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Rich Hansen's Take
HANSEN: Transparency in MMA Rankings Part Deux - My Top 25 Heavyweights (March 2012)
Mar 18, 2012 - 9:45:41 PM
HANSEN: Transparency in MMA Rankings Part Deux - My Top 25 Heavyweights (March 2012)
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By Rich Hansen, MMA Torch Columnist 

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If you don't care about testosterone, if you don't care about fighter management, if you don't care about Karyn Bryant, and your love of MMA starts and stops with fights and fighters, then this is definitely not the best month for you. Zuffa is in the midst if a 2006-ish run of 42 days without an event, and 56 days without a pay-per-view. The void in fight coverage and discussion has been filled by talk about testosterone abuse, fighter's behind the scenes relationships with their own management and the UFC, and unfortunately Karyn Bryant's unprofessional relationship with Rampage Jackson.

Fortunately, I'm here for you, gentle reader. I don't give a damn about any of that garbage either.* I too care about fights, fighters, and the fun of MMA. And no, motorboating Karyn Bryant does not qualify as fun. It might qualify as bad taste in women, it might qualify as desperation, it might even qualify as the lesser of two evils at closing time. But fun? Not so much.

* - OK, I care greatly about TRT and their corresponding TUEs. I just don't write about it.  Jamie's got that covered.

So, with that in mind, let's talk fights and fighters. Specifically, let's do another eight part series where I subjectively rank fighters, and then you call me an idiot and a waste of skin for having an opinion that isn't a carbon copy of your own mind. Gee Wally, that sounds swell!

June and July of 2011 was the last time I published my own rankings, and boy oh boy did they change the landscape of MMA. Earthquakes and shockwaves went through every camp and organization in the sport, friend.

Speaking of June and July of last year, CLICK HERE to see how the heavyweight division looked the first time I ran this series

At this time, most of the attention of the MMA fan is directed to the all heavyweight main card of UFC 146. As a result, we're kicking off the series with the heavyweights. The plan is to complete the series by April 13, which is one day before the UFC returns on Fuel TV. That said, since only 42 people are going to watch that show since it runs on Fuel TV during the middle of the afternoon, the hard deadline to finish is April 20, the eve of UFC 145.

Heavyweight Rankings as of March 19, 2012

1.) Junior dos Santos - No surprise here, even from an Alistair Overeem mark such as me. JDS has done it repeatedly in the UFC, Overeem's done it once. I think JDS has a speed advantage and comparable power, and certainly a better chin. Next fight: Alistair Overeem, May 26

2.) Alistair Overeem - While I think JDS is better, I'm talking by only the slightest of margins here. Overem won the fricking K-1 Grand Prix, so his striking credentials are not in doubt. If he defeats JDS on Memorial Day weekend, he moves from great fighter to legend in the sport. Next fight: Junior dos Santos, May 26

3.) Cain Valasquez - A case can be made that he should be #2, since he fought dos Santos while injured. That case is supported by the fact that he got caught as opposed to being dominated for 25 minutes. It doesn't matter, because he'll be #2 if he beats Frank Mir at UFC 146, and he'll be #1 if he follows that up with a win over dos Santos or Overeem. Next fight: Frank Mir, May 26

4.) Frank Mir – Everything I just said about Cain (short the discussion of his fight with JDS) can be said accurately about Mir. May 26 has the possibility to be one of the best days ever. Next fight:  Cain Velasquez, May 26

5.) Fabricio Werdum - Werdum left the UFC after not being admitted into a de facto UFC heavyweight championship tournament, facing an opponent everyone chalked up to an easy victory. Now he returns to the UFC being on the outside looking in of a de facto UFC heavyweight championship tournament, and will be facing an opponent everyone says should be a cakewalk. Makes you wonder if maybe Werdum wishes he would have trained for dos Santos just a wee bit harder, no? Next fight: Mike Russow, June 16

6.) Josh Barnett - It would be easy to say Barnett is fighting for redemption. I don't think he gives a damn about redemption. I think Barnett has blinders on to everything around him, and is just looking to fight the best of the world. And do so while injecting powerful anabolic steroids into his body. Allegedly. Next fight: Daniel Cormier, May 19

7.) Daniel Cormier - When the ill-fated Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix OF DOOM opened, you could have placed a $100 bet on 'the Field.' If Daniel "The Field" Cormier wins, anyone who bet on "The Field" will be $3500 wealthier. God, I miss having Scott Coker to kick around. Figuratively. Next fight: Josh Barnett, May 19.

8.) Antonio Silva - Eight heavyweights in, and half the list so far consists of past or current Strikeforce fighters. Bigfoot Silva might be the slowest-footed heavyweight on this list, but if he gets on top of you, you're going to need an icepack or three. Next fight: Roy Nelson, May 26.

