Tuesday, June 18, 2013

WSOF 3 and June 2013 UFC Rankings

By Brad Oremland

Five Quick Hits

* Carson Beebe vs. Joe Murphy was probably the best match at World Series of Fighting 3, a compelling grappling contest between wrestling (Beebe) and jiu-jitsu (Murphy). But in awarding the bout to Beebe, the judges made the wrong decision.

* Josh Burkman choked out Jon Fitch in the first minute of Fitch's WSOF debut, but the real concern for Fitch is that it seems like he's developed a glass jaw. Fitch went five years without losing (16-0), dropped a decision to Georges St-Pierre, and then went 5-0-1 for another three years. He's 1-3 since, twice losing by stoppage.

* Referee Steve Mazzagatti couldn't tell Fitch had passed out, so Burkman flipped him over and walked away — a pretty cool walk-off to follow a big win. Dana White criticized Mazzagatti for not stopping the fight earlier, but it was really just a couple of seconds. That said, WSOF highlighted the biggest problems in MMA: substandard judging and reffing.

* Stupidest event name in the history of combat sports: UFC on FOX Sports 1 1. You can't end the name with two distinct numbers in a row. That's even more ridiculous than pretentious old event names like UFC: Vindication. Let's just call all UFC events by number (162, 163, etc.) instead of dividing them by which US television station airs the matches.

* I don't know whether Bellator's new reality series on Spike (Fight Master) will be any good, but the first episode, with fighters choosing coaches, looks really interesting.

UFC 161: Henderson vs. Evans

On Saturday night, Roy Nelson fought like you would expect if you knew nothing about him. He looked like an aging fat man whose "strategy" consisted of throwing haymakers and looking for a knockout. Big Country came into this sport with a grappling pedigree, but he's also shown incredible knockout power, and that's how he's won in the UFC: he's 6-0 when he gets a knockout, five of those in the first round. In his other matches, he's 0-4. There has to be a Plan B.

With Nelson's standup power and prowess on the ground, he should be able to compete with anyone in the light heavyweight division. But his striking is too one-dimensional, his takedowns are terrible, and he's too fat. Nelson's weight has gone up and down, but last weekend he was back up to 260. Roy knows how to use his size, but his cardio is not where it should be, and if he dropped to the same weight as, say, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez (240), I think he'd be more effective. I'd really like to see Nelson less enamored of his power and rededicate himself to grappling. Mixed martial artists are most effective when their martial arts are mixed — not just a big right hand.

In the main event, Rashad Evans won a close decision over Dan Henderson. The win puts Evans back in the title conversation, and a fight with Glover Texeira would probably make sense, but the more interesting question is what's next for Hendo. Last year, he pulled out of a title fight due to a training injury, and since then he's lost two in a row. Both losses were split decisions against top-10 opponents, so it's not like Henderson is suddenly over the hill and needs to retire. But he's 42 and he's probably at least three wins away from another shot at the belt.

I've compared Hendo to Randy Couture before: good wrestlers, small for their weight class, elite into their 40s. I believe the smaller size makes up for quickness lost with age, and the strong wrestling base compensates for lesser strength against larger opponents. Hendo's been effective at LHW, and has shown no interest in cutting down to middleweight, but that's a potential path for him. He's not going to be successful against the top light heavyweights unless he can land an H-Bomb, and that won't happen against Jon Jones or Alexander Gustaffson (because of their reach), or Lyoto Machida (due to his speed). It's hard to imagine Henderson earning a title shot without getting by at least one of those three, especially because his age decline could set in at any time.

After last night's loss, Henderson (like Tito Ortiz before him) complained about Machida's style, invariably described as "elusive." Fights are fundamentally about attacking your opponent without making yourself vulnerable, and Machida is a master. If you expect the other guy to just stand in front of you and let you hit him, maybe you're in the wrong sport. And if you're still so pissed off about your last loss that your post-fight interview is mostly about that, maybe you didn't concentrate enough on the opponent who just beat you. Henderson is still too good for anyone to say he needs to retire, but he needs to get his head right before his next opponent, whoever it is.

