Breaking Down the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

The Champion: Forrest Griffin

The Top Contender: Rashad Evans

The Next Tier:

·         Wanderlei Silva

·         Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

·         Lyoto Machida

·         Thiago Silva

·         Rich Franklin

·         Dan Henderson

·         Keith Jardine

·         Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

·         Chuck Liddell

·         Luis Arthur Cane

·         Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

 

On the Rise: 

·         Luis Arthur Cane

 

Other Notables:

·         Brandon Vera

·         Mat Hamill

·         Stephan Bonnar

·         Jon Jones

·         Tim Boetsch

·         Steve Cantwell

·         Brian Stann

·         James Irvin

·         Eric Schafer

 

Scheduled Fights:

·         Steve Cantwell vs. Razak Al-Hussan at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans @ UFC 92 on December 28 (For Title)

·         Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva @ UFC 92 on December 28

·         Matt Hamill vs. Reese Andy @ UFC 92 on December 28

·         Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson @ UFC 93 on January

·         Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Mark Coleman @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Andre Gusmao vs. Antonio Mendes @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Ivan Serati vs. Tomasz Drwal @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Jon Jones vs. Stephan Bonnar @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva @ UFC 94 on January 31

 

Match Ups I’d Like to See:

·         Luis Cane vs. Keith Jardine

·         Brandon Vera vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

 

Other Thoughts:

·         There are rumors of a Anderson Silva vs. Chuck Liddell match up at UFC 95

·         There are a lot of light heavyweight contenders and the match ups are being set.  The winner of Wanderlei vs. Rampage should get the next title shot, although the winner of Lyoto Machida and Thiago Silva should be considered as well. 

·         We are waiting for the debut of rumored UFC signee Glover Teixeira who has been having visa troubles in Brazil. 

·         The UFC could sign former EliteXC light heavyweight Rafael Feijao, which would be a big time contender.

·         The UFC has a clear monopoly on the light heavyweight division.  There are only a few fighters worth a  dime in this division not in the UFC (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Vladimir Matyushenko, Ricardo Arona, Tito Ortiz, and Renato “Babalu” Sobral)

·         I looks like two solid light heavyweights have dropped to middleweight in Goran Reljic and Wilson Gouveia

·         The Ultimate Fighter 8 which featured light heavyweights is sure to place a few good fighters in the divison, but it will take time for them to climb the ladder.  Watch out for guys like Ryan Bader, Vinny Magalhes, Kryztof Soszynski, and Eliot Marshall.

·         It is somewhat possible to see Randy Couture take a few fights at light heavyweight and also to see Anderson Silva fight at 205 more often in 2009

 

The MMA Free Agent Market Is Full

1.       Jake Shields

Record: 22-4-1

Key Wins: Nick Thompson, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Yushin Okami, Dane Menne, Hayato Sakurai

Key Losses: Akira Kikuchi

MMABlog Ranking: #3 Ranked Welterweight

Jake Shields is no doubt the best free agent on the market now due to the collapse of EliteXC.  However, I do not know if there is much competition for his services.  I believe most people are pretty sure that Shields will sign with the UFC.  There is a lack of welterweight talent everywhere else.  Look for Shields to be in the Octagon by Spring ’09.  Not only will Shields be in the UFC he will be competing for a title shot immediately.

 

2.       Eddie Alvarez

Record: 15-1

Key Wins: Tatsuta Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen

Key Losses: Nick Thompson

MMABlog Ranking: #4 Ranked Lightweight

Alvarez gained a lot of fame in MMA circles with his performance in the DREAM lightweight tournament.  Alvarez fought very well as a welterweight, but the drop down to lightweight is a good move for Alvarez.  Alvarez, who made it to the finals of the DREAM lightweight grand prix.  Alvarez is  a top tier lightweight.  I look to see him back in Japan seeking to get the lightweight DREAM belt that he feels is rightfully his.

