(Funny…that’s exactly how we feel about the UFC’s light-heavyweight and women’s bantamweight divisions. / Photo via TitoCouture)
By Matt Saccaro
Recently, we at CagePotato systematically took the piss out of the UFC heavyweight division.
In response to that article, our readers took to the comments section to tell us that the UFC heavyweight division wasn’t unique. The other divisions, too, were flawed and shallow, they said.
And they were right.
This prompted us to examine all of the weight classes side-by-side, essentially taking a snapshot of how these divisions stack up against one another. Are the divisions boring, fun, somewhere in between? Is it a division that’s locked down by the champ or is it a revolving door of equally-matched contenders?
To keep things concise, we’ll be using only three main criteria:
- How dominant is the champion, and how much longer can he/she remain dominant?
- Are the fans sick of that champion yet?
- How many challengers in the division are (or will soon be) a legitimate threat to the champ, and are those fighters popular enough to carry a weight class?
Then, each division will be given a score out of 5, with five being the best (a division where any number of contenders could win the title on any given day) and one being the worst (a division where the person with the belt will have the belt for another decade barring any freak circumstances).
We’ll start with the heavyweights and work our way down.
How dominant is the champ/how much longer can he remain dominant: Cain Velasquez has only defended his title once. He destroyed Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in a fight that really wasn’t supposed to happen anyway (Alistair Overeem was supposed to beat Silva but he didn’t). Thus, with only one defense over questionable competition, it’s tough to call Velasquez “dominant.”
But Velasquez can remain at the top for a while. Like we said before, the only real threat to Velasquez is Junior Dos Santos. Outside of Dos Santos, there’s nobody else that has a good shot of taking out the champ.
Are the fans sick of him yet: There isn’t any palpable disdain against Velasquez (at least not for anything unrelated to his atrocious “everybody’s moving to metro” commercial or his “BROWN PRIDE” tattoo).
How many challengers in the division are/will soon be a legitimate threat to the champ, and are those fighters popular enough to carry a weight class: One. Again, Junior Dos Santos has the best chance of beating Velasquez. The other would-be champions are either too old, leaving the division, or have proven to be overrated.
The Score: 2.5/5 Yamma pits. There are two men at heavyweight who are legitimate claimants to the title. Everyone else is glorified padding. Fortunately, Velasquez hasn’t worn out his welcome and Dos Santos is an affable character with an exciting style. Nobody on earth can dislike your in-cage groove when you knock out Mark fuckin’ Hunt with a spinning heel kick.
How dominant is the champ/how much longer can he remain dominant: Jon Jones melts faces. He hasn’t truly lost a fight in his MMA career — the DQ loss to Matt Hammil was the MMA gods trying to teach Jones humility; they failed. Jones has outdone each of his opponents in every aspect of MMA. The only time he’s looked human during his reign as champion was when he was almost caught by a surprise armbar from Vitor Belfort. And at 25 years old, Jones can stay at the top of his weight class for a long time.
Are the fans sick of him yet: Jon Jones is an artist…who only paints in red. So people who are fans of watching MMA at its highest level aren’t sick of him…but people who watch it for relatable characters are. Jones hasn’t exactly won people over with his charm. At the worst of times, he comes across as a hypocritical, “fake” Christian with a flawed personality or no personality at all. A DWI (a “blessing” according to jones) and a tirade against toy UFC belts didn’t help matters.
How many challengers in the division are/will soon be a legitimate threat to the champ and are those fighters popular enough to carry a weight class: Not many. Optimists would say four: Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, and maybe Phil Davis and Gegard Mousasi.
Alexander Gustafsson, too, has quite the hype train but it’s partially hot air. If a guy is good enough to beat Jones, he should’ve smashed an ancient Shogun Rua and a rusty Thiago Silva. Instead, he decisioned them. Gustafsson, at 26, has time enough to improve though. He could be a threat later in time. The same can be said for 27-year-old Gegard Mousasi, whose wealth of experience and striking prowess could threaten Jones if the Armenian just learned to wrestle. Phil Davis suffers from the opposite problem; his wrestling is powerful but his other talents are lacking.
The other fighters at light heavyweight are either too old, unskilled, or have already had their shot and been beaten decisively.
The Score: 2/5 Smashed Bentleys. Jon Jones is Neo. And despite excitement over a few contenders, there’s not an Agent Smith in sight to balance him out.
How dominant is the champ/how much longer can he remain dominant: Anderson Silva is dominant to the point that it’s record breaking. ‘Nuff said. But he’s getting old. Andy turned 38 this year. One day he’ll step into the cage and his reflexes won’t be as impeccable as they once were. He’ll no longer be able to slip punches and throw split-second-fast front kicks to the face.
Are the fans sick of him yet: Perhaps. Everyone was high on Silva when he was smashing Rich Franklin and company. Then Silva pissed off the entirety of the MMA fandom with his “fights” (we at CagePotato thought they were just caged break dancing contests) against Patrick Cote and Demian Maia. But the Chael Sonnen saga, as well as a stunning KO win over Vitor Belfort, made the fans love Silva again.
But then why is there so much pro-Chris Weidman, anti-Silva sentiment in the air heading into UFC 162? Maybe people are just tired of Silva and want some new blood and a division that’s actually volatile and not set in stone.
How many challengers in the division are/will soon be a legitimate threat to the champ and are those fighters popular enough to carry a weight class: If Silva beats Weidman, nobody right now. By beating Vitor Belfort in brutal fashion, Silva proved that no middleweight on earth can out-strike him. If he beats Weidman, he’ll prove that no middleweight on earth (aside from Chael Sonnen that one time) can wrestle him to the ground and beat him that way.
There’s hope though. Silva is 38, an old man by combat sports standards. One day he’ll retire and the middleweight division will be like the light heavyweight division post-Chuck Liddell and pre-Jon Jones: It’ll be a revolving door of equally matched fighters, any of which could become champion on any given night.
The Score: 3/5 Burger King stackers. For years, middleweight has not been a competitive division. It’s been a slaughterhouse. Zuffa built up contenders like farmers fatten up cows, only to lead them to dismemberment and evisceration. Unlike light heavyweight though, things will change sooner rather than later. Middleweight has a bright future.