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Post-UFC 129 and Shooto Tradition 2011 ranking update + Inactivity Watch: Thiago Silva and Jake Shields

I’ve been slacking off with the updates here, and now I’ve got a bunch of stuff to cover.

First things first, I forgot to even preview the UFC and Shooto cards from this past weekend. So here’s what would have been the preview, plus the actual results:

UFC 129:

  • #5 light-heavyweight Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture. Machida won via 2nd round KO with an amazing skipping front kick (folks are calling it a crane kick, to which I cannot object).
  • #1 welterweight Georges St-Pierre vs. #5 Jake Shields. St-Pierre scored his sixth title defense with a fairly lackluster unanimous decision. In fairness, St-Pierre was poked in his left and reportedly could not see out it for most of the bout.
  • #1 featherweight Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick. Aldo defended his UFC featherweight title for the first time in a pretty exciting five-round fight, which saw a battered Hominick pour it on in the last round, only for Aldo to survive and escape with a well-deserved unanimous decision.
  • #7 bantamweight Charlie Valencia vs. Ivan Menjivar. Menjivar, an absurdly well-traveled veteran at 28, won with a 1st round TKO (via nose-crushing standing elbow) in what I’m pretty sure is his second bantamweight bout ever. Interesting note: Menjivar was Georges St-Pierre’s opponent in the latter’s professional debut.

Plus, at Shooto Tradition 2011, Koetsu Okazaki won the Shooto “featherweight” (132 lb., i.e. bantamweight in this rankings) title from #10-ranked Shuichiro Katsumura via 2nd round TKO.

In addition to all this, it’s the beginning of a new month, which means it’s time to check to see if anyone has gone unranked. And indeed, two top-15 fighters have: at light-heavyweight, Thiago Silva has officially failed to compete since January 2010, now that his January 2011 bout with Brandon Vera has been ruled a no-contest due to Silva’s failing the post-fight urine test. (I could have removed him earlier, but I actually didn’t know the official athletic commission decision was already in.)

And at middleweight, a year (to the end of the month) has passed since this past weekend’s UFC welterweight title contender Jake Shields competed at middleweight. He upset Dan Henderson to defend his Strikeforce middleweight title back April 17th, 2010. Amazingly, Shields is now back at welterweight (170 lbs.), while Henderson is once again competing at light-heavyweight (205 lbs.), currently holding the #9 spot in these rankings. What a weird sport.

As a result, Alexander Gustafsson and Michael Bisping join the top 15 at light-heavyweight and middleweight, respectively.

With all that said, here are the updated rankings at light-heavyweight, middleweight, and bantamweight:

LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT (205 lbs.) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at LHW Notes
1 Jon Jones 13-1 13-1 (1 DQ) UFC light-heavyweight champion
2 Rashad Evans 15-1-1 4-1-1
3 Mauricio Rua 19-4 3-2 (one loss avenged)
4 Quinton Jackson 31-8 3-2
5 Lyoto Machida 17-2 5-2
6 Ryan Bader 12-1 6-1
7 Forrest Griffin 18-6 3-2
8 Phil Davis 9-0 9-0 Moved to #8 following a win over then-#8 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 14 on 3/26/11.
9 Dan Henderson 27-8 3-0
10 Rich Franklin 28-6 2-2
11 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira 18-4 6-1
12 Rafael Cavalcante 10-3 6-2
13 Muhammed Lawal 7-0 7-0
14 Gegard Mousasi 29-3-1 4-1
15 Alexander Gustafsson 11-1 9-1

MIDDLEWEIGHT (183-185 lbs.) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at MW Notes
1 Anderson Silva 28-4 5-0 UFC middleweight champion (8 defenses)
2 Chael Sonnen 25-11-1 4-2
3 Yushin Okami 26-5 4-1
4 Nate Marquardt 31-10-2 5-3
5 Demian Maia 13-2 6-2
15 Michael Bisping 21-3 6-2
7 Alessio Sakara 15-7 4-1
8 Jorge Santiago 23-8 7-1 (loss avenged) Sengoku middleweight champion (2 defenses)
9 Ronaldo Souza 13-2 6-1
10 Paulo Filho 19-2-1 4-1-1
11 Wanderlei Silva 33-10-1 1-0
12 Brian Stann 10-3 2-0
13 Nick Ring 11-0 4-0 Moved to #13 following a win (via widely criticized judge’s decision) over then-#13 Riki Fukuda at UFC 127 on 2/26/11.
14 Mamed Khalidov 21-4-2 3-1-1
15 Michael Bisping 21-3 7-2