 

3.       Yoshihiro Akiyama

Record: 12-1

Key Wins: Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, Katsuyori Shibata

Key Losses: Jerome LeBanner

MMABlog Ranking: #14 Ranked Middleweight

The rumors that have been swirling have been that Akiyama has been in discussions with Sengoku and with the UFC.  As much as I’d like to see him in the UFC and as much as I think the UFC would like to have him, I would be shocked if he ended up there.  I would give a definite advantage in negations to the Japanese organization.  However, the UFC is seeking a worldwide expansion and adding another Korean fighter of a top caliber would be a huge plus.  Akiyama is a top 10-15 middleweight without a doubt.  I’d like to see him up his level of competition though.

4.       Robbie Lawler

Record: 16-4

Key Wins: Scott Smith, Frank Trigg, Joey Villasenor, Murilo Rua, Chris Lytle

Key Losses: Jason Miller, Nick Diaz, Evan Tanner

MMABlog Ranking: #5 Ranked Middleweight

Most people consider Robbie Lawler a top 5 middleweight in the world and many have him as high as number 3.  There is no doubt that there will be a lot of offers out there for Robbie Lawler, but the odds on favorite has to be the UFC.  He seemed to like the idea of a return to the octagon.  The problem with that for Lawler is that he will go from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond.  The UFC is always looking for good competition for Anderson Silva and what better competition than the EliteXC middleweight champ.  If the UFC could add Lawler it would be huge.  Think about this, the UFC middleweight division has been the one touted as being weak.  Dana White has said that it is not weak it just appears weak because of Anderson Silva.  It is possible that the UFC in a matter of a few months will have added the #2 middleweight in Paulo Filho and the #3 middleweight in Robbie Lawler as well as vying for guys like top 10 Akiyama.  Lawler is an instant challenger for the belt and there will be much clamoring for Silva vs. Lawler.  If he is not with the UFC I’d be shocked.  In his first run in the UFC, Lawler went 4-3.  Let’s see if he can do better in a second stint.  Other promotions will come calling so the UFC isn’t a lock, but they are bound to give a good offer.

 

5.       Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante

Record: 7-1

Key Wins: Wayne Cole, Travis Galbraith

Key Losses: Marcio Cruz

MMABlog Ranking: #21 Ranked Light Heavyweight

Feijao has the potential to be a UFC champion.  He trains with the Nogueira and Anderson Silva and has looked very impressive.  He has all the tools to be a champion.  I look for Feijao to land in the UFC.  That is where he can be best developed.  The UFC would be smart to slowly work him up.  I would be shocked to see him sign elsewhere.  I would go as far to say that he is a top priority for the UFC, especially among the EliteXCers.

 

6.       Tito Ortiz

Record: 15-6-1

Key Wins: Ken Shamrock (x3), Forrest Griffin, Patrick Cote, Evan Tanner, Wanderlei Silva, Vladimir Matyushenko, Vitor Belfort

Key Losses: Frank Shamrock, Chuck Liddell (x2), Randy Couture, Lyoto Machida

MMABlog Ranking: #20 Ranked Light Heavyweight

Tito Ortiz has been rumored to be everywhere.  First, it was rumored he was going to Affliction and signing a record deal.  Then we heard he was headed to the EliteXC.  Those both fell through.  Now, following back surgery we are waiting to see where Ortiz will land.  Say what you want about Tito, he is still a top draw.  I do not like him as a fighter, but he is worth big money because of his fan base.  His record is impressive as well.  He boasts big wins over big names and his losses have come to the best of the best.  However, the past few years have been a different story.  Ortiz has struggled to get wins.  He has not won a fight in 2 years.  That has to hurt the size of offers.  Tito is about 2 things: Money and Tito.  Whoever will give him the most money and the most camera time will get Tito.  We know of his feud with the UFC and with Dana White, so I still doubt he will end up there, but it is possible.  I still have to guess that Affliction is his best bet.  We will see though, he very well could end up back in the UFC.  Ortiz only has one fight outside the UFC, so it would be weird to see him somewhere else, but I think that is what we will see, but overall I think Tito doesn’t care to fight anymore and perhaps he is past his prime.