June 2013 UFC Rankings

The rankings below are exclusively for the UFC, so you won't see names like Eddie Alvarez or Alexander Shlemenko on these lists. These rankings do not count as part of the UFC's official rankings.

Heavyweight (206-265 lbs)

1. Cain Velasquez
2. Junior Dos Santos
3. Fabricio Werdum
4. Daniel Cormier
5. Antonio Silva
6. Alistair Overeem
7. Travis Browne
8. Josh Barnett
9. Frank Mir
10. Mark Hunt

Make it Happen: Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera vs. Stipe Miocic

A bounce-back fight for Nogueira, against a fighter with momentum, or a chance for Miocic to show he's for real against a heavyweight legend.

Thank You, UFC, For: Barnett vs. Mir

A matchup a decade in the making.

Light Heavyweight (186-205)

1. Jon Jones
2. Lyoto Machida
3. Alexander Gustafsson
4. Glover Texeira
5. Mauricio Rua
6. Rashad Evans
7. Dan Henderson
8. Phil Davis
9. Chael Sonnen
10. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Make it Happen: Henderson vs. Thiago Silva

Henderson's fought nothing but top competition for most of his career, and now he's riding a tough two-fight losing streak. Thiago Silva is a good fighter on the periphery of the top 10, a tough out but a good opportunity for Henderson to right the ship.

Thank You, UFC, For: Rua vs. Sonnen

When Rua's original opponent (Little Nog) got hurt, Sonnen was the right choice to step in.

Middleweight (171-185)

1. Anderson Silva
2. Chris Weidman
3. Vitor Belfort
4. Michael Bisping
5. Yushin Okami
6. Luke Rockhold
7. Jacare Souza
8. Costa Philippou
9. Gegard Mousasi
10. Mark Muñoz

Mousasi has been fighting at 205, but he sounds committed to fighting at middleweight, so I've ranked him here. Otherwise, I suppose Alan Belcher might be 10th.

Make it Happen: Mousasi vs. winner of Muñoz-Tim Boetsch

Muñoz and Boetsch are both on the border of the top 10, and the winner of their match at UFC 162 would be a great first test for Mousasi if he returns to middleweight. He's asked for Vitor Belfort, but let's keep this realistic.

Thank You, UFC, For: Uriah Hall vs. Nick Ring

After Hall's upset loss on the TUF finale, I suggested "someone like C.B. Dollaway or Tom Lawlor" as his next opponent. Ring qualifies. He's a middle-of-the-road fighter, well-rounded but not as exceptional in any one area as Hall is in striking. He'll probably look to take the fight to the ground, and if Hall's going to justify the hype, he needs to stuff some takedowns.

Welterweight (156-170)

1. Georges St-Pierre
2. Johny Hendricks
3. Carlos Condit
4. Rory MacDonald
5. Demian Maia
6. Martin Kampmann
7. Jake Ellenberger
8. Tarec Saffiedine
9. Matt Brown
10. Josh Koscheck

Nick Diaz says he's retired, and this time it actually seems like he's done fighting in the UFC. If he gets a fight on his calendar, he's obviously top-10.

Make it Happen: Hector Lombard vs. Jake Shields

After years of dominance against lesser competition, Lombard has disappointed in the UFC. Match him up with an inferior striker like Shields and let's see if he'll finally let his hands fly the way we saw in Bellator. Lombard's judo base should limit Shields' ability to turn this into a Boring Jake Shields Fight©, and even if he does, Lombard's last few fights have been pretty dull anyway. This could be the right matchup to inject some life into two of the UFC's most disappointing acquisitions.

Thank You, UFC, For: MacDonald vs. Ellenberger

If Ellenberger is for real, he can certainly prove it by beating MacDonald. The winner of this will probably get a title shot if Georges St-Pierre stays at 170.

