If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out yesterday's introduction to the concept of the Top 20 UFC Fighters list, with an explanation of the points system we're using. There is a lot clustering right outside the top 20 with many fighters separated by just a few points so a basic understanding of what the point values mean will go a long way.
With that taken care of, get out your pitchforks and torches because before we even get to the top 20, here's a short list of the men who just missed the cut:
Choosing UFC 167 as a cutoff to create this list is as arbitrary a decision as you can get. It means that some fighters still on the upswing of their careers are going to be at a disadvantage compared to those whose careers have already concluded. Barring major injury or career suicide these guys are a lock to add points and climb the rankings:
No. 23 Renan Barao - 34 points
Barao is currently tied at No. 23 with 34 points on the strength of two title defenses and a six-fight win streak. He's undefeated in the UFC and has finished his last two opponents. If he can beat Dominick Cruz at UFC 169 next year, that alone would be enough to put him over the top and break into the top 20. Even if he loses that fight, he's young enough to mount another assault on the division, which would put him among the UFC elite.
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No. 29 Demetrious Johnson - 30 points
The UFC's inaugural flyweight champion is undefeated since dropping to 125 pounds and is coming off his first stoppage victory in over two years. His longest win streak is still active at four fights and his reign as champion gives him opportunities aplenty to rack up some major points. A win over Joseph Benavidez at UFC on Fox 9 could put him among the upper echelon already.
No. 22 Frank Mir - 35 points
Mir is an interesting case. He has 14 wins, which is more than the next eight fighters listed ahead of him. He won a title twice, which is more than the next nine fighters ahead of him. The problem is that he never defended his titles and he has seven losses by stoppage. He can still gain some points, but if his title contending days are over, he may be always just outside the top 20.
No. 27 Rashad Evans - 31 points
Evans already holds the distinction of being the TUF winner with the highest point total (Nate Diaz is next, five slots below him), but his total is hampered by the fact that he didn't defend his title and only has five stoppages in 13 UFC wins. He might have a hard time getting back to a title shot at light heavyweight, but if he chooses to join former foil Lyoto Machida in making the move down to 185, Rashad may be closer than it seems to the title shot he needs to climb back up the rankings.
This section is the hardest one to accept. These men who fall outside the top 20 were critical to the early days of the UFC, but the early days meant shorter careers and fewer opportunities to win and defend titles. They are at a permanent disadvantage due to nothing other than the era in which they competed. However, an objective points-based system looks only at results and can't give extra weight to historical significance. Based purely on their limited career output, these men stay outside the top 20:
No. 23 Mark Coleman - 34 points
Coleman is currently tied with Renan Barao for 23rd place, but because he is retired, his stock will continue to go down as younger fighters pile up more points. He is one of only three men to win consecutive tournaments (the others are Royce Gracie and Mark Kerr). But Coleman only won seven times in the UFC and his greatest moment, winning the 2000 Open Weight Grand Prix, happened in Pride and is not factored into his score.
No. 25 Dan Severn - 33 points
While we can only award the standard six points for a tournament title, Severn deserves extra kudos for winning the first Ultimate Ultimate tournament in 1995. While most of the early tournaments had only a few good fighters, the Ultimate Ultimate was the first time that beating the field meant being the best of the best, much closer to the modern equivalent of besting the top competitors in a weight class.
No. 26 Don Frye - 32 points
Like the other fighters of his era, Frye suffers because of lack of volume. His UFC career was only 10 fights long, where he went 9-1 with all nine wins by stoppage. He won two tournaments, but lost a tournament in between to Mark Coleman. That loss hits his score hard, as it robs him of the bonus he could have received for defending his tournament title rather than winning it once and then winning it back.
No. 32 Ken Shamrock - 27 points
Of all the pioneers, Ken Shamrock's career is the hardest to reconcile. He never won a tournament. He has five stoppage losses. But he was also the first true titleholder in UFC history and defended that belt. Perhaps most impressive is that he is ranked this high even though he never won more than two fights in a row. The next fighter on the list with only a two-fight win streak is Murilo Bustamante in 54th place.
Some Odds and Ends
Here are a few names from further down the list that are worth a mention:
No. 31 Brock Lesnar - 28 points
No. 41 Mark Kerr - 24 points
There are a few fighters who made enormous impacts despite fighting only a few times in the UFC. Lesnar and Kerr are the only fighters to appear in the top 50 while winning four times or less. In Lesnar's case, three of those four wins came in title fights (once to win the belt and two defenses). Kerr's standing suffers because he only joined the UFC when its tournaments were four-man brackets instead of eight-man brackets. He ran the table in both tournaments he entered and there's little to doubt that he could have won another couple of fights in each bracket, adding more wins, more stoppages, and a longer streak.
No. 54 Forrest Griffin - 20 points
Like the fighters in the Pioneers section above, there are some fighters whose importance to the UFC outpaces their in-ring achievements. No one could doubt the significance of Forrest Griffin's UFC career. He won the first season of TUF, scored an upset title win over Rampage Jackson, and notched 10 total victories. However, his standing is hurt by only finishing three fights and never stringing together more than three wins in a row.
No. 64 Dominick Cruz - 18 points
Like Barao and Johnson above, Cruz has the potential to amass major points in the immediate future. By keeping the belt during his long absence due to injury, he has the chance to pick up where he left off, extending a string of high-value title defenses, rather than needing to win back his belt.
Now that we know who's out, come back tomorrow to see who's in, counting down the fighters from No. 20 to No. 16.
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