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

 

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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)

Future UFC Hall of Famers

So, which UFC fighters are future hall of famers?  Currently, there are 5 hall of famers which include: Randy Couture, Dan Severn, Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie, and Ken Shamrock.  So as you pan through current UFC fighters which guys are hall of fame calibur.  Let me tell you…

1. Chuck Liddell – Despite his recent struggles in the octagon, Liddell is the face of the UFC.  Not only that he has faired well in his career.  He was a very feared fighter and a dominant champion.  He boasts some big wins over the likes of Tito Ortiz, Babalu, Wanderlei Silva, and Randy Couture.  This is a no-brainer.  This is what baseball fans would call a first ballot hall of famer.

2. Matt Hughes-  Hughes is called the most dominant welterweight champion of all time.  He was dominant, and he may not be totally done yet.  He has coaches TUF two times.  He has been a force in the divison for years and held the belt it seems like forever.  Another first ballot guy. 

3. Tito Ortiz –  Let me begin by saying I despise Tito Ortiz.  I do not like him Sam I am.  However, no one can deny his dominance for a time.  I think he is done now, but he defended his belt a record number of times.  I don’t know if he will ever make it to the UFC Hall of Fame, but he should based on his in the octagon performance and popularity.  He lifted the sport when it was struggling.  He should be in, but like Pete Rose there are all sorts of other factors.

4. Rich Franklin –  The second best middleweight in the world.  People forget how good he is because of his losses to Anderson Silva.  He has been dominant otherwise.  He has a phenomenal record, he has been champ, he is incredibly popular, and he keeps getting better.  I love Rich Franklin and think he is surely hall of fame worthy no doubt.

5. B.J. Penn –  B.J. is really a prodigy.  He has been welterweight and lightweight champion.  He may be both at the same time come January.  He has cleaned out the lightweights and has fought the best welterweights.  He is one of the most popular fighters in the world and he is growing in talent and popularity.  He may not be a hall of famer today, but one more big win and he is a lock. 

6.  Anderson Silva – He may be the most dominant fighter ever.  He is the pound for pound best in the world.  He has changed the sport.  He is all around talented.  He can beat anyone and the scray thing is I don’t know if he will ever lose.  He is in.

7.  Georges St. Pierre–  He is not in yet, but he will be.  He has some work to do.  He has to keep the belt for a while to be hall of fame in my book.  He has hall of fame talent though.  He has the popualrity.   I have no doubts that by the time all is said and done St. Pierre will be a UFC Hall of famer.

8. Forrest Griffin – Overrated? I think so.  Popular? Undeniable.  Hard working? No one works harder.  The reason I would give Forrest the nod is what he did in the Ultimate Fighter.  He is one of the most popular UFC fighters, but mainly because he is considered the savior of the UFC.  Dana White has said that the Griffin-Bonnar fight saved the UFC.  Now he is a champ and is getting quite the resume with wins over Shogun and Rampage.  He is still growing too as a fighter.  He will be a hall of famer.

9. Evan Tanner– With his recent death I began to think about his hall of fame potential.  His popularity was huge.  However, Tanner had a lot of baggage outside the octagon which may have caused him to not reach his full potential in the octagon.  I think he could be a hall of famer.  In his prime he was beating a lot of guys.  He is a former champ, which is a must.  He very well could be a hall of famer if people can look past his struggles.

10. Tim Sylvia – I know, I know another guy I don’t like.  Tim is very polarizing.  He doesn’t have the popularity for some reason, but he was good in the UFC.  He beat tons of guys.  He held the title a couple times.  He could be, but may not be because he is not in the best standing in the UFC now that he left for Affliction. 

Other Candidates: Andrei Arlovski, Quinton Jackson, Frank Mir

Note: Many of the current UFC guys who were stars in PRIDE were left out such as Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, Shogun Rua, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Who did I leave out?  Weigh in below in the comments section.

Evaluating Affliction

One of the questions that I keep thinking about is whether or not Affliction in here to stay and whether or not they will compete with the UFC.  No one disagrees that UFC is the standard of MMA right now, but Affliction is making up ground quickly.  It has been a tell tale sign of a slight change that Affliction has signed so many guys lately including many of the stars from the now defunt IFL, which was bought by the parent company of the UFC, Zuffa.  Affliction has signed Champs Roy Nelson and Vladimir Matyushenko.  They have signed lightweight star Chris Horodecki and are rumored to have welterweight champ Jay Hieron.  Affliction is cleaning up the free agents and doing better in that regard than even the UFC as of late.  So, what is there to judge a promotion…

1. Fighter Talent – Fight promotions are fight promotions.  There are other factors that come into play, but primarily if a promotion does not have top level talent they will not stay relevant.

