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UFC announces first-ever ranking system

Michael Bisping left Chael Sonnen fight Middleweight Bout during an Ultimate Fighting Championship match United Center Saturday Jan. 28 2012

Michael Bisping, left, and Chael Sonnen fight in a Middleweight Bout during an Ultimate Fighting Championship match at the United Center Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in Chicago. Sonnen won by a unanimous decision.| Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 5, 2013 4:09PM



Fans love to hate rankings.

Always one of the most-talked about aspect of any sport, official rankings now have come to mixed martial arts.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship released Monday its first-ever public fighter rankings. A media panel — including myself — will rank active fighters by weight class and an overall pound-for-pound category. The rankings will be updated after each UFC event and posted at UFC.com/rankings.

The UFC says while the rankings won’t directly affect matchmaking, they will incorporate them into its broadcasts. The UFC will still have its own internal rankings and match up whomever it chooses.

Though reporters have been ranking teams for years in Associated Press polls, some members of the MMA media declined to participate citing a conflict of interest.

The main difference between these rankings and the AP Top 25 is the UFC itself is choosing who does — and doesn’t — have a voice in ranking the fighters. While it’s not ideal to have an organization choosing media members that will rank the sport, the good that can come from official rankings outweighs the drawbacks. There isn’t enough widespread interest in the sports world for the AP to get involved.

This is a good first step.

Rankings will help legitimize MMA and assist casual fans, who might be more inclined to watch a card headlined by the No. 2 vs. No. 5 flyweights. The fan asks ‘are these guys any good?’ Now, he or she will know.

The rankings are transparent. You can see each individual’s ballot at UFC.com/rankings and see our picks — however bone-headed they might be. The better quality of the journalists that participate will help the rankings and even out any individual biases or blunders.

After looking at the first rankings, here are some thoughts:

• In general for my rankings, I weighed the fighter’s overall strength, recent fights, who they beat and I also factored in inactivity. Since each set of rankings will come out after each event, the greatest movement will come from the recent fights. “What have you done lately” will weigh in heavily for many voters.

• The ranking interface might have perplexed some voters. (One voter did not rank any heavyweights). Initially, there were fighters listed for demonstration purposes. Mostly, they were in the ballpark of where fighters should be ranked. But in many classes, there were people listed that should not be in the Top 10. Shane Carwin was one that was a demonstration pick, even though he hasn’t won in almost three years or fought in seven months. But many still had him in their Top 10.

• It was tricky to rank fighters who have recently changed weight classes, but not yet fought in the division. Chael Sonnen, who has previously fought at middleweight, now will take on the light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 159 in April. Since you can only rank a fighter in one weight class, Sonnen falls as a light heavyweight even though his last fight in that division was in 2005.

Only four out of 28 voters ranked him in that category — I put him at No. 5.

• Former Strikeforce fighters posed a dilemma, especially its former champions. Many have yet to fight in the UFC. Where do they fall? Antonio Silva upset Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 on Saturday. One would think would place him above Overeem in the rankings, but apparently not for some voters.

• The flyweight division needs to beef up. Outside of the Top 10, only two other fighters were available to rank in the UFC’s newest weight class.

• On the horizon, the UFC announced Tuesday morning Anthony Pettis will move down in weight class from lightweight to be moved into the featherweight division to face champion Jose Aldo on Aug. 3 at UFC 159. Pettis will get switched in the rankings. We’ll see where voters place him when the new rankings come out after the “UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald” card on Feb. 16.

The rankings will be a great way to stimulate discussion on Twitter and message boards. I’d love to hear what you think about the rankings, my picks or any other concerns, questions — good or bad. You can see my picks and the other panelist’s at ufc.com/rankingsdetail. Tweet at me (@juandeplata) or e-mail (jsilver@suntimes.com).



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