Junior Dos Santos' stunning 1-minute upset TKO of Cain Velasquez threw another curve into the MMA heavyweight rankings. Dos Santos takes over as UFC champion, denying Velasquez the chance to be SportsRatings' #1 ranked heavyweight. Instead, the two switch places for the most part, with Dos Santos rising to #2 and Velasquez falling to #6.
At #1 is Alistair Overeem, the former Strikeforce fighter now signed with the UFC. His transfer to the larger operation makes the top 10 even at 5 UFC fighters and 5 Strikeforce fighters, easily the weight class that is least dominated by the UFC (until you get into the very low weight classes where the Japanese have many more competitors). Fabricio Werdum might fight next for the UFC next, too, making it 6-4.
Overeem is #1 as a result of the Fall of Fedor, as Overeem beat Werdum who was the first to beat Emelianenko. Fedor's fall also pumped up the scores of Antonio Silva and eventually Daniel Cormier, and all four are in the top five currently. The mad shuffling going on in the heavyweight division will continue until a true #1 settles in. It looked like that would be Velasquez, but Dos Santos put an end to that for now. Instead, Overeem will have a chance to prove his #1 rating isn't just a fluke.
SportsRatings MMA Heavyweight rankings post-Dos Santos/Velasquez
| Nov. 12
|Fighter||WC||Rating||Rated Record||UFC on Fox results:|
|5||2||Junior dos Santos||HW||56.81||8-0-0||Def #2 Cain Velasquez|
|3||3||Fabricio Werdum||HW||54.77||13-5-1||last win -17 months.|
|2||6||Cain Velasquez||HW||39.15||6-1-0||Lost to #5 Junior dos Santos|
|7||7||Brock Lesnar||HW||37.75||4-1-0||last win -16 months.|
|9||9||Fedor Emelianenko||HW||33.55||24-4-0||last win -24 months.|
|10||10||Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira||HW||29.43||31-6-1|
Here's a rundown of the top ten, how they got there, and where they're going:
- Alistair Overeem (35-11-0) - The former Strikeforce champ pulled out of the tournament where he would have faced Antonio Silva and turned up in the UFC, where he'll face Brock Lesnar. That will be an interesting bout, and the toughest opponent Overeem has faced in years. With 11 losses, a suspicious all-muscle weight gain, and questionable opposition as a heavyweight, Overeem hasn't been considered among the division's elite even when he held the Strikeforce belt. His win over Werdum was unconvincing but it gave him a lot of Fedor's former rating points. Known as a striker, he'll likely have trouble against Lesnar, as even Werdum outboxed him at times. We doubt Overeem will last long at #1; even if he beats Lesnar, Dos Santos will finish him off.
Next fight: December 30 vs. #7 Brock Lesnar.
- Junior Dos Santos (14-1-0) - We admit, we were never quite impressed with Dos Santos despite his many UFC wins; it always seemed he was only just good enough to beat the guy in front of him. But as the guys put in front of him got better, so did Junior, culminating in his quick dispatch of Velasquez. A humble UFC champ, he's a welcome relief from Lesnar's bluster. One way or another it looks like he'll ascend to our #1 spot, as he should beat the winner of Lesnar-Overeem. He just beat the man most likely to defeat him, too, so until Velasquez gets a rematch we expect Dos Santos to keep winning. Next fight: 2012 vs. winner of #1 Overeem vs. #7 Lesnar.
- Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1) - No one got a bigger boost from beating Fedor than Werdum, who toppled the long-time heavyweight champ at his peak. But Werdum's win was somewhat of a fluke, and his subsequent non-performance against Overeem showed that the only way he's going to beat a top name is to get them in his guard. Avoid that, and you can't lose, especially if he goes down on every punch. 15 knockdowns per round is going to give the other guy an advantage. What he should do is work the standup fighting, which he showed to good effect against Overeem but didn't take seriously as a strategy. By becoming well-rounded Werdum could stay on near the top, but as it looks now he's likely to slide down the rankings.
Next fight: unknown, possibly #17 Brendan Schaub
- Daniel Cormier (9-0-0) - Cormier is now the top undefeated heavyweight fighter. He beat Antonio Silva convincingly, looking like a Fedor/Velasquez clone in doing so. He has the build of Emelianenko and trains with Velasquez, so that's not surprising. His relative inexperience may be an issue but it also keeps him from getting overconfident or taking chances—note how he fought Silva completely differently from Fedor, respecting Silva's size and staying away from his giant fists, then using speed to beat him. In the Strikeforce tournament final Cormier faces Josh Barnett next, a completely different challenge.
Next fight: vs. #8 Josh Barnett, date unknown.
- Antonio Silva (16-3-0) - Right after beating Fedor convincingly, Silva lost to Cormier just as convincingly. Silva has huge, heavy fists, giant size, and a good ground game, but he's slow on his feet and Cormier exploited that. Silva is the kind of guy who can beat anyone or lose to anyone. If you aren't careful, his size and ground skill can kill you, but if good strategy is used then the entire top ten—or lower—can handle him.