2. Show Quality –  While good fighters is essential, the promotion must put on a good show.  They must entertain fans.  This includes exciting fights, good commentators and a solid show production.  Promotions have to build shows people will come to or buy.

3.  Solid Managment –  Managment is important to a fight promotion, not just anyone can do it.  A promotion may suceed or fail based ont he business savvy of the fight promoter or president.  The PR, fighter pay, contracts, TV deals, etc. all come into play here.

With that said, let’s see how Affliction is doing…

1. Fighter Talent…

There is a lot of hype around Affliction’s fighter talent.  Here is who I can think of off hand that they have and will use on their cards

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Andrei Arlovski
  • Josh Barnett
  • Tim Sylvia
  • Ben Rothwell
  • Roy Nelson
  • Pedro Rizzo
  • Paul Buentello
  • Aleksander Emelianenko
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Vladimir Matyushenko
  • Renato “Babalu” Sobral
  • Mike Whitehead
  • Edwin DeWees
  • Vernon White
  • Vitor Belfort
  • Matt Lindland
  • Jay Hieron
  • Mike Pyle
  • J.J. Ambrose
  • Chris Horodecki

I went to HDNet’s Rankings to see how many Affliction Fighters were ranked in the top 100 pound for pound or top in their divisons  here is the results.

(Pound for Pound Rank, Divison Rank)

  • Fedor Emelianenko (2, 1)
  • Andrei Arlovski (25, 4)
  • Josh Barnett (27, 5)
  • Tim Sylvia (55, 7)
  • Ben Rothwell (81, 12)
  • Roy Nelson (84, 13)
  • Pedro Rizzo (NR, 19)
  • Paul Buentello (NR, NR)
  • Aleksander Emelianenko (76, 10)
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (85, 13)
  • Tito Ortiz (87, 15)
  • Vladimir Matyushenko (66, 12)
  • Renato “Babalu” Sobral (92, 16)
  • Mike Whitehead (NR, NR)
  • Edwin DeWees (NR, NR)
  • Vernon White (NR, NR)
  • Vitor Belfort (NR, NR) – Unfairly I’d admit
  • Matt Lindland (22, 5)
  • Jay Hieron (59, 11)
  • Mike Pyle (NR, NR)
  • J.J. Ambrose (NR, NR)
  • Chris Horodecki (NR, NR)
  • Put this into perspective, out of the top 100 the promotions faires like this in pound for pound top 100 fighters…

    • UFC -39
    • Affliction – 13
    • DREAM -12
    • WEC – 10
    • EliteXC – 10
    • Strikeforce – 5
    • World Victory Road – 3

    The point is that Affliction’s talent is overrated. 

    • They are right about the level of DREAM talent wise
    • They are no where near the talent level of the UFC
    • 10 of the Affliction guys that appeared on the rankings list have fought in the UFC before.  Some have been sucessful.  There are several former UFC champs (Sylvia, Barnett, Rizzo, Ortiz and Arlovski), however most of them did no better than fair in the UFC (see Matyushenko, Hieron, et. al)
    • Most of the top Affliction guys are in the second half of their careers and are past their prime.  They still have fight left in them, don’t get me wrong, but not for the long haul
    • What happens if two or three of those gusy get injured?  Affliction is hanging their hat on Fedor, Barnett, Arlovski and Ortiz.  They cannot keep putting everyone on every card, they will run out of match-ups.
    • To their credit, they can put on good fights.  The talent isn’t bad.  Their guys can fight exciting fighter, but they have exciting fights at tough man competitions. They need to sign younger talent and more talent.

    Show Quality…

    • I cannot judge them solely on their sole show.  Affliction needs to improve their show quality as far as commentating, interviews and production is concerned
    • Also, I thought with the exception of the last 3 fights the card wasn’t what it was billed to be
    • They are nowhere near the UFC level as far as enjoyability to watch

    Solid Managment:

    • The UFC with Dana White and the Fertitas is still the managment standard.  I have problems with the UFC and Dana White’s managing style.  I don’t like his constant expletives, I don’t like the way he trashes other promotions, I don’t like the stubborness he exhibits with signing guys like Lindland and Barnett, and even Fedor.  However, Dana is crafty.  Atencio is no Dana White.  Watch his video below where he can’t remember Josh Barnett’s name and he is the main event for the second show. 
    • Affliction does have the deep pocketed Donald Trump behind them which helps.  Trump is a business guiness, but he doesn’t neccessarily know MMA.  The money helps thought he same way it helped having Lorezon and Frank in the UFC early days when they lost tons of money.

