Rizin Fighting Federation has completed the field for their 100kg tournament. The tournament will start on the promotion’s first show on Dec. 29 and continue on the New Year’s Eve event. The field will feature representatives from Rizin’s partner promotions such as Bellator, BAMMA, Jungle Fight, Bushido Lithuania and KSW.
The history of MMA is full of impact tournaments such as the early UFC events and the Pride Grand Prix events. The sports seems to have grown out of tournaments for the most part, but they do still happen in the major leagues with limited regularity. At first glance, the Rizin tournament does not seem to stand up to some of the great heavyweight tournaments of the past. Does that hold up?
To compare the Rizin field to earlier tournaments, the contemporary ranking of each competitor in each heavyweight tournament under the Pride FC, Strikeforce and Bellator MMA since 2000 was reviewed. For the sake of this analysis, contemporary ranking means the Generated Historical Ranking from the quarter where the fight took place. For fighters that were not ranked at the time of the tournament, they are listed as 250th, which is the equivalent of last in the heavyweight division.
The following table shows the tournaments listed in order of highest average contemporary ranking to lowest.
As you can see, the Rizin tournament does not necessarily stack up to some of the great tournaments of the past. However, it is surprising to see how close the average ranking is to that of the mythical Pride Grand Prix 2000. The Pride tournament had nine fighters within the top 25, but it also had four fighters were were not ranked at all (see below).
The Rizin tournament’s highest ranked fighter is Bellator representative Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal who will also likely be the tournament favorite. Outside of lesser known Bushido Lithuania representative Teodoras Aukstuolis and late replacement Brett McDermott all fighters are ranked in the top 150 of their respective weight class. The average fighter ranking is roughly similar to some of the lesser Bellator Bjorn Rebney era tournaments, which seems about right considering the new promotion’s market share.
The UFC’s stranglehold on top talent makes something like the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament impossible today. Even in retrospect, it is pretty incredible that Strikeforce was able to sign so much high level talent to compete. The field featured four fighters in the top 10, and the lowest ranked fighter was ranked 25th, Sergei Kharitonov.
In the most recent Generated Historical Rankings, the UFC has contractual rights to 19 of the top 25 heavyweights. Bellator technically has three if you include their champion Vitaly Minakov who regularly fights on UFC Fight Pass. The other three members of the top 25 most recently fought for M-1.
In summation, the winner of the Rizin 100kg tournament will not be in the conversation for the best heavyweight fighter in the sport. With that being said, given the UFC’s domination of talent, the promotion deserves credit for putting together a viable eight-man bracket. After all seven out of the eight competitors are ranked ahead of Jaideep Singh.