 

7.       Antonio Silva

Record: 11-1

Key Wins: Justin Eilers, Ricco Rodriguez, Wesley Correira

Key Losses: Eric Pele

MMABlog Ranking: #19 Ranked  Heavyweight

The giant heavyweight is a solid fighter that would be a good add anywehere.  However, he is currently under suspension from the CSAC because of an alleged failed steroid test.  He will be out until July on ’09.  This will hurt his marketability.  Nevertheless, he is a solid add to any organization.  I would have to believe that most promotions will extend him an offer.  For him to get into the UFC he may need a win or two under his belt (or maybe not).  I am sure the UFC would like to ass another great heavyweight, but I’d look for him to start fighting in Japan.  DREAM would be my prediction. 

 

8.       Ricardo Arona

Record: 13-5

Key Wins: Alistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba, Dean Lister, Murilo Rua, Dan Henderson, Guy Mezger, Jeremy Horn (x2)

Key Losses: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Shogun Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Quintion Jackson, Wanderlei Silva

MMABlog Ranking: #17 Ranked Light Heavyweight

No one really knows where the Brazilian Tiger has been in the fight world.  Arona is ranked in the top 20 by most in the light heavyweight division, despite being out of action since April of 2007.  I do not know if PRIDE’s collapse or Sokoudjou’s KO of him has kept him out, but we are waiting to see Arona again.  Just look at his wins over top named fighters.  Wow!  His only losses has come to top notch fighters.  Arona has said before that the UFC is a perfect place for him to fight.  He could end up there, but I still think he ends up somewhere in Japan first.  However, if he wants to fight long term he will need to be in Affliction of the UFC.  I’d like to see him in the UFC and make a re-match between him and Sokoudjou, but I am not holding my breath.

 

9.       Denis Kang

Record: 31-10-1

Key Wins: Akihiro Gono, Murilo Rua

Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kazuo Misaki, Jason Miller, Joe Doerksen

MMABlog Ranking:

There was a period between 2003 and 2006 when Denis Kang went 22-0-1.  The Canadian middleweight is coming off of an impressive win over Marvin Eastman on October 25th and is now a free agent.  I imagine he will get some offers and attention.  I haven’t heard anything about which direction he will go, but I would guess Affliction would be a good place for him.  I would guess the UFC would make him an offer, but I don’t know if he will land there.  He has done some fighting in Japan so DREAM is a possibility as well.  I look for this signing to happen sooner than later.

10.   Joey Villasenor

Record: 26-6

Key Wins: Jorge Santiago, Ryan Jensen, Phil Baroni, David Loiseau

Key Losses: Murilo Rua, Robbie Lawler, Ryo Chonan, David Terrell

MMABlog Ranking:  #19 Ranked Middleweight

Smokin’ Joe is a solid fighter who trains out of Team Jackson.  I would be surprised if he does not land a stint with the UFC.  He has said that is what he wants and I think they will make an offer to him.  He was scheduled to fight Lawler for the EliteXC middleweight title in November, but EliteXC’s collapse ended that.  How about Lawler vs. Villasenor in the UFC?  

 

11.   Nick Diaz

Record: 18-7

Key Wins: Gleison Tibau, Josh Neer, Drew Fickett, Chris Lytle, Robbie Lawler, Takanori Gomi

Key Losses: K.J. Noons, Sean Sherk, Diego Sanchez, Joe Riggs, Karo Parisyan

MMABlog Ranking: #23 Ranked Lightweight

Nick Diaz is a liability for any promotion.  There is no doubt that he is tough and a good fighter, but he is a horrible representative of MMA.  Dana White has criticized him and I think Nick’s attitude after fighters will keep him out of the UFC. 

