Now in any combat sport it is important to have rankings, so that you know where people stand. However, as the UFC is made up of weight classes and has been for some time, I question not only the accuracy of the pound for pound list but also its existence in the first place.
Early days of the UFC Royce was king
When the UFC started way back in 1993, it was an open weight tournament involving several fights over one night to determine who was the Ultimate Fighter. It was way more like a cheesy 80’s martial arts movie than the legitimate sport that we are presented with today.
Most importantly in terms of what I am writing about initially the UFC was open weight, there were no weight classes. Royce Gracie was the king early on, using the now widely known Gracie Brazilian Jujitsu style to defeat opponents much larger than him.
The early UFC tournaments really served as an advertising platform for Gracie Jujitsu. It was a way of saying to the world (or the martial arts fans watching at the time) look at what we can do, this martial art will give you the skills to defeat someone larger that you.
The advert worked like a charm and now we see Gracie Jujitsu and other BJJ schools all over the world. While BJJ is a great martial art, make no mistake as well as being that it is a profit machine generating millions for those who are skilled enough not just on the mat but in marketing their schools.
Going back to my main point, BJJ tournaments around the world now use weight classes. This is because if you have 2 fighters of a similar skill set, and one is much larger. Despite what 80’s films and some martial arts will tell you, the larger fighter will win 9 times out of 10.
But what about Royce Gracie in the first UFC tournaments I hear you ask, well yes Royce is MMA royalty no doubt and he was very successful. However his success in the early tournaments was largely due to the fact that his opponents literally did not know what BJJ was, so they had no way of countering or stopping his submissions.
Fast forward to 2006 and it seemed that the sport and the competitors has been brought up to speed. By this time you had Matt Hughes as the king of the welterweight division. Matt Hughes had enough knowledge of submissions to stop Royce.
The result of this was the revelation that even BJJ is not going to save you against someone who knows what they are doing and has a size or strength advantage.
Hughes wasn’t necessarily an over sized opponent for Royce (in fact Royce was larger), however Hughes was way stronger, and the point I am making here is that Hughes had enough knowledge to stop the crafty Brazilian veteran and the result was a savage beating.
The above brings be back to my main point, if Matt Hughes in 2006 was able to destroy Royce like that and they were the same weight. Then what would a guy like Andre Arlovski have done to him? So unless they actually beat the bigger guy how can you have a pound for pound list where the smaller guys rank higher?
Current pound for pound ranking
The fact that the UFC has clear weight classes makes the pound for pound rankings meaningless. Look at the current pound for pound rankings; you have Henry Cejudo above Stipe Miocic. That is crazy, Stipe is the heavy weight champion walking around at 250lbs, Cejudo weighs 160lbs on his heaviest days.
That is not to say that Cejudo isn’t skilled, but to even insinuate that he would beat Stipe Miocic in a fight is just madness. Now people will counter and say if they were the same size he would win. No he wouldn’t, because a lot of things that Cejudo can do because of his speed and agility are down to the fact he is a smaller guy.
Make them both the same size and one of their skill sets will not transfer, Stipe wont be the same if he is shrunk and Henry won’t be the same if he is bigger. That means the pound for pound rankings are just a complete fantasy, and I do not really understand why they are required.
If we’re now going to start heading into the realms of the fantasy where you can make someone much larger or much smaller just by snapping your fingers. Then what about if one of them could fly, and the other one had laser eyes?
Those are just a ridiculous as magically making someone larger or smaller with no change to their attributes, for that reason the list is antiquated, ridiculous and for me has no bearing on how the fighters really stack up against each other.
For me as great and skilled as the smaller weight classes are, they impress me so much and I enjoy watching them. I still hold the ancient boxing mentality that the heavyweight champion is the “baddest man on the planet”, and no amount of made up pound for pound rankings will change my opinion on that.