BANTAMWEIGHT (132-139 lbs.) TOP 10

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at BW Notes
1 Dominick Cruz 17-1 8-0 WEC bantamweight champion (2 defenses) / UFC bantamweight champion
2 Brian Bowles 8-1 3-1
3 Joseph Benavidez 14-2 8-2
4 Miguel Torres 39-3 5-2
5 Hiroyuki Takaya 15-8-1 6-1 (loss avenged) DREAM featherweight (63kg/139 lb.) champion
6 Demetrious Johnson 8-1 7-1
7 Ivan Menjivar 22-8 1-1  Moved to #7 following a win over then-#7 Charlie Valencia at UFC 129 on 4/30/11.
8 Koetsu Okazaki 8-1-1 3-0 Shooto 132 lb. champion; moved to #8 following a win over then-#10 Shuichiro Katsumura at Shooto Tradition 2011 on 5/1/11.
9 Charlie Valencia 12-7 3-3
10 Masakatsu Ueda 11-1-2 4-1-1

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Strikeforce: Daley vs. Diaz ranking preview

Tomorrow night’s Strikeforce show features four bouts of ranking interest, all on the main card. Here’s what they are:

Light-heavyweight: #15 Gegard Mousasi vs. Keith Jardine. Jardine is a late replacement for Mike Kyle, and comes in riding a two-fight win streak on the independent circuit against relatively low-level, inexperienced competition. Jardine was once ranked in the top 15 around these parts, thanks mainly to his signature win over Chuck Liddell in May of 2008, but he’s since gone 3-6, with performances that prompted major concern over his defensive liabilities and susceptibility to punches. Which is all to say that Mousasi needs to take this if he wants to retain any of the hype that left him when he lost his Strikeforce light-heavyweight title to Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal a year ago, and that Jardine should probably retire even if he wins.

Welterweight: #14 Paul Daley vs. Nick Diaz. Diaz is already on a lot of top-10 lists–Sherdog has him at #8, MMA Weekly at #6, and he’s #7 on the Bloody Elbow consensus rankings–but in my view, he doesn’t belong there. He hasn’t fought a welterweight who belonged in the top 10 since maybe Sean Sherk in 2006. Hell, you might have to reach back to Karo Parisyan in 2004. He’s looked good in recent years beating up over-matched competition, some solid but unranked opponents, and the odd aging legend–and he is, without a doubt, an extremely talented and entertaining competitor–but he’s gone without a genuine high-ranking victory for a long time. And now, finally, he’s got another shot at one, in the form of Paul Daley, an excellent striker with a deficient ground game. Diaz has had great success with his unconventional boxing game in recent years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he relies on it here. But the surest path to victory is on the ground. The question, as always, is whether Diaz can get him there. There’s also the significant matter of whether or not he’ll try.