I think Nick Diaz is a bad a**. Nick Diaz is a tough kid. Nick Diaz doesn’t handle himself right all the time in public. I like him — I respect him as a fighter. I love his attitude. I love the way that kid fights. But you can’t do the stuff that this kid does in public. You can’t get into fights when the fight is over … you can’t do that stuff.”

I look for Diaz to sign somewhere, perhaps DREAM or World Victory Road.  He likes fighting in Japan and I think that is where he will go.  Until then I hope he works on his attitude because he is hard to like when he acts like a street thug.  He has a lot of issues such as: recreation drug use, attitude, and making weight.  Nevertheless, he will land somewhere and be just fine.

 

12.   Nick Thompson

Record: 36-10-1

Key Wins: Eddie Alvarez, Chris Wilson, Josh Neer

Key Losses: Jake Shields, Karo Parisyan, Yushin Okami, Ed Herman

MMABlog Ranking: #14 Ranked Welterweight

Thompson is a crafty veteran who has fought nearly everywhere.  Most people agree he is a top 20 welterweight in the world.  I am not sure about Thompson’s contract status, but I assume he was signed to a contract with ProElite.  Thompson has not fought since his loss to Jake Shieds.  “The Goat” has been around, including having gone 1-1 in the UFC.  I would not be shocked to see Thompson signed to fight in Japan somewhere.

 

13.   Dave Herman

Record: 10-0

Key Wins: Kerry Schall, Ron Waterman

Key Losses: None

MMABlog Ranking: #22 Ranked Heavyweight

Herman is another one of the spoils of EliteXC’s collapse and in my opinion is a top notch prospect.  I think he is a solid add.  I think the UFC would be a good fit, but he would need to be slowly built up.  He has great potential as a fighter, but please do something about that nickname (“Pee Wee”).  I would not be shocked to see him land in Strikeforce either, but UFC is a good place if he wants exposure and tough fights. 

 

14.   David Loiseau

Record: 18-8

Key Wins: Evan Tanner, Tony Fryklund, Joe Doerksen,

Key Losses: Joey Villasenor, Mike Swick, Rich Franklin, Jeremy Horn

MMABlog Ranking: NR

There is no question that the former number one contender, Canadian David Loiseau wants back in the UFC.  He is coming off of a win over Solomon Hutcherson and he hopes that earned him an offer, but he may need one more win.  I expect that he will be given one more chance in the UFC sometime in 2009.

 

15.   Brett Rogers

Record: 8-0

Key Wins: James Thompson, Jon Murphy

Key Losses: None

MMABlog Ranking: #24 Ranked Heavyweight

Rogers is a hard hitting prospect who was with the EliteXC.  Rogers looked very impressive in his KO win over Jon Murphy that aired on CBS’ debut card.  Rogers seemed to be unhappy that Kimbo Slice was getting the hype when he felt he deserved it, and he was probably right.  He has been untested, but he hits hard.  He has a place in a big time promotion.  I do not know if the UFC would gamble with him, but that is the best place for him.  Affliction may be a bad move because they would not have time to develop him like the UFC could.  I would love to see a TUF featuring hevayweights like Rogers, Herman and even Kimbo, but they don’t need TUF to get offers.

 

16.   Wilson Reis

Record: 6-0

Key Wins:

Key Losses:

MMABlog Ranking:

The EliteXC’s featherweight champ is sure to land a job.  I think that the best place for him would be in the talented pool of the WEC.  He could be a solid contender among some of the best featherweights.  Zuffa would be smart to pick him up.

 

17.   Benji Radach

Record: 19-4

Key Wins: Murilo Rua, Ryan McGivern

Key Losses: Chris Leben, Sean Sherk, Matt Horwich

MMABlog Ranking:

Radach is coming off of an impressive KO win over Murilo Rua at EliteXC’s last event.  He is sure to find a home somewhere.  He wanted back in the UFC, but they hinted that he needed one more fight somewhere else.  He could end up back in the UFC.  He is hard hitting and talented, but I think he may head to Affliction or Strikeforce, but don’t count out the UFC just yet.