    Here is the point folks…Affliction is a solid upstart company.  They may be around for a while, but before we jump ont he bandwagon and label them peers to the UFC and competitors to the UFC let them get through a few shows first.  Let’s see how much money they lose after 3 events.  Let’s see how many fights they can do after 3 card.  They could compete, but as for now it is the UFC and then everyone else.  Zuffa is sitting pretty in the MMA world.  They are the big leagues, everything else is just the minors.  Affliction, EliteXC and DREAM are in the same boat and in a year from now at least one of them will be non-existent.

    MMA News: Tito Ortiz Signs With Affliction

    It has been assumed that light heavyweight fighter and former UFC champ Tito Ortiz would sign a contract with Affliction.  The assumption now seems to be a reality and will be formally announced at a Affliction press conference Wednesday. Sports Illustrated and many other venues are reporting this news recently.  Tito Ortiz said that not only was he signed to a contract, but that it was record breaking and the largest contract ever fore a MMA fighter, here are Ortiz’s comments…

    I guarantee you that my contract will be like no other. It will be a ground-breaking record contract for sure, without a doubt. There’s so much money to be made right now in mixed martial arts and it’s all about the fighters trying to make that money. It’s going to be a long-term deal where I put my heart and soul into the company and help build them. That’s something I’m interested in doing. They’re going to bring me on, not just as a fighter but also doing some of the back work also.

    Okay, so Tito gets a record breaking contract.  Here is my problem with that.  He gets a record breaking contract, which should be worth millions, but he is nowhere near the best fighter in MMA, Affliction, or even Affliction’s light heavyweight divison.  I can’t blame Tito for this contract.  The man is a savvy business man that is buddy buddy with the deep pocked Donald Trump who is a part of Affliction.  Blaming Tito for the contract is like blaming a NFL player for getting the highly overpain contract.  I don’t think Tito is worth the largest contract, but that is Affliction’s problem.  If Tim Sylvia landed $800,000 for one fight which he lost, imagine what Tito will be making with Affliction.  Despite the fact that I think Ortiz is cocky and overrated as a fighter he is a crowd favorite and should draw in fans.  Here is what Tito said about his drawing power…

    Mr. Trump works fast and gets busy in a lot of the things he does and he’s going to give me the best deal possible.  I know they want to make some money and I know they got over 100,000 pay-per-view buys on their first show and with me it’s guaranteed to be over 500,000 pay-per-view buys just by the number of fans that are going to follow me no matter where I go so they’re going to get there money’s worth just in pay-per-view no matter what

    I doubt Tito can boost pay per view sales to 500,000.  An Affliction card headlines by Arlovski vs. Barnett and a co-main event of Ortiz vs. Sobral is not going to get 500,000 buys.  Sorry Tito.  I believe that Affliction is gaining credibility.  They are showing they will pay their fighters.  This willbe drawing power for other fighters.  I have to believe that peple are going to want to sign with Affliction.  This is evident from Affliction not the UFC signing most of the IFL fighters that were any good (i.e. Nelson and Matyushenko).  The problem will be the finances of Affliction.  Can they keep paying the way they are and make a profit?  Time will tell.  If they stay afloat for more than 3 cards they can seriously compete with the UFC.  It seems that Ortiz will debut on Affliction’s second card on October 11, names “Day of Reckoning”.  It appears that the rumors are true that he will face Renato “Babalu” Sobral at the event.

    Babalu has been in my crosshairs.  He’s already been talking smack, saying if he sees me he’s going to kick my a**, but right on if he keeps thinking that. He’ll get his face caved in sooner or later. I know Frank Shamrock is another person who’s been opening up his mouth. He beat me the last time we fought and I think that would be a great revenge fight where I kick his ass and finally shut him up. As time goes we’ll see who Affliction signs besides me. I don’t know. I might even go up to heavyweight if the bigger pay days are there.”

