- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rankings, in mixed martial arts, are a funny thing.
For all intents and purposes, they don’t matter. Nobody ever won a title just because fans and media ranked him No. 1. They’re 100 percent subjective -- meaning as long as one can argue his or her rankings, they are just as correct as anyone else.
They are, however, a lot of fun to debate.
And this weekend, something happened in the lightweight division I feel compelled to point out and ask -- Can we get some clarification on this, please? Moving forward, is there some sort of rule we can draw up for this specific instance?
Chandler, of course, was victorious in a back-and-forth fight with Alvarez, taking a thrilling submission win in the fourth round last weekend.
In this week’s updated rankings, that win was enough for Chandler to make his debut on the list at No. 8 in the world (tied with the UFC’s Jim Miller). One member of our panel ranked him as high as No. 5.
Alvarez, meanwhile, dropped to No. 10 and fell completely off three of our panelists’ lists.
Now, here’s my question: If a highly ranked fighter (Alvarez in this instance) fights a close fight with an unranked fighter (Chandler, who probably wasn’t even in anyone’s top 15 entering the weekend) how far does that move them?
I ask, because I was the only one of our six panelists to not include Chandler in my top 10. Is that wrong? It’s not that I don’t think he’s a terrific fighter, but the thought that Chandler (9-0) is ranked the same as Miller (20-3), is baffling to me.
For the record, I’m not all about records. Jon Jones (14-1) is my No. 3 fighter in the world pound-for-pound, despite being relatively inexperienced. For me, rankings are not based solely on the end-results of fights. There is some analysis to be added.
For example, I still have Alvarez on my top 10 above Chandler, despite the fact he just lost to him. My logic behind that is:
1. I believe if they fought 10 times, Alvarez would win at least six.
2. His performances in the past three years have still been more impressive than Chandler's.
3. If they each fought the other nine fighters on my top 10, I think Alvarez would finish with the better record.
To me, Chandler rising to No. 8 overall on our list is similar to the “Fedor Emelianenko-Fabricio Werdum” effect. Werdum shot up the heavyweight rankings last June after beating the widely regarded No. 1 heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, in the first round. I had, and still have, beef with this.
First of all, we’ve all come to realize a win over Emelianenko at this point in his career is not the monumental achievement we thought it was. Werdum also won that fight in the first 70 seconds, “catching” Emelianenko with a submission.
I’m not taking away from Werdum’s win. It was a historical upset and a phenomenal job by him to capitalize on an opportunity, but here we are 17 months later, and you still hear pundits rationalize about having Werdum in the top five based, primarily, on that one win.
My bottom line is, if we’re going to discuss rankings and pretend they are this all-powerful thing, can we come up with a way to prevent ONE win from meaning so much?
Chandler is a terrific fighter and his win over Alvarez was absolutely no fluke, but ranking him in the top 10 in the world, alongside a name like Jim Miller, based on pretty much one fight doesn’t make sense to me.
But then again, these are MMA rankings. They often only make sense to the individual making them.