 

18.   Bao Quach

Record: 15-8-1

Key Wins:

Key Losses: Waggney Fabiano

MMABlog Ranking:

Another solid featherweight who ought to head to the WEC.  The WEC moved out their light heavyweight and middleweight divisions to focus on the lighter classes and they need Quach. 

 

19.   Frank Shamrock

Record: 29-3-2

Key Wins:  Bas Rutten, Tito Ortiz, Jeremy Horn

Key Losses:  Bas Rutten (x2), Renzo Gacie, Cung Le

MMABlog Ranking:

Shamrock is in the same boat as Tito Ortiz.  Both guys are legends and both are popular, but both seem to be past their prime.  Ironically, both have feuds with Dana White.  The UFC is unlikely for Frank.  I think he is Affliction bound.  Anywhere he goes he will be a crowd attractor. 

 

20.   Scott Smith

Record: 13-5

Key Wins: Pete Sell

Key Losses: Robbie Lawler, Ed Herman, Patrick Cote, David Terrell, James Irvin

MMABlog Ranking:

Smith looked really good against Robbie Lawler, but his record does nto show many solid wins.  He is exciting and always puts on a show.  I like Scott Smith and think he is a good sign for someone, but likely it will not be UFC.  I think Strikeforce or even DREAM would be a good sign.

 

21.   K.J. Noons

Record: 7-2

Key Wins: Nick Diaz, Yves Edwards

Key Losses: Charles Bennett

MMABlog Ranking:

The much aligned EliteXC lightweight champ.  He refused to fight Nick Diaz again for the title and was stripped of his belt just before EliteXC’s collapse.  One may wonder if he was a one hit wonder.  He beat Nick Diaz, but I do not know if he can hang with top level guys.  He could do well in the WEC lightweight division.  I hear he may want a boxing career, but if he opts for MMA, the WEC would be a good move on his behalf.

 

22.   Paul Daley

Record:  18-7-2

Key Wins:  Duane Ludwig, Jess Liaudin

Key Losses: Jake Shields

MMABlog Ranking:

Daley in the Cage Rage champion and he is coming off of a loss to Jake Shields at EliteXC’s last event.  He could opt to go back to Cage Rage, which may still hang around despite ProElite’s fall.  However, he may look to go to a big stage like the UFC.  The UFC is trying hard to market the U.K. and what better way than a solid U.K. fighter like Paul Daley.  That is a good option.  Maybe he could do TUF 9.

 

23.   Robert Drysdale

Record: 0-0 (1-0 Amatuer)

Key Wins:

Key Losses:

MMABlog Ranking:

Drysdale is a pure prospect as well.  He is widely regarded as the best jiu jitsu guy in the world.  He trains and teaches at Xtreme Couture.  Drysdale recently made his move into MMA with a win on the amateur level.  He could be a big time fighter one day.  He has a long way to go still.  In a year he could be in the UFC, which would have to be the favorite to land him when he is ready.

 

24.   Andre Galvao

Record: 1-0

Key Wins:

Key Losses:

MMABlog Ranking:

Galvao is a prospect, not a star.  He is know for superior grappling and jiu jitsu skills.  He will be a great fighter in the likes of Demian Maia.  I do not know if he is ready for the big leagues yet, but the UFC ought to keep tabs on him as should the other organizations.  Within a year I look to see him on a big stage somewhere.

Others: Gina Carano, Kimbo Slice, Murilo “”Ninja” Rua, Phil Baroni, Jon Murphy, Ryan McGivern

MMABlog’s Light Heavyweight MMA Rankings

 

Here are my 205’ers.  The UFC clearly has the deepest and best pool of 205 lb fighters.  I only see a couple of non-UFC fighters being top 25 material. 

