UFC Total Rankings: July 2009

Before we start, here’s a brief disclaimer:

These rankings are based on a plethora of factors: win-loss record, method of victory, competition the fighter is facing, and the push given to them by the UFC matchmakers.

I try to picture each weight class in the same way that Joe Silva or Dana White would, which means I factor in marketability, drawing power and other things that rankings typically don’t account for.

Once again, these are completely different than skill-only rankings.

They are wholly my opinion and should be treated as such. Champions are given top billing because they are champions and regarded as the best in their division by the company, regardless of the skills or overall record. If a weight class has an interim champion, that fighter will assume the second position, with everyone else following.

HEAVYWEIGHT

1. Brock Lesnar (UFC Heavyweight Champion)
2. Randy Couture
3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
4. Frank Mir
5. Shane Carwin
6. Cain Velasquez
7. Mirko Cro Cop
8. Junior dos Santos
9. Cheick Kongo
10. Heath Herring

NOTES: Brock Lesnar’s ascension to the top of the heavyweight division was brief and brutal. His post-fight antics, however brief, are still being discussed. In terms of challengers in the division, we’ve been promised that the winner of the Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez fight in October will get the next shot at the title. If Randy Couture easily defeats Nogueira at UFC 102, he’ll be under consideration for a rematch with Lesnar as well. And of course, there’s the ultimate wild card: if the company can agree to terms with top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko as they have promised, he will get an immediate title shot. That fight would take place on the January 2, 2010 show, which will be The Ultimate 2009…Mirko Cro Cop and Junior dos Santos will meet at UFC 103 in September. A blowout win by Cro Cop will likely put him one win away from a title shot, and a win by dos Santos would significantly elevate him in the eyes of the fans and the company.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

1. Lyoto Machida (UFC Light Heavyweight Champion)
2. Quinton Jackson
3. Rashad Evans
4. Forrest Griffin
5. Shogun Rua
6. Rich Franklin
7. Luiz Cane
8. Jon Jones
9. Wanderlei Silva
10. Mark Coleman

NOTES: Forrest Griffin’s fight against Anderson Silva in two weeks could mark the only major movement in this division for several months. If Griffin is able to beat Silva, he will likely be pushed into the top contender’s spot and face the winner of the October bout between Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua on the January 2 year-end show…Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans meet on December 19 in a battle of Ultimate Fighter coaches. Dana White has gone on record saying that Jackson/Evans will be the most anticipated fight in UFC history after the fans see what they’ve taped for the Ultimate Fighter. The winner of that fight will get a title shot, but it probably won’t happen until Spring of 2010…Mark Coleman enters the rankings after his shocking victory over Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100. Coleman’s aging underdog story has resonated with the UFC fanbase and it has turned him into a popular fighter in the division.

MIDDLEWEIGHT

1. Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Champion)
2. Dan Henderson
3. Demian Maia
4. Nate Marquardt
5. Yoshihiro Akiyama
6. Michael Bisping
7. Chael Sonnen
8. Yushin Okami
9. Alan Belcher
10. Patrick Cote

NOTES: There are plenty of intriguing matchups in this division over the next two months. Demian Maia and Nate Marquardt will meet at UFC 102, and the winner of that fight will certainly be under consideration for a title shot. Dan Henderson was scheduled to face Rich Franklin at light heavyweight in September, but that fight has apparently been pulled amid rumors of Henderson facing Vitor Belfort instead. A Henderson/Belfort fight would be intriguing to a lot of people, and the winner would get the next shot at Anderson Silva’s championship…Yoshihiro Akiyama enters the rankings at #5 after his razor-thin decision over Alan Belcher at UFC 100. Akiyama will be a popular fighter for the UFC because he understands the entertainment part of the game…Michael Bisping falls to the sixth spot after being knocked into next year by Dan Henderson. Bisping will fight on November 14 in Manchester, but an opponent has not been named. Rumors circulated that Bisping would face Wanderlei Silva, but Silva’s camp quickly squashed that story.

WELTERWEIGHT

1. Georges St. Pierre (UFC Welterweight Champion)
2. Thiago Alves
3. Mike Swick
4. Jon Fitch
5. Martin Kampmann
6. Matt Hughes
7. Josh Koscheck
8. Marcus Davis
9. Dan Hardy
10. Matt Serra

NOTES: We’re reaching a point of no return with the welterweight division. After St. Pierre’s destruction of the able Thiago Alves at UFC 100, we’re left with a division filled to the brim with no credible challengers to the throne. Mike Swick and Martin Kampmann face off at UFC 103 to determine who gets the next shot at St. Pierre, but it’s going to be absolutely impossible to make the fans believe that either fighter has a chance against the champion. Many believe that St. Pierre’s next true challenge lies in the middleweight division, and that seems to be the case. St. Pierre hasn’t ruled out a move to face Anderson Silva, but went on record as saying that it would take him time to put on the weight for the challenge…Frank Trigg will debut against Josh Koscheck at UFC 103.

LIGHTWEIGHT

1. BJ Penn (UFC Lightweight Champion)
2. Kenny Florian
3. Diego Sanchez
4. Gray Maynard
5. Frank Edgar
6. Clay Guida
7. Sean Sherk
8. Roger Huerta
9. Joe Stevenson
10. Nate Diaz

NOTES: Penn and Florian meet at UFC 101 in two weeks, and Diego Sanchez has already earned the right to face the winner of that bout for the championship…Gray Maynard and Roger Huerta will meet on September 16. It will be Huerta’s final match with the company as he pursues an acting career, and Maynard could cement his place as a top contender with a win over Huerta.

POUND FOR POUND

Please keep in mind the basis for these rankings. It’s not just fighting skill or record, although those two items do factor into the equation. I also factor in popularity, drawing power and any win streaks the fighter might be in the midst of.

1. Georges St. Pierre
2. Lyoto Machida
3. BJ Penn
4. Anderson Silva
5. Brock Lesnar
6. Quinton Jackson
7. Kenny Florian
8. Dan Henderson
9. Randy Couture
10. Rashad Evans

NOTES: St. Pierre keeps the top spot in these rankings for the fifth month in a row. His fighting skills are unparalleled and he’s a very strong pay per view and live draw…Brock Lesnar moves from the ninth spot to the fifth spot by virtue of his domination of Frank Mir at UFC 100. Nobody will argue that he’s the best fighter in the world, but he’s far and away the biggest star in the sport and that weighs in his favor in this type of ranking system.

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