Next fight: ? Unknown
- Cain Velasquez (9-1-0) - Cain looked invincible beating Brock Lesnar, and it seemed he could be the new Fedor and rule for the rest of the decade. But the win came at a price, and his subsequent rotator cuff injury kept him out of the Octagon for over a year. When he came back against Dos Santos he was tentative and uncertain, and needed some time to acclimate to being in a real fight. Dos Santos didn't give him that time. He looked like he'd lost muscle and put on some fat in the past year, too, and certainly didn't show the explosiveness—or get a chance to show it—that he did when he won the UFC crown. If he can become totally healthy he'll again be a force to reckon with; his next fight will definitely be critical to his career.
Next fight: 2012, perhaps vs. loser of #1 Overeem vs. #7 Lesnar.
- Brock Lesnar (5-2-0) - Lesnar will get an opportunity to redeem himself against Alistair Overeem, and with his size and wrestling skill he has a good chance to do so. Lesnar's career is only 7 fights long but seems much more significant, and his bouts with illness have extended his time between contests. Lesnar is a puzzling combination of giant size, inexperience, quick learning, wrestling talent, and simultaneous weak and strong chin. Quick to get flustered when hit in the face, Lesnar showed he can survive a tremendous beating (against Carwin) but there are limits to how effectively he can fight back. Overeem is another big striker, though he looked a lot less dominant against Werdum for whatever reason. If healthy Lesnar should beat Overeem as long as he doesn't get caught against the fence getting punched in the face 100 times again.
Next fight: December 30 vs. #1 Alistair Overeem.
- Josh Barnett (31-5-0) - Barnett is the wild card in the heavyweight division. He's the guy least likely to make the jump to the UFC, as he's basically been banned by Dana White. But he might win the Strikeforce Grand Prix heavyweight tournament, and if so he has an argument to being the best in the world. Would he get a chance to prove it? With Overeem in the UFC, Fedor in a slump, and everyone else taking a loss in the tournament, there would be no one else in Strikeforce for Barnett to face. His (relatively) old-school strategy of taking the fight to the ground, smothering and choking his opponents his served him well lately, but he hasn't exactly faced the best opponents. Daniel Cormier is a top challenger, but if he wins people will just say Cormier is inexperienced. Barnett may remain in MMA limbo even if he wins the biggest heavyweight tournament in years.
Next fight: vs. #4 Daniel Cormier, 2012
- Fedor Emelianenko (31-4-0) - Fedor was last seen losing to light heavyweight Dan Henderson, his third straight loss after nearly a decade of invincibility. His past track record shows that he can beat anyone, while his recent performance suggests nearly anyone can beat him now. The difference is the strategy he uses. Always somewhat sloppy, Fedor mitigated this trait by being generally careful to avoid getting hit (see Arlovski fight, or Cro Crop for good examples), while showing uncanny ability (or luck) in getting out of bad ground positions (most of his fights). Lately he abandoned the "don't-get-hit" philosophy in favor of a head-hunting style that worked against Bret Rogers but failed against Werdum (fell into his trap), Silva (got hit a lot, then grounded and pounded), and Henderson (got hit even more, was careless on the ground, and finally got ko'd). Fedor will try to regroup in Russia, essentially taking him out of the mix of top fighters for the time being. If he regains his patience he could make a comeback, but he showed even less of that against Hendo than ever before. When a fighter keep mulling retirement after each fight—which Fedor did even before he started losing—it's pretty clear your heart's not in it.
Next fight: vs. Jeff Monson on November 20.
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-6-1) - Another seasoned veteran in the top 10, Nogueira got a new lease on his MMA life with his hometown win over Brendan Schaub in UFC 134. How long that lease on life will last, however, is anybody's guess. The Brazilian fighters in that promotion did amazingly well, and "home Octagon advantage" was a big part of that (note a similar effect in the Olympics). Was that win Nogueira's last gasp? We'll find out when he takes on Frank Mir in a rematch. Last time against Mir, Nogueira was tentative like many older fighters seem to become, without the explosiveness that they had when younger. It's likely that Nog's comeback ends soon, but he's one of the all-time greats.
Next fight: December 10 vs. #11 Frank Mir
Others: #11 Frank Mir; #12 Cheick Kongo; #13 Cole Konrad; #14 Peter Graham; #15 Shane Carwin
The top eight or ten is very strong, but after that there's a big drop-off once you get past Mir and Kongo. Konrad is undefeated but unproven, having fought only in Bellator. Graham has one big win, over Fedor's brother, and a 4-5 overall record. Carwin is underrated at #15 but he really didn't beat many fighters of note before losing two straight to Lesnar and Dos Santos.