Lightweight

  • #2 Gilbert Melendez vs. #8 Tatsuya Kawajiri. Melendez, the Strikeforce lightweight champion, returns to action after just under a year. His last fight was a five-round drubbing of top Japanese lightweight Shinya Aoki, and now he faces another recent Aoki adversary in Kawajiri. It’s long been said that Kawajiri was the Japanese lightweight who most resembled an American-style fighter, given his emphasis on boxing, wrestling, and weight-cutting. Moreover, these two met once before, in an extremely close PRIDE fight in 2006 (Melendez took the decision). Kawajiri is now 32, and has been fighting for 11 years; this may be his last chance to make ascend to the uppermost rungs of lightweight MMA. In his last fight, he took a commanding decision over Josh Thomson, who is himself 1-1 with Melendez and endured a five-round war with him in their last fight. This is one strikes me as too close to call.
  • #4 Shinya Aoki vs. Lyle Beerbohm. This is a rebuilding fight for both men. Aoki recently suffered a supremely embarrassing loss in a mixed K-1/MMA rules bout on new year’s eve against kicboxer Yuichiro Nagashima (which some are absurdly counting as an official MMA loss since it occurred in the second, MMA-rules round, but never mind), and Beerbohm lost a decision to journeyman Pat Healy in Feburary, losing his undefeated status. Aoki has much more to lose: status as a top lightweight is on the line here, whereas Beerbohm need only put in a sterling performance to regain some luster (in my mind, anyway). Both men are grapplers, with Aoki having the edge in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Beerbohm in wrestling. Beerbohm holds an additional advantage in stateside cage fighting experience. And most importantly, both men are known for wearing colorful pants. I think Beerbohm will follow the Gilbert Melendez  gameplan and score the upset.

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Post-UFC Ultimate Fight Night 14 ranking update

I almost forgot to do this one. Not sure how that could be, given that all three fights previewed here resulted in shifts in the rankings, but here I am, three days after the event, just catching up. Anyway, I was wrong about two things, one I said, and one I only implied: first, Mike Russow beat Jon Madsen, contrary to be totally uninformed pre-fight speculation; second, Anthony Johnson really was bluffing when he claimed not to be interested in taking Dan Hardy down, which just goes to show that Johnson is smarter than most of us thought. I was right about Phil Davis beating Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, though if I could choose one fight to have been wrong about, that would have been it.

Anyway, on to the rankings:

HEAVYWEIGHT (265 lbs. limit) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at HW Notes
1 Cain Velasquez 8-0 9-0 UFC heavyweight champion
2 Brock Lesnar 5-2 4-1
3 Fabricio Werdum 14-4-1 4-1
4 Antonio Silva 15-2 7-1
5 Shane Carwin 12-1 5-1
6 Fedor Emelianenko 31-3 3-2
7 Frank Mir 14-5 3-2
8 Alistair Overeem 34-11 8-0 Strikeforce heavyweight champion (1 defense).
9 Junior Dos Santos 12-1 7-0
10 Brett Rogers 11-2 5-2
11 Brendan Schaub 8-1 8-1
12 Cheick Kongo 15-6-2 4-3-1
13 Ben Rothwell 31-7 9-2
14 Mike Russow 13-1 5-0 Moved to #14 following a win over then-#14 Jon Madsen at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 14 on 3/26/11.
15 Josh Barnett 29-5 6-0

LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT (205 lbs.) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at LHW Notes
1 Jon Jones 13-1 13-1 (1 DQ) UFC light-heavyweight champion
2 Rashad Evans 15-1-1 4-1-1
3 Mauricio Rua 19-4 3-2 (one loss avenged)
4 Quinton Jackson 31-8 3-2
5 Lyoto Machida 16-1 4-1
6 Ryan Bader 12-1 6-1
7 Forrest Griffin 18-6 3-2
8 Phil Davis 9-0 9-0 Moved to #8 following a win over then-#8 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 14 on 3/26/11.
9 Dan Henderson 27-8 3-0
10 Thiago Silva 15-2 3-2
11 Rich Franklin 28-6 2-2
12 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira 18-4 6-1
13 Rafael Cavalcante 10-3 6-2
14 Muhammed Lawal 7-0 7-0
15 Gegard Mousasi 29-3-1 4-1

WELTERWEIGHT (168-170 lbs.) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at WW Notes
1 Georges St-Pierre 21-2 6-0 UFC welterweight champion (5 defenses)
2 Jon Fitch 23-3-1 6-1-1
3 B.J. Penn 16-7-2 1-1-1
4 Thiago Alves 17-7 4-2
5 Jake Shields 26-4-1 4-0
6 Martin Kampmann 17-3 4-1
7 Josh Koscheck 15-5 6-3
8 Carlos Condit 26-5 5-1
9 Diego Sanchez 22-4 3-1
10 Matt Hughes 45-7 3-1
11 Paulo Thiago 13-3 7-3
12 Anthony Johnson 9-3 5-2 (one loss avenged) Moved to #12 following a win over then-#12 Dan Hardy at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 14 on 3/26/11.
13 Brian Ebersole 47-14-1 2-0
14 Paul Daley 27-9-2 9-3
15 Mike Pierce 12-3 9-2