9.) Fedor Emelianenko - There is no shame in losing three in a row to Fabricio Werdum (#5), Antonio Silva (#8), and Dan Henderson (top 3 at 205). I daresay that in those three fights Emelianenko showed more than he did during the last eight wins of his career that led up to the losing skid. M-1 and UFC bull aside, he's a dangerous fighter, and overlooked at your own peril. Next fight: TBA

10.) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - Look. If he fights Fedor six months from now, he'd be a slight betting favorite. And I understand that his trilogy with Fedor ended in 2004. But Fedor has two wins over him, and there's your tiebreaker. Nogueira's recovering from a broken arm at the hands of Frank Mir, his status is unknown, although his scar is tight. Next fight: TBA

11.) Shane Carwin - He's 2-2 against good fighters. His win over Gabriel Gonzaga was three years ago; his win over Mir was two years ago. His losses to Brock Lesnar and JDS were both more recent, and they are the fresher memory now. He's 3-2 in the last three and a half years, he's on the shelf, and his return date is unknown. Let's stop calling him elite, ok? Next fight: TBA

12.) Roy Nelson - Normally if you're going to crack the top 12 of a division, you haven't lost three out of four fights. And usually you have a scalp that's higher ranked than Brendan Schaub or Stefan Struve. And normally you wouldn't have embarrassed yourself on PPV against Frank Mir by coming in so out of shape that the line on you walking a quarter mile in under 25 minutes isn't -130. But sometimes these things happen in MMA rankings. Next fight: Antonio Silva, May 26 (PS: I think he beats Silva at 146, go figure)

13.) Stefan Struve - OK, so the heavyweight division is ever so slightly top heavy. Struve is 7-3 in the UFC, having won a knockout of the night and two submission of the night bonuses during his UFC tenure. I think he's being overvalued a little, seeing as how his best career wins are over Pat Barry and Dave Herman, but that speaks to the lack of depth at heavyweight. Next fight: Mark Hunt, May 26

14.) Mark Hunt - In the Twitterverse, when something completely amazes somebody, they write, "#SMH," because it only takes up four of their allotted 140 characters. So, to Mark Hunt I say, #SMH. But I still love you, and your resurgence since losing to Sean McCorkle has been one of my favorite moments of the last year or so. Next fight: Stefan Struve, May 26

15.) Brendan Schaub - Last year, Brendan Schaub turned down a chance to fight in Denver, very close to his Grudge Training Center, in order to fight Nogueira in Brazil. And Schaub hasn't been heard from since. The UFC wants him to succeed, therefore... Next fight: Ben Rothwell, April 21

16.) Mike Russow - So, if I were doing these rankings by tier as opposed to by number. Brendan Schaub would be the end of a tier of fighters, and Russow would be the beginning of another tier that's way, way, way down there. Way. Of course, the nice thing about fighting is that you get the chance to enter the cage and prove your worth. Unless you're Anthony Pettis. Next fight: Fabricio Werdum, June 16

17.) Gabriel Gonzaga - Gonzaga, who has more announced retirements than wins since UFC 70, is one win away from being in the mix of being in the mix for a shot at being in the mix. Do I have that right? Regardless, I've always liked Gonzaga, and I think he's got a role in the UFC midcard. Next fight: Shane del Rosario, May 26

18.) Cole Konrad - The Bellator heavyweight champion, which means that he only gets to fight once per year, against someone you've never heard of. It's a damn shame, because his heavy top control game and wrestling credentials would make him a viable player to work his way into the mix of being in the mix for a shot at being in the mix in the UFC. Next fight - Eric Prindle or Thiago Santos, date TBA.

19.) Cheick Kongo - The Greek God of Missed Opportunities. If he were cast in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he would have collected all five golden tickets, mistaken them for toilet paper, and flushed them all down the toilet. And yes, he would have grabbed said tickets by the shorts and kneed them in the junk a few times just because he can. Next fight: TBA

20.) Travis Browne - I understand he fought Kongo to a draw, thanks to having his trunks yanked on a few times. But if we're doing tiers again, here's the beginning of a new tier. After becoming the new "It" guy at 265 due to his superman punch KO over Stefan Struve, he lost all that momentum in the mile high elevation of Denver, Colorado at UFC 135. He may have defeated journeyman Rob Broughton (about 19 tiers down the road), but Broughton sucked all the oxygen out of the building (literally), and made sure people never want to watch him fight. Ever. Again. Next fight: Chad Griggs, April 21.

21.) Matt Mitrione - Mitrione's a guy that everyone wants to be a top 10 fighter, but the resume just doesn't support that conclusion. A fight with fellow former Roufusport acolyte Pat Barry would be hella fun. Yea, I said hella. Just to see if you're paying attention, and because I need filler. Next fight: TBA

22.) Dave Herman - The clown prince of the heavyweight division. e seems to have waited too long to take the sport seriously, and even now that he's with a legit camp like Team Quest (known for drilling armbar defense above all), old habits die hard. Next fight: TBA

23.) Sergei Kharitoniv - I once though he was going to be a sleeper in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and that was before he trucked Andrei Arlovski. But then Josh Barnett showed the world what we all knew already. Kharitonov is useless on the canvas. Next fight: Mark Miller (kickboxing), March 23

24.) Pat Barry - Another one of those heavyweights that everybody wants to cheer for, and who the UFC wants desperately to succeed. But the fact remains, he is what he is. A middling heavyweight who waited way too long to tack the ground game seriously. To paraphrase the reprehensible Dennis Green, "Barry is who we thought he is." Next fight: Lavar Johnson, May 5

25.) Stipe Miocic - Miocic is a former NCAA Division 1 college wrestler and baseball player, as well as a former Golden Gloves boxing champion. His athletic credentials are unquestioned. What is questioned is his overall talent level. I wouldn't be surprised if he's 10-12 spots higher a year from now. But the list of fighters we've said that about is long. I'm looking at YOU, Todd Duffee. Let's just wait and see, but the potential is there. Next fight: TBA

Fighters who weren't ranked on June 21: Hunt, Russow, Gonzaga, Miocic

Fighters who dropped out since June 21: Brock Lesnar (retired), Shane del Rosario (inactive), Joey Beltran (2 losses), Ben Rothwell (1 loss)


Follow me on twitter, @MMATorchRich


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