Lightweight (146-155)

1. Ben Henderson
2. Anthony Pettis
3. Josh Thomson
4. Gilbert Melendez
5. T.J. Grant
6. Gray Maynard
7. Pat Healy
8. Nate Diaz
9. Donald Cerrone
10. Jim Miller

Make it Happen: Maynard vs. Evan Dunham

Maynard's coming off a brutal loss, and Dunham a controversial judges' decision that inspired Dana White to tweet that Dunham got robbed. Maynard hasn't looked the same since his loss to Frankie Edgar, and with Dunham in the top 15, this is a matchup that makes sense for both fighters.

Thank You, UFC, For: Cerrone vs. Rafael dos Anjos

Both are on the border of the top 10, and this fight should push one clearly into contention.

Featherweight (136-145)

1. Jose Aldo
2. Frankie Edgar
3. Ricardo Lamas
4. Chan Sung Jung
5. Chad Mendes
6. Cub Swanson
7. Erik Koch
8. Dustin Poirier
9. Dennis Siver
10. Clay Guida

Make it Happen: Edgar vs. winner of Swanson-Siver

Contingent on Edgar beating Charles Oliveira, of course. Edgar is about -500 on most sites, so let's go ahead and pencil him in.

Thank You, UFC, For: Koch vs. Poirier

There's still some strange match-making in the UFC's lower weight classes, but it's nice to see top-10 guys mostly facing other fighters in the top 10.

Bantamweight (126-135)

1. Renan Barão
2. Michael McDonald
3. Urijah Faber
4. Eddie Wineland
5. Brad Pickett
6. Raphael Assunçao
7. Scott Jorgensen
8. T.J. Dillashaw
9. Mike Easton
10. Ivan Menjivar

Dominick Cruz hasn't fought in a year and a half, and he's not yet scheduled to return. When he does, he'll obviously be at or near the top of this list.

Make it Happen: Dillashaw vs. Easton

Dillashaw lost the Ultimate Fighter finale to John Dodson 18 months ago. Since then, he's won four in a row, the last three by stoppage. It's time for him to face someone in the top 10.

Thank You, UFC, For: McDonald vs. Pickett

The match-making options in this division are pretty limited with Cruz and Barao both sidelined by injury, but you want to keep fighters active, and this is a good test for McDonald, who's still only 22.

Flyweight (116-125) and Women's Bantamweight (126-135)

I'm not ranking these divisions until they have more fighters.

UFC 162: Silva vs. Weidman

It is UFC policy to state as fact that Anderson Silva is the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and this is not treated as a subject that is open to debate. But Silva lost more rounds against Chael Sonnen than Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones combined have lost in the last five years, and he's not a real heavy favorite (-265) against a guy with only 9 pro fights. Many fans and analysts believe Chris Weidman has a real shot at unseating the Spider, though it's a big step up in competition.

Silva forever lost me as a fan during his title defense against Demian Maia, but I think he holds on to the belt. He's so dynamic, and all he needs to do is catch you once in a 25-minute match. All the important fights on the card take place in the middleweight or featherweight divisions. Joining the title fight at 185, Mark Muñoz faces Tim Boetsch. Meanwhile, Frank Edgar makes his second appearance at 145, against Charles Oliveira, and Cub Swanson takes on Dennis Siver.

I like Muñoz and Edgar straight up, and I guess Swanson, too. He seems to be one of those guys I always underrate a little bit, but logically I know he's been fighting well, and Siver is beatable. From a betting angle, though, Swanson (-240) doesn't interest me. Odds haven't been posted on the Muñoz fight, and Edgar's too heavy a favorite to be profitable (-500), but he's a nice base for your parlay. Oliveira's only obvious path to victory is a submission, and Edgar's never been submitted. He's used to fighting much higher-caliber fighters, and he's a safe bet to win by decision or TKO.

This card is still three weeks out, and oddsmakers haven't addressed many of the fights yet, but you might be able to do a reasonable parlay on Edgar, Tim Kennedy, and Edson Barboza. It could be tough to find books interested in Barboza's match with Rafaello Oliveira, and you won't make much on three favorites, but that's pretty safe for a parlay. If the odds are close to even, you could also add Muñoz to the parlay, and if you like living on the edge, take a flyer on Andrew Craig (2-1 UFC) against Chris Leben. The Crippler has lost three of his last four, and it's been two years since his last victory.

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