Verbal Submission Podcast 2: MMA Power Rankings and UFC 200 Preview

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The Sports Inquirer discusses the site’s MMA Power Rankings and preview UFC 200.

Audio below:

 

Passing the Guard: #MMA Power #Rankings June 2016

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By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Music to listen to:What is Love?/Shakedown Street by STS9

Been too damn long since we’ve done an MMA Power Rankings. Let’s get it.

 

Heavyweight:
1)      Stipe Miotich
2)      Fabricio Werdum
3)      Alistair Overeem
4)      Cain Velasquez
5)      Junior Dos Santos

 

Thoughts: This division received a new king with Miotich earning a TKO win over Werdum at UFC 198. The Cleveland native dominated throughout the bout and the fireman now has UFC gold for his efforts. Werdum demanded an immediate title shot but was usurped by Overeem, who gets Miotich at UFC 203. Overeem went from losing to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and potentially not having his UFC contract renewed to posting a four-match winning streak including a victory over Andrei Arlovski. Overeem went into free agency, signed a new deal with the UFC and gets an immediate title shot.

Some may have Velasquez in the third spot but I think Overeem beats him in a fight at this moment. Velasquez gets Travis Browne at UFC 200 and with a victory can find himself back in the title picture because the UFC division is so volatile at the top. Heck, dos Santos could find himself in line for a title bout by this time next year, doubt it but it can happen.

Light Heavyweight
1)      Daniel Cormier
2)      Jon Jones
3)      Anthony Johnson
4)      Alex Gustafsson
5)      Phil Davis

Thoughts: We’ll finally get to see Cormier and Jones fight for the second time and unify the UFC light heavyweight crown at UFC 200. Personally, I didn’t like the fact that Jones’ fight against Ovince St. Preux was for the interim title. It was a ploy to sell a pay-per-view and enhance Jones’ profile which wasn’t deserved due to his actions outside the ring. Jones dominated over his inferior opponent but showed the fighter rust expected from someone coming off of a 15-month layoff.

Cormier’s last action in the octagon came in a decision win over Gustafsson at UFC 192. It was a grind-it-out victory that left many with doubts. I saw it as a championship effort and he’s still atop of my rankings, for now.

Johnson and Gustafsson still lurk in the title picture but each guy has individual losses to Jones and Cormier. I have Johnson ahead in the standings due to a head-to-head win over the Swede.

Davis is making a name for himself at Bellator and picked up a win over Mo Lawal at Bellator 154. It wasn’t the most impressive win but it was still a victory that sets up a title shot against Liam McGeary later this year.
Middleweight
1)      Michael Bisping
2)      Luke Rockhold
3)      Chris Weidman
4)      Yoel Romero
5)      Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

 

Thoughts: While it didn’t rank as my biggest upset in MMA history (Matt Serra over Georges St. Pierre may never be topped again in shock value), Bisping defeating Rockhold at UFC 199 on two-weeks notice definitely sent shock waves throughout the sport. Especially when you consider that Rockhold dominated the first meeting between the two guys back in 2014 and has shown vast improvement since then, seeing Bisping overcome that was a surprise, particularly in the fashion he did. Bisping, who was fighting in his 26th UFC fight, was aggressive from the start and took advantage of a tentative Rockhold.

So, what’s next? Many assumed that Rockhold would win and fight Weidman who had to pull out of the UFC 199 event due to a neck injury. However, Bisping may now have sights set on Jacare who was impressive in a dominant win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 198. Romero is also lurking even though he’s currently serving a six-month drug suspension. Title shots usually don’t come that easy.

Welterweight
1)      Robbie Lawler
2)      Rory MacDonald
3)      Tyron Woodley
4)      Stephen Thompson
5)      Damian Maia

 

Thoughts: Lawler has continued his improbable run from MMA vagabond to UFC champion including a close decision victory over Carlos Condit at UFC 195. Re-watch the final two rounds of that fight and you will see why I continue to be a fan of this sport. Lawler now faces Woodley at UFC 201 in Atlanta (I’ll be there!).