    Tito is a solid addition to the light heavyweight divison, but he is 2nd or 3rd in ranking in my opinion, behind Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and maybe Vladimir Matyushenko.  Ortiz mentioend a possible move up to heavyweight.  Ortiz wants the money.  He is past his prime and he just made a killing from Affliction.  I hope it pays off for them.  He will have a tough fight against Babalu in October.

    MMA News: Fedor vs. Arlovski on October 11

    It looks like Affliction’s next card will be held on October 11th in Las Vegas.  Affliction reps said that the winners of the “Banned” card would be used at their next event.  Some of the match ups seem to be coming to fruition.  It looks like a fight between heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Fedor Emelianenko is likely.  Fedor is widely considered the best heavyweight in the world and the best pound for pound fighter in the world.  He held the PRIDE heavyweight title and is coming off of a dominant win over heavyweight great Tim Sylvia in just 36 seconds.  Andrei Arlovski, the Belarussian is also coming off of a win against Ben Rothwell at Affliction: Banned.  Arlovski is a former UFC champion and a consensus top 5 heavyweight.  This willbe an even bigger test for Fedor.  I like the fight between the Russian and Belarussian, however I think the Fedor fight should have gone to Josh Barnett first. 

        Also, it seem that on that card a bout between Matt Lindland and Vitor Belfort is coming.  Babalu wants to fight Tito Ortiz, and that would be a good fight, but I hope Antonio Rogerio Nogueira gets his pick first at who he wants.  He is Affliction’s best light heavyweight, not Babalu, and not even Tito if he signs.

    Donald Trump and Affliction

    It has been learned that multi millionaire Donald Trump has some involvment with the upstart MMA promotion Affliction.  Affliction will host a huge show on July 19th featuring many great fighters.  MMARated reports:

    at tomorrow’s Affliction press conference in Manhattan, Donald Trump will be announcing that former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, has officially signed with the upstart promotion. The Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization and the Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump, Michael D. Cohen, confirmed the news with MMARated.com.

    It has long been rumored that Arlovski would be facing Ben Rothwell on the inaugural Affliction card but Mr. Cohen would not officially comment on when “The Pit Bull” would be making his debut. We should, however, find out more tomorrow.

    Trump will also announce that he has become an equity partner in the Affliction promotion. When asked what percentage of the organization he now owns, Mr. Cohen would only say “a significant amount.”

    Finally, when asked if Trump’s relationship with Tito Ortiz would help bring the former UFC light heavyweight champion to Affliction, Cohen said:

    “Everything that Donald Trump does is the biggest and the best and the “Afflcition: Banned” show will be just that.

    Due to the status of the Trump mark, and Donald Trump as a mogul business man, Mr. Trump has received dozens of phone calls from fighters who are interested in joining the Affliction family.”

    Obviously, the point is that Donald Trump has deep pockets.  That will obviously help Affliction.  Many fighting promotions get off to a bad start, but not Affliction.  It seems that financially Trump will be willing to invest in them.  Also, is addition to the money Trump has the know how to run a busisness and run it well.  He will be a bonus for Affliction.  The upstart promotion is also expected to officially announce what I reported several days ago, that Andrei Arlovski was signed to a deal and would take on Ben Rothwell.  Affliction has many good fighters and a good card set up.  Their divisons look like this:

    Heavyweight:

    1. Fedor Emelianenko

    2. Tim Sylvia

    3. Josh Barnett

    4. Andrei Arlovski

    5. Ben Rothwell

    6. Aleksander Emelianenko

    7. Pedro Rizzo

    8. Paul Buentello

    Light HeavyWeight

    1. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

    2. Renato “Babalu” Sobral

    3. (Possibly Tito Ortiz)

    4. Mike Whitehead

    5. Vernon White

    Obviously, following that they do not have much competiton in the other weight classes.  Also, we may wonder how many possible match-ups can they have with 8 Heavyweights.  They do have some solid big guys, they have 6 top ten type fighters in the world.  I expect that they sign more fighters as time goes on.  The age and mileage on the guys they have is a worry for me, but the July 19th fights ought to be good and we ought to see not only good Affliction match-ups, but also good inter-promotional match-ups.  Affliction could make the Couture vs. Fedor fight happen.  Affliction could utilize other guys as well from organizations willing to work with others like EliteXC, Strikeforce, DREAM, and IFL.  With the Donald on their side Affliction instantly became a competitor with the UFC in the likeness of PRIDE.  They will attract fighters on the promise of better pay and better treatment as well as flexibility to work with other promotions.  I don’t look for Affliction to flop quickly.