West Coast vs East Coast: Who Has the Better MMA Fighters?

Peter JensenContributor IIIMay 16, 2012

West Coast vs East Coast: Who Has the Better MMA Fighters?

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    It is a rivalry as old as American sports. Well, at least since professional sports teams moved out west.

    Whether it be college or professional football, basketball, baseball or even horse racing; the main rivals in this country seem to be the west coast vs the east coast. 

    When Nate Diaz walked out to "Still Ballin" by Tupac Skakur, (a song that among other things talks about pride for the westside and being from California) in his opponent Jim Miller's hometown of East Rutherford, New Jersey, it seemed as if there may be some "West Coast vs East Coast" tension brewing in MMA too. 

    Sooner or later this rivalry had to start. Which coast produces the better fighters? Are their unique styles associated with where a fighter's from? Or is MMA different from other sports because it is an individual sport and fighters come from all over the globe? 

    Is there any way to settle who is really better? Of course there isn't an exact science, but what if there was a way to try to tally up a score to see which coast has the supreme MMA fighters?

    There are going to be some gray/controversial areas in this competition.  Logistics can be a controversial topic because what parts of the country exactly constitute as the West Coast and the the East Coast?

    Does a fighter like Rampage who was born and raised in Tennessee, but became an MMA fighter while training and living in Irvine, California, count as west or east?

    Are we counting Canada? Do Brazil, Japan, the UK and Eastern Europe have similar geographical rivalries?

    There are several ways to do this, however, I developed a scoring system to try to settle a little bit of the score. So when you're done with the slideshow, let me know what you think of the system and how I could make it better. 


The Scoring System

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    I developed a scoring system for how I am going to briefly settle this debate.

    Certain parts of the country can't be included. A fighter from Texas or any part of the country basically north of Texas can't be considered from the west or east coast. Canada is out too.

    I decided to count fighters from the Southeast as members of the East Coast and Southwest as members of the West Coast. Mainly because the parts of the country we refer to them from has "West" and "East" in the names. 

    The Midwest in general was the grayest area. After looking at all of the currently top-ranked fighters, I decided to count St. Louis as east. By doing that, I also decided that Colorado and New Mexico would be counted as West Coast. This proved to be advantageous for the East.

    Now that we have divided the country, I have created a point system to try to award the winning coast.

    The points will be distributed to each coast as follows:

    1 point per fighter currently ranked in the Top 20 according to Fightmatrix.com

    1 point for having a current UFC Champion

    1 point for having a former UFC Champion

    1 point for having a former Pride Champion

    1 point for having a former Lightweight, Bantamweight or Featherweight WEC Champion


    Let the competition begin!





    I know that this topic may hit home for many of you, so after you read the slideshow, let the spirited debate commence!

Current Flyweights

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    West Coast fighters currently in the Top 20 Flyweight (The numbers represent their current rankings on fightmatrix.com) 

    1) Joseph Benavidez (Sacramento, CA)

    2) Demetrious Johnson (Kirkland, WA)

    3) Ian McCall (Irvine, CA)

    4) John Dodson (Albuquerque, NM)

    East Coast Fighters currently in the Top 20 Flyweight

    7) Louis Gaudinot (Yonkers, NY)

    11) Sean Santella (Whippany, NJ)

    15) Josh Robinson (Bowling Green, OH) I know that Bowling Green is in a gray area, but it is pretty far east. 

    There currently is no flyweight champion, so no bonus point will be awarded this round. Although the West Coast obviously will host the UFC Flyweight Champion soon.

    Flyweight: 4-3 West Coast

Current Bantamweight

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    Current West Coast Bantamweight Fighters in Top 20 

    1) Dominic Cruz (San Diego, Ca.)

    2) Urijah Faber, (Davis, Ca)

    6) Michael Mcdonald (Modesto, Ca.)

    7) Antonio Banuelos (San Louis Obispo, Ca.)

    13) Scott Jorgensen (Boise, ID)

    14) Chris Cariaso (San Francisco, Ca.)


    Current East Coast Bantamweight Fighters in Top 20

    9) Brian Bowles (Athens, GA.)

    11) Yusup Saaduluev( Justice, IL)

    12) Zach Makovsky (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)

    Current Champion: Dominic Cruz

    Bantamweight: 7-3 West Coast

Current Featherweight

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    Current West Coast Featherweights in Top 20

    6) Chad Mendez (Hanford, California)

    19) Tyson Griffin (Santa Rosa, California)

    20) Manny Gamburyan (Hollywood, California)

    Current East Coast Featherweights in Top 20

    2) Pat Curran (Crystal Lake, Illinois)

    4) Kenny Florian, (Westwood, Massachusetts) 

    8) Daniel Straus (Cincinnati, OH)

    14) Dustin Poirier( Carencro, Louisiana)

    17) Bart Palaszewski (Crystal Lake, Illinois)

    18) Ricardo Lamas (Chicago, Illinois)


    6-3 as the East Coast makes a comeback in the Featherweights. 