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UFC Fight Night 24 ranking preview

This Saturday’s UFN 24 features three bouts of ranking interest:

Heavyweight: #14 Jon Madsen vs. Mike Russow. Russow finally gets back in the ring 10 months after his knockout-of-the-millennium over Todd Duffee. Madsen, an Ultimate Fighter tv show alum, rose to the top 15 with a win over Gilbert Yvel this past October; ironically, Yvel was a late replacement for none other than Todd Duffee. What’s more,  both these guys train with Brock Lesnar’s DeathClutch team. And they’re both white!  Incredible. Anyway, I bet Madsen wins.

Light-heavyweight: #8 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Phil Davis. Rogerio was originally slated to draw the perpetually running-on-fumes Tito Ortiz, but when Ortiz backed out, rising prospect and four-time NCAA Division 1 wrestling all-american Phil Davis stepped in. Just like that, Nogueira went from favorite to underdog. That might seem a little goofy for a top 10 fighter with ten years of experience under his belt, but Rogerio has struggled with wrestlers lately (even relatively unheralded wrestlers like Jason Brilz), and Davis combines a high-level wrestling background with a propensity for MMA that many are likening to that of recently crowned light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. (Jones’s pro debut was only about five months before Davis’s.) Nogueira comes in with on-paper advantages in striking and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and should by no means be counted out. But this is looking like a coming out party for the undefeated Phil Davis.

Welterweight: #12 Dan Hardy vs. Anthony Johnson. I remember a time, not too long ago, when Anthony Johnson was spoken of alongside Phil Davis and Jon Jones as a can’t-miss future champion. These days he’s known mainly for trying to cut truly incredible amounts of weight to make 170 lbs., and failing twice in his tenure in the UFC, including in his bout against Josh Kosheck back in November 2009. That was his last UFC fight; now, after a long layoff, he draws former title challenger Dan Hardy, who’s lost his last two. Both men are confirmed strikers, and while Johnson has a wrestling background, he’s pledged not to make use of it here. Yes, Johnson has promised not to make use of the most obvious and efficient path to victory in this fight. That bodes well for Hardy, who probably has the better technique of the two. Johnson hits a lot harder, though. This one is a toss-up for me. Anyway, the real drama will be at the weigh-in.

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Post-UFC 128 ranking update

At heavyweight, Brendan Schaub’s third-round TKO of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic sends Cro Cop out of the top 15, vaulting Schaub to #11 (over a fading Cheick Kongo) and brings former top-10 stalwart Josh Barnett in at #15.

At light-heavyweight, new UFC champion Jon Jones vaults from #5 to #1, dropping former champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to #3, below new #1 contender Rashad Evans (though, I must admit, I think their P3Y records are just about even–I have Evans the edge for more and more recent wins over top-10 fighters).

At featherweight, Erik Koch’s first-round KO of former #7 Raphael Assuncao sends Assuncao out of the top 10, bringing in Chad Mendes.

HEAVYWEIGHT (265 lbs. limit) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at HW Notes
1 Cain Velasquez 8-0 9-0 UFC heavyweight champion
2 Brock Lesnar 5-2 4-1
3 Fabricio Werdum 14-4-1 4-1
4 Antonio Silva 15-2 7-1
5 Shane Carwin 12-1 5-1
6 Fedor Emelianenko 31-3 3-2
7 Frank Mir 14-5 3-2
8 Alistair Overeem 34-11 8-0 Strikeforce heavyweight champion (1 defense).
9 Brett Rogers 11-2 5-2
10 Junior Dos Santos 12-1 7-0
11 Brendan Schaub 8-1 8-1 Moved to #11 following a win over then-#12 Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at UFC 128 on 3/19/11.
12 Cheick Kongo 15-6-2 4-3-1
13 Ben Rothwell 31-7 9-2
14 Jon Madsen 7-0 7-0
15 Josh Barnett 29-5 6-0

LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT (205 lbs.) TOP 15

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at LHW Notes
1 Jon Jones 13-1 13-1 (1 DQ) UFC light-heavyweight champion
2 Rashad Evans 15-1-1 4-1-1
3 Mauricio Rua 19-4 3-2 (one loss avenged)
4 Quinton Jackson 31-8 3-2
5 Lyoto Machida 16-1 4-1
6 Ryan Bader 12-1 6-1
7 Forrest Griffin 18-6 3-2
8 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira 18-4 6-1
9 Dan Henderson 27-8 3-0
10 Thiago Silva 15-2 3-2
11 Rich Franklin 28-6 2-2
12 Rafael Cavalcante 10-3 6-2
13 Muhammed Lawal 7-0 7-0
14 Gegard Mousasi 29-3-1 4-1
15 Alexander Gustafsson 11-1 9-1

FEATHERWEIGHT (143-145 lbs.) TOP 10

# Name Pro MMA Record P3Y Record at FW Notes
1 Jose Aldo 18-1 9-0 WEC featherweight champion (2 defenses)
2 Manvel Gamburyan 11-5 3-1
3 Diego Nunes 16-1 6-1
4 Rani Yahya 16-6 1-0
5 Urijah Faber 24-4 4-3
6 Dustin Poirier 9-1 1-0
7 Mike Thomas Brown 24-8 6-4
8 Josh Grispi 14-2 5-1
9 L.C. Davis 16-3 7-3
10 Chad Mendes 10-0 10-0

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UFC 128 ranking preview

This Saturday’s UFC 128 features five bouts of ranking interest:

Heavyweight: #12 Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. #15 Brendan Schaub. Cro Cop has probably been responsible for breaking more fanboy hearts in recent years than any other fighter, as he’s turned in one disappointing performance after another in the UFC. He’s won just enough fights against low-level opponents to hang onto his ranking, but I suspect Schaub, an athletically gifted prospect, represents the end of the line for Cro Cop as a top-ranked fighter. Like so many other fanboys, I hope I’m wrong.

Light-heavyweight: #1 Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. #5 Jon Jones. This fight is hotly anticipated, and with good reason. Jones, the fast-rising young star (his career is still less than three years old), has advantages in size, strength, youth, reach, and most crucially, wrestling; Shogun, the defending champion, has the edge in striking technique and power, as well as a more seasoned Brazilian jiu-jitsu game. The X factor is Rua’s level of recovery from recent knee surgery. The last time he came back from knee surgery, he lost his UFC debut in an upset to Forrest Griffin, and then barely stopped an over-the-hill Mark Coleman in his next bout. That doesn’t bode well. Nor, for that matter, does his lack of takedown defense. It’s hard to see how Rua is going to be able to stop Jones from taking him down at will. But then again, Rua solved the Lyoto Machida puzzle when it looked like Machida was primed for a long run at the top. We shall see.

Middleweight: #4 Nate Marquardt vs. Dan Miller. Miller comes in as a late replacement for Yoshihiro Akiyama, which doesn’t bode well for him against an opponent he’d be favored to lose to regardless. Miller lost to Demian Maia in a bout that wound up being contested mostly on the feet; Marquardt is a better and more powerful striker than Maia (see the fight between those two for evidence), so Miller will most likely resort to his wrestling game here. Both Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami showed that Marquardt can be neutralized on his back, but I’m not sure if Miller has the wrestling game to pull it off.

Featherweight: #7 Raphael Assuncao vs. Erik Koch. Two successful WEC veterans square off. I wish this were on the aired prelims.

Bantamweight: #3 Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian Loveland. One of the standout WEC bantamweights makes his UFC debut. Loveland never made it to WEC, but did debut in the UFC at 145 lbs. this past December. He makes his 135 lb. debut here. I REALLY wish this were on the aired prelims.

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