighter most of career and his sudden surge over the past few years has been really incredible to watch. At 38 years old, he may not have much time left to cement himself as the GOAT but should he defend his title a few more times, I can't see how people would be able to argue against him. Werdum's record speaks for itself and as it stands now, he's standing tall among the HW's.
1 title win over Mark Hunt - 10 points
1 title defense over Cain Velasquez (defended his interim title and united the titles) - 11 points
2 wins over former champions Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - 16 points
4 wins over top 10 Alistair Overeem, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mike Russow, and Travis Browne - 20 points
3 losses to former champions Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski, and Alistair Overeem - minus 9 points
1 loss to un-ranked Junior Dos Santos - minus 10 points
8) Brock Lesnar - 29 points
Love him, hate, or anything in between, you cannot deny Brock came into MMA with virtually no training and ended up among the most successful HW's of all time. Brock may have fallen as fast as he rose due to illness and regression but his impact is still felt today as many fans followed him and stayed, such as myself, as well as cards still being compared to UFC 100, yet none surpassing the buyrate. Brock, I miss you.
1 title win over Randy Couture - 10 points
2 title defenses over Frank Mir and Shane Carwin - 23 points
1 title loss to Cain Velasquez - minus 1 point
1 loss to former champion Alistair Overeem - minus 3 points
9) Alistair Overeem - 17 points
The former Strikeforce champion has had a long career and his successes at HW, despite his illicit means of getting there, cannot be ignored despite his bad KO losses. Alistair has beaten a lot of good competition and is still around fighting today near the top of the division. Where he will go from here is anyone's guess but should he manage to beat JDS, he may get a title shot and get a chance to really make a move up the all time great rankings.
1 title win over Paul Buentello - 10 points
1 title defense over Brett Rogers - 11 points
2 wins over former champions Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir - 16 points
3 top 10 wins over Sergei Kharitonov, Fabricio Werdum, and Roy Nelson - 15 points
3 top 10 losses to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, and Travis Browne - minus 15 points
2 losses to un-ranked Sergei Kharitonov and Ben Rothwell - minus 20 points
10) Andrei Arlovski - 6 points
The former champion has experienced a massive resurgence of sorts, which kind of slowed following his last performance against Frank Mir, in recent years. Arlovski has had a very up and down career and was in a deep valley not too long ago in Strikeforce. After multiple brutal KO losses in a row, the Pitbull climbed his way back into relevance and is at most a fight away from a title shot. While his losses definitely knock him cleanly out of GOAT contention, he definitely deserves a spot on the list.
1 title win over Tim Syliva - 10 points
2 title defenses over Justin Eilers and Paul Buentello - 23 points
1 win over former champion Frank Mir - 8 points
5 wins over top 10 Vladmir Matyushenko, Fabricio Werdum, Ben Rothwell, Antonio Silva, and Travis Browne - 25 points
2 title losses to Tim Sylvia x2 - minus 2 points
1 loss to former champion Fedor Emelnianenko - minus 3 points
1 top 10 loss to Pedro Rizzo - minus 5 points
5 un-ranked losses to Ricco Rodriguez, Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Silva, Brett Rogers, and Anthony Johnson - minus 50 points
Honorable Mentions: Josh Barnett - 3 points, Frank Mir - 1 point
Well that's all folks. Please feel free to discuss my conclusions and argue about who deserves what ranking. I hope you all enjoy this as it took a lot of time and effort to slog through rankings from a decade ago.
Oh and before anyone asks, all rankings I could find were from Sherdog. Anything before Sherdog made them were from Fight Matrix's projected rankings.