Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

Top 25 ELO Rankings Are Here

Listed on the left-hand column of this blog are links to my top 25 rankings for each weight class in mixed martial arts. To rank fighters, I have decided to use a modified ELO rating system. ELO works by taking the rating of two fighters, estimating each fighter’s probability of winning based on those ratings, and then adjusting each fighter’s rating based on the outcome. The more “surprising” a result is to ELO, the more the fighters’ ratings are adjusted. Click here if you’d like a detailed explanation of what ELO is and how it works.

For this ranking, I have decided to use a K-factor of 250. That’s because, from what I’ve seen, this K-factor is the best model for how the sport of mixed martial arts works. K-factors that are too small tend to reward quantity over quality; if the K-factor was 20, the top-ranked fighters would be Travis Fulton, Dan Severn, and Jeremy Horn. These are not the best fighters in the world, they just have the most wins. If the K-factor is too large, a top five fighter can be jettisoned from the rankings altogether with one untimely loss. By setting the K-factor at 250, I’ve calibrated the system to reflect the best balance between rewarding quality wins, without punishing a fighter too much for one loss.

A question that has to be asked is: what are MMA rankings? What are we ranking? If we rank fighters alphabetically by first name, then Aaron Anspach is #1. Obviously that’s not what I’m doing, but I would argue that MMA rankings don’t rank fighters based on who the “best in the world” is either. Instead, they rank fighters by relevance; specifically, how deserving a fighter is of a title shot.

Because I’m ranking fighters based on relevance, fighters who do not compete in the UFC will get a penalty in my system. That might seem like me hating on fighters in other organizations, but the fact of the matter is that fighters outside the UFC are generally less relevant than fighters in the UFC. Fighters whose last fight was in Strikeforce or Bellator will get a small penalty, and fighters in any other organization will get a large penalty.

Trust me when I say that these modifications are for the best. If I didn’t make these adjustments, these rankings would be full of fighters who broke into the top 25 based on a winning streak against mediocre competition in a regional promotion.

Because this is a mathematical system, there will be some strange/unusual rankings. For the most part, these rankings go along with conventional wisdom, but there are a few exceptions. While I want these rankings to be credible, I also don’t want to conform to group-think. If one of my rankings is a lot different from the norm, it doesn’t make my rankings right or wrong. If anything, it provides an opportunity for discussion about the fighter who is ranked higher or lower than the standard.

Here are the top 10 rankings for each weight class:


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Cain Velasquez 2900
2 Alistair Overeem 2802
3 Daniel Cormier 2738
4 Junior dos Santos 2715
5 Fabricio Werdum 2706
6 Stefan Struve 2617
7 Antonio Silva 2588
8 Frank Mir 2587
9 Josh Barnett 2505
10 Mark Hunt 2465


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Jon Jones 3134
2 Dan Henderson 2967
3 Alexander Gustafsson 2846
4 Rashad Evans 2824
5 Lyoto Machida 2741
6 Ryan Jimmo 2608
7 Forrest Griffin 2594
8 Mauricio Rua 2589
9 Attila Vegh 2587
10 Phil Davis 2577


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Anderson Silva 3194
2 Chael Sonnen 2867
3 Chris Weidman 2811
4 Costa Philippou 2764
5 Yushin Okami 2760
6 Vitor Belfort 2754
7 Michael Bisping 2729
8 Hector Lombard 2708
9 Jake Shields 2690
10 Tim Boetsch 2641


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Georges St-Pierre 3237
2 Johny Hendricks 3056
3 Carlos Condit 2917
4 Rory MacDonald 2795
5 Martin Kampmann 2790
6 Jake Ellenberger 2780
7 Nick Diaz 2766
8 Jon Fitch 2722
9 Ben Askren 2718
10 Mike Pyle 2698


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Benson Henderson 3130
2 Gilbert Melendez 2843
3 Gray Maynard 2827
4 Frankie Edgar 2771
5 Nate Diaz 2728
6 Anthony Pettis 2719
7 Donald Cerrone 2694
8 Pat Healy 2672
9 Jim Miller 2669
10 Rafael dos Anjos 2663


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Jose Aldo 2940
2 Ricardo Lamas 2650
3 Dennis Siver 2648
4 Daniel Straus 2632
5 Chad Mendes 2631
6 Pat Curran 2615
7 Cub Swanson 2599
8 Darren Elkins 2536
9 Tatsuya Kawajiri 2509
10 Erik Koch 2505


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Dominick Cruz 2858
2 Renan Barao 2766
3 Eddie Wineland 2551
4 Michael McDonald 2536
5 Raphael Assuncao 2521
6 Urijah Faber 2509
7 Marcos Galvao 2462
8 Bibiano Fernandes 2426
9 Brian Bowles 2373
10 Erik Perez 2325


Rank Fighter ELO
1 Demetrious Johnson 2712
2 Joseph Benavidez 2497
3 John Dodson 2420
4 John Moraga 2387
5 Ian McCall 2289
6 John Lineker 2261
7 Jussier da Silva 2191
8 Darren Uyenoyama 2175
9 Chris Cariaso 2170
10 Louis Gaudinot 2133

3 responses to “Top 25 ELO Rankings Are Here

  1. jumpingpolarbear January 15, 2013 at 6:36 am

    Cain is back at the top of the rankings. Just hope he can beat Overeem too!

    • David Williams January 15, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Assuming Overeem wins (and he’s fighting Bigfoot Silva, so… yeah…), it will be the first time in a long time Overeem will have to fight a wrestler who will actually look to take him down (unlike Lesnar). VERY interesting fight if it happens.

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