It was divisive, to put it mildly. Emelianenko's supporters declared that he had never suffered a legitimate defeat in 33 fights, and he had shown an almost superhuman ability to come back from the brink of defeat and win in spectacular fashion.
Detractors were quick to point out that Emelianenko's level of competition (with recent fights against Hong Man Choi, Mark Hunt and Wagner da Conceicao Martins, to name a few) kept him from being anointed one of the greats.
This argument, which has since fizzled after 'The Last Emperor' suffered back-to-back losses, got me thinking about competition, and specifically about UFC champions. If you were to rank the UFC champions based on who they had fought, who would really have the most 'respectable' career?
Of course, in a sport where fighters can pad their resumes with scrub fights in regional organizations, MMA records are far from the perfect barometer to determine a true strength of schedule.
So don't look at the following list as a concrete ranking, but rather as a quick-and-dirty snapshot for my own curiosity. There is no subjectivity here, just cold, hard numbers.
In order to compile this list, I have taken the combined win-loss-draw totals for all of the fighters that the current UFC champions have faced. I then subtracted that champion's record from the totals to determine a winning percentage independent of the champion's success or failure.
The following is an ordering of each UFC champion, starting with the lowest strength of schedule (SOS), and continuing to the highest. And just for the sake of argument, Emelianenko's SOS stands at .612, with a combined opponent independent W-L-D of 455-270-18.
A couple of abbreviations to remember:
IR - Independent Record
IWP - Independent Winning Percentage