Current Lightweights

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    Current West Coast Lightweights in the top 20

    1) Ben Henderson (Glendale, AZ via Colorado Springs, Co)\

    3) Gilbert Melendez (Santa Ana, Ca.)

    4) Nate Diaz (Stockton, Ca.)

    5) *Gray Mayard (Las Vegas, NV via Phoenix, AZ and  Westwood, Ohio)

    13) Donald Cerrone (Broomfield, Co)

    17) Antonio Mckee (Lakewood, Ca.)

    20) Evan Dunham (Eugene, OR)

    East Coast Lightweights currently in the top 20

    2) Frankie Edgar (Toms river, NJ)

    7) Eddie Alvarez (Philadelphia, Pa)

    8) Clay Guida (Chicago, IL0

    9) Anthony Pettis (Milwaukee, WI)

    11) Rick Hawn (Dracut, Ma)

    12) JIm Miller (Sparta, NJ)

     20) Jorge Masvidal (Miami, FL)


    Current Champion: Benson Henderson

    The Westside Squeaked out this one 8-7 due to Benson Henderson's victory over Frankie Edgar. Frankie will make some points up when we get to former champions though. 


    *Yes, I realize that Gray Maynard did spend two High School years in Ohio and wrestled for Michigan State. However, he was born in Phoenix, also spent two years of HS in Las Vegas and currently lives in Vegas. Because of that, I am counting him as West Coast. 

Current Welterweights

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    Current West Coast Welterweights in the Top 20

    2) Carlos Condit (Albuquerque, NM)

    4) Nick Diaz (Stockton, Ca.)

    6) Jake Shields (San Francisco, Ca.)

    9) BJ Penn (Hilo, HI)

    10) Ben Askren (Phoenix, AZ)

    13) Diego Sanchez (Albuquerque, NM)

    19) Mike Pierce (Portland, OR) 


    Current East Coast Welterweights in the Top 20

    *7) Josh Koscheck (Waynesburg, Pa.)

    12) John Fitch (Fort Wayne, IN)

    15) Tyron Woodley (St. Louis, Mo)

    16) Brian Ebersole (Bradlye, IL)

    17) Jay Hieron (Long Island, New York)

    20) Douglas Lima (Atlanta, Ga.)


    West Coast squeaked out the Welterweights 7-6

    *Josh Koscheck fights out of AKA in Northern California and he is always introduced as fighting out of Fresno, California. I have a hard time considering Josh an east-coast fighter, but I went with where he was born and raised. 

Current Middlweights

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    Current West Coast Middleweights in Top 20

    2) Chael Sonnen (Portland, OR)

    4) Mark Muñoz (Stockton, CA.)

    5) Luke Rockhold (San Jose, CA.)

    11) Nate Marquart (Aurora, Co)

    20) Chris Leben (Portland, OR)

    Current East Coast Middleweights in Top 20

    7) Chris Weidman (Baldwin, NY)

    8) Alan Belcher (Biloxi, MS)

    9) Tim Boetsch (Lincolnville, Maine)

    12) Tim Kennedy (Fort Bragg, NC)

    13) Brian Stann (Jacksonville, NC)

    18) Robbie Lawler (Granite City, IL)


    East Coast edges out in the middleweights by a score of 6-5

Current Light Heavyweights

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    Current West Coast Light Heavyweights in Top 20

    2) Dan Henderson (Temecula, Ca.)

    6) Ryan Bader (Tempe, AZ)

    11) Muhammad Lawal (Carlsbad, Ca.)

    14) Tito Ortiz (Huntington Beach, Ca.)

    20) Mike Kyle (San Jose, Ca.)


    Current East Coast Light Heavyweights in Top 20

    1) Jon Jones (Rochester, NY)

    3) Rashad Evans (Niagara Falls, NY)

    7) Quinton Jackson (Memphis, TN.)  Although he has spent most of his fighting days in Irvine, Ca. 

    9) Forrest Griffin (Athens, GA)

    13) Phil Davis (Harrisburg, PA)


    Current Champ: Jon Jones


    The East Coast wins the current battle of Light Heavyweights 6-5.

Current Heavyweights

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    Current West Coast Heavyweights in Top 20

    3) Cain Velazquez (Salinas, Ca.)

    4) Frank Mir (Las Vegas, NV)

    6) Daniel Cormier (San Jose, Ca.)

    7) Josh Barnett (Seattle, Wa)

    9) Shane Carwin (Greeley, Co)

    14) Travis Browne (Oahu, Hawaii)

    17) Roy Nelson (Las Vegas,NV)


    Current East Coast Heavyweights in Top 20

    13) Cole Konrad (Appleton, Wisconsin) Top-ranked East Coast Heavyweight is 13. Time to step up East!