MacDonald had a figurative way with Lawler himself at UFC 189 with the champ showing resolve in the last round to earn the decision. The Canadian returns to face Thompson this Saturday at a UFC event. Win that fight and a deserved second title shot may be in line.

Maia may have something to say about the title shots himself seeing how he’s on a four-fight win streak himself including a submission victory over Matt Brown at UFC 198. He’s the hottest fighter in the division and should be noticed.

Lightweight
1)      Rafael dos Anjos
2)      Eddie Alvarez
3)      Donald Cerrone
4)      Khabib Nurmagomedov
5)      Tony Ferguson

Thoughts: dos Anjos has begun to gain a margin over the rest of his UFC counterparts in this division. The champion dismantled Cerrone in 66 seconds last year and has won 10 of his last 11 fights. Next up for dos Anjos is Alvarez in July. Cerrone is still in the picture which is fair considering his loss snapped an eight-match winning streak. He’ll face Patrick Cote this Saturday.

If there’s someone who can claim a win over dos Anjos in the title picture is Nurmagomedov who earned the victory in April 2014. He returned to the Octagon after a two-year absence due to injury and picked up a second-round stoppage against Darrell Horcher in April. Nurmagomedov is now undefeated in 23 career fights, including seven in the UFC.
Featherweight
1)      Conor McGregor
2)      Jose Aldo
3)      Frankie Edgar
4)      Max Holloway
5)      Chad Mendes

 

Thoughts: Enjoy seeing McGregor at the top of this division Power Ranking because he may not even be in the top-five in the next one, which will probably be in December knowing my luck putting these together. Actually, the reason will be that we’ve seen the last of McGregor in this division. He’s a massive featherweight and the weight cut is brutal especially now that he’s preparing for a welterweight fight against Nate Diaz at UFC 202. That extra weight isn’t going to come off easily and the effort won’t be worth it for McGregor physically or financially. There are more enticing opponents in other divisions, particularly lightweight which will ultimately be his home in the future.

For now, he’s the champion in the UFC for now and gets the top spot. Aldo and Edgar fight for the interim title at UFC 200. Aldo looks for redemption after his embarrassing first-round loss to McGregor at UFC 194 while Edgar finally gets a second shot at the title in this division after an impressive first round knockout of Mendes at that save event.

Holloway is a major contender and riding a nine-fight winning streak but until the McGregor/Aldo/Edgar triangle is figured out, he’s going to have to wait on the title shot for now.

 

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

Passing the Guard: MMA Power Rankings January 2016

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By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Music to listen to: Jam On It by NEWCLEUS

Here are my mixed martial arts power rankings for January 2016 along with other thoughts in the sport.

Heavyweight:

  1. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)
  2. Cain Velasquez (13-2)
  3. Alistair Overeem (40-14, 1 NC)
  4. Stipe Miocic (14-2)
  5. Andrei Arlovski (25-11, 1 NC)

Thoughts: Werdum’s dominant win over Velasquez in June 2015 in Mexico for the UFC title makes him the clear choice for the top spot. A strong argument can be made that Werdum has emerged as the best heavyweight in history and outside of Fedor, Big Nog and Bas Rutten (seriously, look up his resume especially in Pancrase), that’s not a ludicrous claim.

Werdum fights Velasquez again this February with the winner possibly facing free agent Overeem who was impressive in a win over Junior Dos Santos late in 2015. Miocic is moving up the ranks after beating Arlovski in the first round of their match earlier this month.

Light Heavyweight:

  1. Jon Jones (21-1)
  2. Daniel Cormier (17-1)
  3. Anthony Johnson (20-5)
  4. Alex Gustafsson (16-4)
  5. Ryan Bader (20-4)

Thoughts: Contemplated taking Jones off the list completely due to his suspension from the UFC, we haven’t seen him fight since January 2015 and he has no scheduled fights. However, I’m using a policy seen other places that won’t eliminate a fighter from the rankings until 16 months of inactivity so the clock is ticking. Jones is the best light heavyweight in the world, possibly the best in history in all weight classes.

