The Anti-UFC Rankings Bias

Darren WongSenior Analyst INovember 3, 2009

NEW YORK - JANUARY 20:  MMA fighter and former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, VP, Affliction Entertainment Tom Atencio and Fedor Vladimirovich Emelianenko, heavyweight mixed martial artist and current World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight champion rings the NASDAQ opening bell at NASDAQ in Times Square on January 20, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)
Joe Corrigan/Getty Images

UFC President Dana White has often said that the media guys who do the rankings are against him. Of course there are some cases, like the case of Fedor, where Dana White's comments seem silly. There are, however, some other instances where Dana White really seems to have a point. Especially when Frank Shamrock calls Fedor the top heavyweight, and Brett Rogers "the next heavyweight."

Fight hype aside, the most obvious examples of a possible anti-UFC bias come predictably from those people who dislike Dana White the most.

Consider first, the example of former WAMMA vice-president Pat Miletich. While there has been a recent warming of relations, the bitterness between Miletich and Dana White has been well-documented.

It came as no surprise when Miletich, then WAMMA vice-president, appeared on ESPN's MMA Live earlier this year with somewhat questionable opinions on the world MMA rankings.

Among Miletich's questionable remarks were statements that Robbie Lawler and Vitor Belfort both deserved serious consideration for the pound-for-pound rankings.

At the time, MMA Live had announced that WAMMA rankings would become a monthly feature on the broadcast. This idea has apparently since been scrapped without any reason or announcement given on the decision.

Among other notable Dana White enemies are some of the people featured in Matt Lindland's documentary "Fighting Politics." The trailer of this film appears to make a case for Lindland as the top middleweight fighter in the world.  Of course this movement recently lost a lot of steam when Lindland was devastated by Vitor Belfort.

Of course, missing from this equation is the fact that Dana White has not made enemies by being bald. The reason for the animosity is most often because some people don't like the UFC's position atop the MMA industry.

It seems to me that if there is any reason to inflate the rankings of non-UFC fighters, that is it.

The most interesting divisions to look at for a possible UFC bias are of course, the lightweight and heavyweight divisions.

Is Shinya Aoki really the second best lightweight in the world and deserving of a WAMMA world title?  My personal belief is that guys like Joachim Hansen and Shinya Aoki would have a rough time in the UFC.

Unfortunately, this argument is certainly made more difficult because of the fact that  there have been very few fights between the top UFC lightweights and the top non-UFC lightweights.

Go check it out yourself. Figuring out the lightweight rankings is really a daunting task.

There is, however, a fair amount of co-mingling amongst the heavyweights. Fedor's top ranking is pretty much the consensus, but from there on, things are pretty dicey. For example, it struck me as strange how Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett managed to find their ways up to the No.2 ranking spot just in time for their scheduled bouts against Fedor.

After looking through the rankings, the argument can definitely be made for those ranking positions, but that doesn't stop me from speculating that just maybe some of the rankings were swayed just a little bit by an anti-UFC sentiment, conscious or subconscious.

The high rankings of Arlovski and Barnett were of course facilitated by Minotauro Nogueira's loss to Frank Mir, as before that loss, Minotauro was almost unanimously the No. 2 guy after Fedor.

It actually does make sense to me that Frank Mir didn't take the No. 2 spot, as his resume is weaker than those of Arlovski and Barnett, but the same principle should hold if Brett Rogers beats Fedor at the upcoming Strikeforce event.

Will Brett Rogers be the No. 1 heavyweight in the world if he beats Fedor?

After much consideration, I must admit that there isn't really any clear evidence of a bias when looking at these rankings.

There are, however, a few other specific cases that are worth some discussion.

Strikeforce's Jake Shields has been a mainstay in the welterweight rankings for some time, which is reasonable. His winning streak, combined with Koscheck's loss to Paulo Thiago is enough for me to place him at No.4.

I am, however, surprised to see Shields's name beginning to show up in the top 10 list at middleweight, and even some pound-for-pound rankings.

First off, as far as I can tell, Jake Shields hasn't even ever fought at 185 lbs. If he has, it was long ago.

The possible argument for Jake Shields's inclusion in the middleweight rankings is probably that he does have wins over middleweight fighters Robbie Lawler and Yushin Okami. Neither of those fights took place at 185 lbs, and neither should be particularly significant.

I've already stated my view that Robbie Lawler's ranking is probably a bit inflated since his departure from the UFC. He went a mediocre 4-3 inside the UFC, and while he has improved as a fighter, I attribute some of the improvement in his results to a drop in the level of competition. For example, he's had two tough fights against Scott Smith, a fighter with a 1-3 UFC record, including losses to Patrick Cote, Ed Herman, and David Terrell.

Jake Shields's other big win over Yushin Okami is also a bit tainted. If there was ever an argument to abandon the 10-point must scoring system, the fight between Okami and Shields should be prominently featured. For the first two rounds, neither fighter did anything of any real note. Jake Shields went for countless takedowns, but was largely neutralized by Okami, while Okami punched Shields a few times for his trouble.

The third round, on the other hand, was completely dominated by Okami. Okami didn't do enough to warrant a 10-8 round, but did more in that round than either fighter did in the previous two rounds combined. Jake Shields's win was more of a technicality than a real victory.

Furthermore, that fight was contested at 175 lbs. Since that time, Okami has become much bigger and stronger at 185, while Shields remains a smallish middleweight.

Another interesting example to consider is Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi is deserving of a ranking within the top 10 at light-heavyweight, but I find recent arguments for his consideration in the pound-for-pound rankings to be dubious at best.

Certainly at 24 years old, and loaded with talent, Mousasi has a bright future ahead of him, but hasn't faced the kind of talent at 205 to put himself in the P4P discussion.

Right now, most ranking sites have been fair with Mousasi's ranking, putting him somewhere near the bottom of the top 10 in his division. I agree with those rankings, but it will be interesting to see what happens to his ranking after he beats Sokoudjou, who is currently not considered a top 10 guy.

Finally, there is the example of Dan Henderson, who has very recently started to pop up on light-heavyweight and P4P rankings since his departure from the UFC. Some of that attention is justly deserved, but I can't help but wondering if maybe some anti-UFC rankings are jumping the gun on a fighter they believe will soon be signed with a UFC competitor.