Rank

Name

Organization

Next Fight

1

Forrest Griffin

UFC

Evans (#6), 12/27

2

Quinton Jackson

UFC

W. Silva (#4) 12/27

3

Lyoto Machida

UFC

T. Silva (#10) 1/31

4

Wanderlei Silva

UFC

Jackson (#2) 12/27

5

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

UFC

Coleman (NR), 1/17

6

Rashad Evans

UFC

Griffin (#1), 12/27

7

Dan Henderson

UFC

Franklin (#12), 1/17

8

Keith Jardine

UFC

 

9

Chuck Liddell

UFC

 

10

Thiago Silva

UFC

Machida (#3), 1/31

11

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Affliction

Moisa (NR), 11/3

12

Rich Franklin

UFC

Henderson (#7), 1/17

13

Brandon Vera

UFC

 

14

Vladimir Matyushenko

Affliction

 

15

Luiz Cane

UFC

 

16

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

UFC

 

17

Ricardo Arona

 

 

18

Renato “Babalu” Sobral

Affliction

Southworth (NR), 11/21

19

Matt Hamill

UFC

Andy (NR), 12/27

20

Tito Ortiz

 

 

21

Rafael Feijao

EliteXC?

 

22

Steve Cantwell

UFC

Al-Hussan (NR), 12/10

23

Stephan Bonnar

UFC

Jones (NR), 1/31

24

James Irvin

UFC

 

25

Brian Stann

UFC

 

Also considered: Jon Jones, Tim Boetsch, Bobby Southworth, Mark Coleman (Didn’t include him because he hasn’t fought again.  He probably is top 25 material)

Best Non-UFC Fighters

Here are the best non-UFC fighters.  This shows where the UFC is stacked and where they lack.  There competition is mainly in Affliction at heavyweight and DREAM at lightweight.  Here are the best non-UFC guys that the UFC should look to sign if possible. 

Rank

Heavyweight

Light Heavy

Middleweight

Welterweight

Lightweight

1

Fedor Emelianenko

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Paulo Filho

Jake Shields

Takanori Gomi

2

Andrei Arlovski

Ricardo Arona

Matt Lindland

Carlos Condit

Shinya Aoki

3

Josh Barnett

Rafael Feijao

Robbie Lawler

Jay Hieron

JZ Calvancante

4

Tim Sylvia

Vladimir Matyushenko

Kazuo Misaki

Nick Thompson

Eddie Alvarez

5

Ben Rothwell

Babalu Sobral

Gegard Mousasi

Mach Sakurai

Mitsuhiro Ishida

6

Mirko Cro Cop

Tito Ortiz

Vitor Belfort

Mike Pyle

Joachim Hansen

7

Roy Nelson

Steve Cantwell

 “Jacare” de Sousa

 

Tatsuya Kawajiri

8

Aleks Emelianenko

Brian Stann

Jason Miller

 

Josh Thomson

9

Antonio Silva

 

Melvin Manhoef

 

Gilbert Melendez

10

Alistair Overeem

 

Murilio Rua

 

Vitor Ribeiro

11

 

 

Cung Le

 

Jamie Varner

12

 

 

Denis Kang

 

Ryan Schultz

13

 

 

Joey Villasenor

 

KJ Noons

14

 

 

Frank Shamrock

 

Nick Diaz

15

 

 

Yoshihiro Akiyama

 

Caol Uno

16

 

 

Jorge Santiago

 

 

17

 

 

Chael Sonnen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I Could…

Okay, let me play dreamer for a minute.  If I was employed by the UFC and I could sign 3 guys from each weight class, who would I sign…?

Heavyweight:

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Josh Barnett
  • Randy Couture

Also Considered: Roy Nelson, Brett Rogers, and Ben Rothwell

Light Heavyweight:

  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  • Ricardo Arona
  • Valdimir Matyushenko

(Also Considered: Babalu and Brian Stann)

Middleweight:

  • Ronaldo “Jacare” de Souza
  • Paulo Filho
  • Robbie Lawler

Also Considered: Lindland and Jason “Mayhem” Miller

Welterweights:

  • Jay Hieron
  • Jake Shields
  • Carlos Condit

Also Considered: Hayato Sakurai and Nick Thompson

Lightweights

  • Takanori Gomi
  • Gilbert Melendez
  • Gesias Calvancante

Also Considered: Eddie Alvarez and Shinya Aoki and Urijah Faber if he would move up

Who Benefited Most From PRIDE’s Collapse?

