Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Web Check: Fight! Magazine -- Good at Making Videos, Bad at Programming Fighter Rankings

Using computers crunching formulas to determine who is best is nothing new to sport. Companies like AccuScore run thousands of simulations in order to predict winners of games for the purpose of betting, the ELO system was devised for rating chess players and College football has determined computers are a far better option to pussy shit like letting the best teams play each other until one remains. For fighting, computers offer the potential to provide an objective view of who is best, without opinion skewed by personal love or hatred for a given fighter, and have the ability to turn out quite nicely.
On the other hand, they have the ability to turn out, in the words of the poet Hammer, wiggidy, wiggidy whack. FIGHT! Magazine is best known online for having the so-obvious-it’s-brilliant idea to put a camera on Bas Rutten and film anything at all he wants to say, because it is sure to be awesome.
They also run an excellent MMA mag, which is always worth a read, so it’s not like these rankings were put together by a bunch of rank amateurs, if you’ll excuse the pun. It’s often argued that rankings don’t really mean anything, and while on the one hand it’s entirely true, there’s still some merit in trying to objectively find the best in the world, particularly at the weight classes where the top talent is not gathered under one roof. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some highlights from the weight classes heavy-through-light in, to date, the worst rankings I have ever seen.

1) Fedor Emelianenko
So far, so good FIGHT!
2) Cain Velasquez
3) Brock Lesnar
4) Josh Barnett
I have a hard time seeing Velasquez leap over Brock for knocking out Big Nog when the last guy Brock fought and decimated did the same in his previous fight. Similarly, Barnett hasn’t fought in over a year now, with his last top-10 win coming in 2006. I fail to see how either of their resumes merit such high rankings currently, but it doesn’t kill me to see either.
5) Jeff Monson
Oh, come on. Surely a top-5 ranking requires, at some point, recording a top-10 win, right?
9) Alistair Overeem
I can’t really pin this on FIGHT! as 9th is where Overeem sits on USA Today/BloodyElbow’s consensus rankings as well, but I just want to formally offer my objection to Overeem being placed in the top-10 heavyweights until he beats somebody that’s a top-50 ranked heavyweight in MMA.
14) Semmy Schilt
I intended to only break down the top-10 on each list, but I could not omit that the computer’s formula has the 14th spot held down by a guy who hasn’t fought in MMA since 2008, and whose last three wins, his only wins since 2004, have come to fighters who are a combined 10-11-1 in MMA. In fairness, FightMatrix has Ray Mercer at 14th for knocking out Tim Sylvia, so maybe the number simply confuses computers.
Light heavyweights
1) Lyoto Machida
2) Gegard Mousasi
No. Gegard Mousasi is a great young prospect, and very possibly the future of the division, but he does not belong above the likes of Shogun Rua, Rampage or Rashad Evans.
6) Randy Couture
These rankings brought to you by the year 2003.
1) Chael Sonnen
2) Anderson Silva
FIGHT! Magazine’s computer is about to be really excited about the betting lines it can get on Silva-Sonnen in a few months’ time.
9) Ikuhisa Minowa
Minowaman earned this spot on the list by beating middleweight powerhouses Bob Sapp, Hong Man Choi and Sokoudjou.
1) Georges St
I just want to take the time here to congratulate the computer for actually determining that GSP is the best, after the middleweight debacle. At least the welterweights seem to be pretty much in check.
3) Nick Diaz
God damnit.
10) Ben Saunders
25 spots above Mike Swick, who overwhelmed Saunders in the second round.
1) BJ Penn
2) Shinya Aoki
3) George Sotiropoulos
The only reasonable place for somebody to end up after beating Joe Stevenson in their first notable fight.
5) Benson Henderson
Henderson is the holder of the WEC’s Lightweight belt, a pretty trinket which is given to the best lightweight fighter that is not good enough to cut it in the UFC’s lightweight division.
And there you have a quick glance at the worst rankings ever put forth by a respectable MMA outlet. Credit is due to this fanpost on MMA For Real, which is itself an exercise in painful reading, for bringing them to my attention.

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