    16) Mike Russow (Chicago, IL) 

    19) Ben Rothwell (Kenosha, WI)


    The big boys are all out west. West Coast wins 7-3 in the Heavyweights. 

    The Overall score of current fighters is 46-40 West Coast. If this competition were only based on current day, the west coast would have already won. However, I think it will be more interesting if we go all time... Shall we? 

History of Pride Fighting Champions

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    West Coast Pride Fighting Champions

    Dan Henderson  (Temecula, Ca,)

    East Coast Pride Fighting Champions

    Mark Coleman (Ohio)

    Yep. That is it.

    Pride Fighting Championships was arguably the top MMA organization from 2002-2006. However, its list of champions is quite small. Big Nog and Fedor were the organizations only true heavyweight champions as Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson were the only middleweight champions.

    Hendo was the last middleweight and welterweight champion for the organization. I could have given the west coast two points for this, but I decided against it. 

    Mark Coleman once won a Pride Heavyweight Tournament, so that is why I listed him as well. 


    West Coast and East Coast tie 1-1

Former WEC Lightweight, Bantamweight and Featherweight Champions

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    Former West Coast WEC Lightweight, Bantamweight or Featherweight Champions

    1)Gilbert Melendez (Santa Ana, Ca)

    2) Gabe Ruediger (Topanga Canyon, Ca.)

    3) Rob McCullough (Huntington Beach, Ca.)

    4) Jamie Varner (Phoenix, AZ)

    5) Cole Escovedo (Fresno, Ca.)

    6) Urijah Faber (Davis, Ca.)

    Former East Coast WEC Lightweight, Bantamweight or Featherweight Champions

    1) Anthony Pettis (Milwaukee, Wi)

    2) Mike Brown (Portland, Maine)

    3) Chase Beebe (Chicago, IL)

    4) Miguel Torres (Chicago, IL)

    5) Brian Bowles (Charleston, WV)


    The West Coast wins the Former WEC champions by a score of 6-5. The East Coast made a major comeback in the bantamweight division. 

    *Note= Although Ben Henderson and Dominick Cruz are former WEC champions, these leagues mapped over to the current UFC divisions so I am not going to give the championship bonus twice.

Former UFC Champions

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    Former West Coast UFC Heavyweight Champions

    1) Jens Pulver-Lightweight (Maple Valley, Washington)

    2) B.J Penn-Lightweight and Welterweight (Hawaii)

    3) Frank Shamrock-Light Heavyweight (San Jose, Ca.)

    4) Tito Ortiz-Light Heavyweight (Huntington Beach, Ca.)

    5) Randy Couture -Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight (Everett, Washington)

    6) Chuck Liddell- Light Heavyweight (San Louis Obispo, Ca)

    7) Maurice Smith -Heavyweight (Seattle, Wa)

    8) Josh Barnett -Heavyweight (Seattle, Washington)

    9) Frank Mir-Heavyweight (Las Vegas, Nevada)

    10) Cain Velazquez-Heavyweight (Salinas, Ca.)


    Former East Coast UFC Champions

    1) Frankie Edgar-Lightweight (Toms River, NJ)

    2) Matt Hughes-Welterweight (Hillsboro, IL)

    3) Matt Serra-Welterweight (East Meadow, NY)

    4) Rich Franklin-Middleweight (Cincinnati, OH)

    5) Quinton Jackson-Light Heavyweight (Memphis, TN)

    6) Forrest Griffin-Light Heavyweight (Athens, Ga.)

    7) Rashad Evans-Light Heavyweight ( Niagara Falls, NY)

    8) Kevin Randleman- Heavyweight (Sandusky, Ohio)

    9) Tim Sylvia-Heavyweight


    The West Coast barely edges out the East Coast 10-9 in former UFC Champions. 

    *Note= I realize that Mark Coleman was also a UFC Champion. However, considering I didn't give the West Coast two points for Dan Henderson, BJ Penn nor Randy Couture, all who held belts at two weight classes, I didn't think it would be fair to give the East Coast two points in the former champions category to Mark Coleman. He received one from Pride. 


West Coast Wins

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    The West Coast won the competition by a score of 63-55.

    Mixed Martial Arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. The keyword in that sentence being world, and top fighters can come from anywhere. 

    However, there is no denying the west coast's influence on the sport. Several of the top camps including Jackson's MMA, American Kickboxing Academy, Team Alpha Male, Xtreme Couture, Team Quest, Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Alliance MMA and Arizona Combat Sports are all in the southwest or west coast. 

    The East Coast has its fair share of top gyms as well. American Top Team, The Blackzilians, and The Black House are all on the east coast. Not to mention up and coming gyms sprout up all the time from all over the country and world. 

    The UFC's home, however, is in Las Vegas. And as for now, the west coast is the best coast in MMA.