When PRIDE fell they were clearly the biggest competitors with the UFC, having many of MMA’s top guys.  They had some big time stars. Then PRIDE got into trouble and was bought by Zuffa.  So who benefited the most from PRIDE’s deminse?  There was a mad scramble to sign those guys who were now unemployed. I have been critical of the UFC’s ability to sign top PRIDE guys like Fedor, Gomi, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Arona, Kang, Mousasi, Melendez, etc. However, it looks like the UFC has done great due to PRIDE’s fall.  I ranked the PRIDE guys at the time of their collapse in order of who I would want to sign and the UFC benefited from it.  Now, the guys they have signed haven;t had huge success, but they are popular and will win eventually.  Can you imagine the UFC heavyweight divison without the influx of Nogueira, Werdum, and Herring???  The light heavyweight divison also was greatly boosted with the signings of Shogun, Wanderlei, Dan Henderson, Nakamura, and Sokoudjou.  UFC just struggles to get the lightweights. UFC signed 13 of those guys I listed and they have faired well, this doesn’t even include other guys who came in before the fall of PRIDE like “Rampage” Jackson.  Out of those guys you have some stars now in the UFC, some guys that can draw a crowd and one of them owns the belt (Nogueira).  DREAM and Affliction seemed to clean up what UFC couldn’t sign.  DREAM picked up the ligtweights, signing 8 of those PRIDE guys.  Affliction has a few signings.  So while I am critical of the UFC, let us give Dana and the UFC brass some credit for signing many of the top PRIDE guys.  I still would like to see the best of the best in one place, but it won’t happen, so this puts things into perspective and the UFC did good and benefited the most from PRIDE’s fall.

 

Name

Fight Organization Signed With

Fedor Emelianenko

Affliction

Wanderlei Silva

UFC

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

UFC

Mirko Cro Cop

UFC (DREAM)

Takanori Gomi

World Victory Road

Dan Henderson

UFC

Josh Barnett

Affliction

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

UFC

Paulo Filho

WEC

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

HCF

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

UFC

Ricardo Arona

 

Gilbert Melendez

Strikeforce

Fabricio Werdum

UFC

Gegard Mousasi

DREAM

Denis Kang

DREAM

Aleksander Emelianenko

Affliction

Marcus Aurelio

UFC

Akihiro Gono

UFC

Kauo Misaki

DREAM

Ricardo Almeida

UFC

Heath Herring

UFC

Joachim Hansen

DREAM

Ryo Chonan

UFC

Kazuhiro Nakamura

UFC

Tatsuya Kawajiri

DREAM

Mitsuhiro Ishida

DREAM

Alistair Overeem

Strikeforce

Kevin Randleman

 

Phil Baroni

EliteXC

Hayato “Mach” Sakurai

DREAM

Murilio Bustamante

 