Cormier has made his mark with wins over Johnson and Gustafsson in the past year. We’re assuming that Jones returns this year and we can finally see the rematch for the undisputed UFC champion. The rest of the division moves along with Johnson and Bader fighting later this month.

Middleweight:

  1. Luke Rockhold (15-2)
  2. Chris Weidman (13-1)
  3. Yoel Romero (11-1)
  4. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (22-4, 1 NC)
  5. Vitor Belfort (25-11)

Thoughts: For a division that used to lack intrigue and was dominated by Anderson Silva less than three years ago, the middleweights have become interesting as a unit. First, the man who took Silva’s UFC title in Weidman was soundly defeated by Rockhold by fourth-round TKO last month. The plan was probably for Romero, who defeated Souza in a close decision last year, to get first crack at Weidman but literally today news came out of a possible failed drug test for the Cuban wrestler.

We’ll probably have to run back Rockhold.Weidman for a second time or we can see the champ seek revenge on Belfort who holds a victory over Rockhold.

Welterweight:

  1. Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC)
  2. Rory MacDonald (18-3)
  3. Tyron Woodley (14-3)
  4. Carlos Condit (30-9)
  5. Johny Hendricks (17-3)

Thoughts: Tremendous effort earlier this month by Lawler to earn a decision win over Condit earlier this month to retain the UFC title. It was a close fight but I ultimately scored it for Lawler. Having Condit fourth is cruel but I think that Woodley and MacDonald are better fighters at the moment of writing this post. Check back in with me in a few days and I’ll probably have a different opinion. Woodley looks to be next in line to face Lawler which seems fair because its a fresh matchup. I wouldn’t mind seeing MacDonald get another crack at Lawler in a rematch of my 2015 Fight of the Year.

The biggest loser in the top-tier of the division looks to be Hendricks who went from former UFC champion to pulling out of his last scheduled bout against Woodley due to weight cutting issues that ended with a trip to the hospital. Hendricks is still a viable contender for a title shot but I’m reserved on ranking him ahead of the other fighters until I see him in action next month against Stephen Thompson.

Lightweight:

  1. Rafael dos Anjos (25-7)
  2. Anthony Pettis (18-3)
  3. Donald Cerrone (28-7, 1 NC)
  4. Eddie Alvarez (26-4)
  5. Will Brooks (16-1)

Thoughts: RDA was dominant in his UFC title defense against Cerrone last month cementing himself as the top lightweight in the world. He will now defend his title against featherweight champion Conor McGregor in March. There will be plenty of time to analyze the fight but I’m placing RDA as the favorite. He’ll be the bigger fighter and can match McGregor in many areas.

The rest of the division will shake itself out with Pettis and Alvarez fighting in a top-contender battle later this month, Cerrone moving up to welterweight to face Tim Means next month and Brooks, our first Bellator fighter in the rankings, doing work for that promotion.

Featherweight:

  1. Conor McGregor (19-2)
  2. Jose Aldo (25-2)
  3. Frankie Edgar (20-4-1)
  4. Chad Mendes (17-4)
  5. Max Holloway (15-3)

Thoughts: When you defeat Aldo in 14 seconds, that puts you at the top of the division. McGregor’s next step is a move up to lightweight which I don’t like. A division should be cleared out before someone makes a move up and Edgar is a viable contender. However, the UFC is most likely catering to the wishes of the Irishman. McGregor has struggles making featherweight so lightweight should be an easier weight cut. Edgar looks to be waiting in the wind.

Bantamweight:

  1. T.J. Dillashaw (12-2)
  2. Dominick Cruz (20-1)
  3. Renan Barao (33-3, 1 NC)
  4. Urijah Faber (33-8)
  5. Aljamain Sterling (12-0)

Thoughts: Dillashaw and Cruz finally fight this month for the UFC title. I think Cruz is the better fighter but the layoff is a concern and Dillashaw has been sharp lately especially in his wins over Barao. Faber looks at this fight with strong interest because he’s most likely in line for a fight with the winner and his extensive history with both fighters. Sterling is arguably the biggest MMA free agent that no one is talking about.