Opponent Strength: 2007-2009

25 Jun , 2010,

It’s been a while since we had a post that was strictly based on analysis, so I thought it was a good time to provide one.  I decided to take a look at average opponent strength between 2007 and 2009.  We’ll look at which fighters have had the best average opponent strength, and although I wanted to also post who had the worst, it was really hard to filter the list in a way that did not only contain obscure fighters or those who just now reached their lofty ranking.  Before consuming the lists, please consider the following qualifiers and notes:

  • Fighters must have had at least four qualifying fights between 1/1/2007 and 12/31/2009, an average of one fight per nine months. I did not want to bring this to the current day due to the next point.
  • The opponents’ current FightMatrix division dominance ratings are considered, not their pre-bout ratings or regular ratings.  I wanted to use the current division normalized status of the opponents to show what they’ve become, not what they were, or what the rating system thought they were.  So, to limit the direct effect of points gained by the opponents who beat the listed fighters, I stopped the date range short of this year.
  • No contests are excluded as are female fighters.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at the list.

Top 10

1. Forrest Griffin

2. Matt Hughes

3. Chuck Liddell

4. Dan Henderson

5. Georges St. Pierre

6. Thiago Alves

7. B.J. Penn

8. Sean Sherk

9. James Irvin

10. Frank Mir


Comments: It comes as no surprise that Forrest Griffin tops the list, but after seeing Chuck at #3, I feel kind of bad for him.  Why not give the guy an easy one or two within the swath of future legends that he’s been facing?  The UFC did that for CroCop.  Anyway, James Irvin is a big surprise at #9, but we can blame Anderson for skewing his average a bit.  Notice that the list contains only fighters above Lightweight.


The Next 10

11. Rich Franklin

12. Nate Marquardt

13. Jens Pulver

14. Yasuhiro Urushitani

15. Josh Koscheck

16. Marcos Galvao

17. Tim Sylvia

18. Mauricio Rua

19. Matt Lindland

20. Diego Sanchez


Comments: The first fighter tipping the scales lighter than 155 to show up is Jens Pulver at #13.  Here’s another guy that could have definitely used a soft touch or two before being written off.  Current Shooto 123lb champion Urushitani is representing at #14  and Matt Lindland has me scratching my head at #19.  I may have been a little too hard on him in the past couple years.


Rounding out the Top 25

21. Patrick Cote

22. Mamoru Yamaguchi

23. Jon Fitch

24. Hong Man Choi

25. Dokonjonosuke Mishima


Comment: Outside of Jose Canseco, Choi has had a tough go from 2007-2009.


  1. jcs June 28, 2010 at 6:50 am Reply

    Not a bad idea Fitz, I may take a look at that.

  2. Fitz June 27, 2010 at 2:57 am Reply

    As an example of fighters with fewer fights(and signed to major orgs) gaining an edge, no one in the top ten fought more than 6 times over that 3 year period. That’s only 2 fights a year on average. 4 of them only fought 4 times over that time period, just over once/year.

    Aoki’s top competition over that time period was pretty decent, but he fought 15 times which presumably dragged him down the rankings. If we only looked at his top 6 fights he’d probably make the top 25.

  3. Fitz June 27, 2010 at 2:37 am Reply

    “This shows (as if there were ever any doubt) that the vast majority of proven, quality fighters are in the UFC.”

    While I agree that most top fighters are in the UFC/WEC, there are problems caused by averaging opponent strength. If fighter A fights 5 top 10 opponents in the given time span, and fighter B fighters 5 equivalent top 10 opponents, but also 5 opponents not in the top 10, fighter A will be ranked higher. Despite fighting more, and fighting the same number of top opponents as fighter A, fighter B’s opponent strength ranking is damaged by all the inferior opposition he faced.

    This creates a bias for UFC fighters due to their matchmaking procedures and fight frequencies compared with people fighting in Japanese orgs. Fighters in Dream/Pride tended to fight more often, and were often given relatively weak opponents(often cans). Fighters in the UFC generally fight 2-4 times a year and top fighters have to fight consistently tough opposition, so their rankings aren’t diluted. Tournaments are common in Japan, but non-existent in the modern era UFC. Tournaments often force top ranked fighters to fight the lowest ranked fighters in the tournament, who are often not that strong due to the org having to fill the tournament. These problems could probably be accounted for by only averaging the top X(5?) opponents faced by fighters in that time period, then looking further down the list(up to the number of fights fought by the least active fighter) when the ratings between two or more fighters are very close. This system would avoid penalizing fighters for fighting too often.

    In addition, this time period overlaps with the death of Pride. As a result it’s likely that some of the Pride fighters that weren’t quickly picked up by the UFC were forced to take fights in smaller orgs against weaker opponents, resulting in diluted records.

    While the UFC holds most top fighters from LW-HW, the effect is exaggerated in this type of analysis.

  4. ThonolansGhost June 26, 2010 at 9:48 am Reply

    This shows (as if there were ever any doubt) that the vast majority of proven, quality fighters are in the UFC.

  5. GaryMac June 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm Reply


    In straight-on winning percentage, a guy like Mishima would be even higher on opponent strength.

    His opponents are otherwise 28-5-4 from 2007-2009, whereas Tim Syliva’s opponents are otherwise 18-8

  6. jcs June 25, 2010 at 7:21 pm Reply

    The factor is very small and only affects 206 bouts out of over 100,000.

  7. GaryMac June 25, 2010 at 5:13 pm Reply

    I’m guessing the UFC/’Big Show’ bonus you have boosted most or all of these guys because of using the division dominance results?

    One would think that the winners of tournaments would have an obvious strong schedule due to the fact that tournaments end with winners facing winners.

    I’m surprised that we don’t see tourney champs from Bellator, BoDog, Dream, YAMMA, etc. but I guess it could be because they don’t get that bonus for being in bigger orgs?

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