Murilo “Ninja” Rua

EliteXC

The Stars of the UFC

There is a recent shift in stars of the UFC.  Those stars are the great investments, the money makers. The stars are not necessarily your best fighters, but they are well liked by the fans and they draw a crowd.  The stars are the people that the UFC will market and set up to be successful.  The stars get the most money and the best fights.  The stars have a louder voice with the UFC brass.  Some of those stars have been discontent like Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Tito Ortiz.  Those guys leaving hurts the UFC.  The guys the UFC recognizes as their stars are the ones they need to cater to more.  The stars are prized in all MMA organizations.  The WEC has Filho, Faber, Condit, and Stann.  PRIDE had Fedor, Cro Cop, Barnett, Wanderlai, Dan Henderson, Gomi, Arona, Shogun and the Nogueira brothers.  EliteXC has Lawler, Kimbo, Frank Shamrock, and Carano.  Strikeforce has Gilbert Melendez and Cung Le.  The stars are not always the champs, but they may be.  In the UFC there is a shift.  The old guard is moving on.  They are still there, and still draw a crowd and are still good PPV fights, but in a few years will be gone.  The old guard consisted of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes.  There is a star level, then there is a second tier level of guys you want to hold onto at all costs, who have a following, and then there is the emerging star tier. Then you have your great fighters who perform in the octagon are respected, but may not have the charisma to be the face of the organization.  These guys can win and hold belts, but they won’t be the Chuck Liddell’s.  This system explains why the UFC gives a title shot and coaches spot to Forrest Griffin, who i no way has earned the title of number 1 contender.  He is good, but not that good.  He may eventually earn that, but this is premature.  Why did he get it?  Because he is popular.  He will sell PPVs and people will watch TUF because of him.  Personality will carry a guy a long way, just look at the Houston Alexander bandwagon. A lack of personality will hurt a guy, just ask Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, who if they had the charisma would be stars because they have the ability.  These guys can move up and down these different levels, but some guys have already been crowed as stars and can do little to harm that.  Your stars are the guys you hold on to at all costs.  Your second tier you want to keep because they are your contenders and can become stars.  Your third tier you be careful with because they can become stars if you play your cards right.  Your fourth tier are some of the best fighters, they put on good fights, they win fight night bonuses and they should be signed and kep in the organization if you can.  The effect of a star leaving the UFC is much greater than when someone else does.  The UFC is hurt by loosing their four biggest heavyweight stars Couture, Cro Cop, Arlovski and Sylvia.  The UFC is not so much hurt by loosing Jake O’Brien.  It would be nice to keep O’Brien, but if you can’t you move on.  Also, you sign MMA free agents based on this tier.  I and many others consider Fedor for example a star level guy, an instant smash hit and a great investment.  You pay him well, but he will make you money.  Dana White apparently considered him second tier, and didn’t sign him.  My opinion you give the Fedors and the Couture and the Liddells whatever they want.  My system looks like this:

UFC’s Stars:

  • Anderson Silva
  • Georges St. Pierre
  • B.J. Penn
  • Rich Franklin
  • Chuck Liddell
  • Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
  • Forrest Griffin
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Matt Hughes
  • Wanderlai Silva

Second Level: UFC’s Near Stars:

  • Brandon Vera
  • Matt Serra
  • Jon Fitch
  • Diego Sanchez
  • Dan Henderson
  • Josh Koscheck
  • Sean Sherk
  • Kenny Florian
  • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
  • Rashad Evans
  • Michael Bisping
  • Joe Stevenson
  • Gabriel Gonzaga
  • Chris Leben
  • Karo Parisyan
  • Clay Guida

Third Level: The UFC’s Emerging Stars:

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Roger Huerta
  • Mac Danzig
  • Joe Lauzon
  • Cain Velasquez

Fourth Level: UFC’s Stud Fighters, but Not Stars:

  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  • Fabricio Werdum
  • Keith Jardine
  • Frank Mir
  • Thiago Silva
  • Heath Herring
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Marcus Aurelio
  • Yushin Okami
  • Marcus Davis
  • Patrick Cote
  • Evan Tanner
  • Stephan Bonnar
  • Martin Kampmann
  • Marvin Eastman
  • Ricardo Almeida
  • Mike Swick
  • Thiago Tavares
  • Nate Quarry
  • Wilson Gouveia
  • Nate Marquardt
  • Kauhiro Nakamura
  • Jason MacDonald
  • Demian Maia
  • Thiago Alves
  • Thales Leites
  • Frank Edgar
  • Matt Hammil
  • Nate Diaz
  • Akihiro Gono
  • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
  • Gray Maynard
  • Hermes Franca
  • Cheick Kongo
  • Din Thomas
  • Spencer Fisher
  • Tyson Griffin

Note: The reality show really helped some of these fighters draw a fan base, because people saw them on TUF they root for them to suceed in their careers