Thursday, December 6, 2012

Which Weight Class is the Strongest?

Mixed martial arts has become an increasingly popular sport around the world as the UFC soars to greater heights.  There are world class fighters from around the world at various weight classes, but which weight class is the most stacked?  Which ones are only top heavy?  Which ones are the deepest?  This post will give my take on these questions and more.

First things first, what is it that makes a certain weight class stronger than another?  I believe that there is a number of things that make up a strong division.  First, there must be a high number of top fighters in a division.  Deep divisions mean that there will be exciting fights in that weight class on every card put together, even with injuries factored in.  Second, I believe a strong champion results in a strong division.  However, a division is not strong unless there are multiple people that can hang with the champion.  Without a couple of top contenders knocking on the door of the champ, then even a dominant champion could really just be the result of a weak division.  There are other factors but these are the main 3 criteria I will be using to rate the 8 weight classes of the UFC.

Lets start with the lower weights and work our way up:

  • Flyweight: This is a division that is not known to be incredibly deep due to the fact that it is new, and some of the top 125lb fighters are coming from other organizations.  Over time this division could become deeper, but as for now it is a 4 man division.  McCall, Dodson, Benavidez, and Johnson are on the top and will probably end up fighting each other multiple times over the next couple years.
  • Bantamweight: The 135lb division is not as deep as other divisions, but it is very top heavy.  Dominick Cruz is a monster at the top although he is still hindered by his knee problems right now.  Renan Barao is the interim champ on a 29 fight winning streak that seems as invincible as Cruz.  Then contenders such as Faber, McDonald, Pickett, and Easton are lurking for their chance to rise to the top.  Even with the loss of Johnson and Benavidez to the flyweight division, there are a bunch of great fights coming up at 135 in the near future.
  • Featherweight: Jose Aldo.  He is an unreal champion who is at minimum top 4 pound for pound fighter on the planet.  He has received some criticism for his lackluster performances against Florian and Hominick, but there is no denying he is a monster.  This division was weak but will happily welcome former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar and perennial contender Clay Guida.  This division has a dominant champion and about 5 other strong fighters, but nobody seems to be on the verge of dethroning Aldo anytime soon.
  • Lightweight:  Debatably the deepest division in the UFC, the lightweight division boasts a long list of great fighters.  With Benson Henderson at the top, the division also includes many former WEC champs such as Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Jamie Varner, and Gilbert Melendez (the current Strikeforce champion). With Strikeforce folding and free agent Eddie Alvarez possibly joining the UFC, the division is only going to get stronger despite Edgar and Guida dropping a weight class.  The only criticism I can say about this division is that there has been no truly dominant champion like GSP or Silva since debatably BJ Penn.
  • Welterweight:  With Georges St.Pierre returning and some youngsters climbing up the ranks, this is a deep division full of killers.  Along with great champion GSP, there are some veterans like Jon Fitch, Bj Penn, Carlos Condit, Martin Kampmann and Josh Koscheck keeping their names in the mix.  Also, there are some up and coming names such as Rory MacDonald, Erick Silva, Jake Ellenberger and top contender Johny Hendricks.  Moreover, there are some middleweights that dropped in weight for various reasons like Demian Maia, Nate Marquadt, and Nick Diaz.  When you put all these names together, you have a deep division of fighters that all are very capable of being champions.  Yet, GSP reigns supreme using his incredible wrestling and striking to grind these world class fighters down and win a decision.  This is definitely an elite weight class with a top 4 pound for pound champion sitting on top.
  • Middleweight:  The spider has run this division since showing Rich Franklin a thing or two about Muay Thai knees.  He is so destructive and devastating it seems as though people are running away from this division because they know he is invincible.  Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Nate Marquadt, Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, and others have fled away from 185lbs for other weight classes.  It can be argued someone like Rashad Evans would thrive at 185, but chooses to stay at 205 in fear of fighting the spider.  However, this division is still not short in talent.  Michael Bisping, Chris Wiedman, Alan Belcher, Tim Boetsh, Cung Le and others are seeking a shot to fight Anderson Silva.  He definitely has plenty of work to do at 185, but the spider is seeking out a superfight with GSP or Jon Jones instead as he sees the end of his career approaching.  185 is a division with a dominant champ, and some solid contenders, but nobody expects a change in the guard anytime soon.
  • Light Heavyweight: Jon Bones Jones is quickly becoming a polarizing figure in the UFC.  Like his next opponent Chael Sonnen, you either love or hate this guy.  He is right in the pound for pound mix with Anderson Silva and is only getting better with age.  To accompany this dominant champ is a whole mesh of MMA legends.  Mauricio Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson are warriors that have put on great shows in the UFC and Pride.  They are right at the top along with their next opponents: Alexander Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida.  Add top wrestlers Rashad Evans and Phil Davis in the mix and you have a stacked division.
  • Heavyweight:  UFC 155 will make a HUGE impact on the future of the heavyweight division.  Junior DosSantos and Cain Velasquez are the 2 juggernauts on top of the division.  There are some other fighters that pose interesting threats to the title in Daniel Cormier, Fabricio Werdum, and even Alistair Overeem.  All in all, anything can happen on any given night when the power of a UFC heavyweight is in the octagon.  This is a power packed division that will only get stronger with its young fighters developing and the movement of some of Strikeforce's finest to the UFC.
Based on my above assessment, here is my order for the strongest division in the UFC:
  1. Welterweight
  2. Middleweight
  3. Light Heavyweight
  4. Bantamweight
  5. Heavyweight
  6. Lightweight
  7. Flyweight
  8. Featherweight

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