Rumblings of DJ becoming “the GOAT” after last night’s victory are premature and exaggerated.

Johnson, who was #23 in our last version of the All-Time Rankings, will surely move up after the next update.  I estimate he’ll be at the cusp of the Top 20 and will continue to gain points as he maintains his lofty standing in the Flyweight division.

The greatest complications with the all-time rankings are simple to understand, but impossible to resolve with 100% satisfaction.

  • How do you weight divisions against one another (no pun intended)?
  • How do you weight eras against one another?
  • How do you weight quantity vs. quality?
  • How and when do you credit fighters for the extraordinary?

The first two are the easiest to articulate and can be grouped together.  Here’s an analogy:

You are a basketball legend at your high school, the best that the school has ever seen, but there have only ever been 500 basketball players in the school’s history.  You are the greatest of all-time at your school, but only #5 in your state at current.  Your state has tens of thousands of these athletes at any given time.

Which is more impressive?  Being #1 out of 500, or being #5 out of 50,000?

Although the Flyweight division has come a long way, it just recently made its way onto the map.  Other established divisions have been deep for a couple decades.

In terms of quality vs. quantity, DJ is doing a good job with the quantity, but his time at the top is still young.  He’s been a top fighter for 4-5 years.  Guys like Fedor and Aldo had/have elite-level tenures around double this.  Furthermore, the only other all-time elite level fighter he faced in or near their prime (Cruz, #30), beat him.  OK, I’ll give DJ credit for the Torres (#43) win, but it certainly wasn’t Torres at his best.

The “extraordinary” that gets the biggest highlight in my book, is high-level success in multiple weight divisions.  Now is the time for DJ to move up to 135.  There is nothing left to do at 125 except for continuing to rack up title defenses against fighters who don’t really deserve the opportunity.

Your thoughts?


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Posted on April 16, 2017 by jcs

Historical Ranks | Comments (6)




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    6 Comments

    • jcs says:

      The three main differences between our all-time rankings and those of others are (as I see them):

      – The propensity for others to underrate/overrate select fighters for a variety of reasons; gauging multi-division success, being considered “small” or “big” for the division, results against other big names before they became big names. People seem to pick and choose here, jumping on certain bandwagons and off others. This is the classic “gut feeling”, human factor. Examples: Royce Gracie, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kid Yamamoto, Frank Shamrock

      – We may give fighters a touch more credit for spending long periods being a top, but not necessarily #1 fighter. Example: Eddie Alvarez

      – We place quite a bit more emphasis on the depth of divisions. I think this is due to an inability for people to consider depth in past periods — they only look at the depth of the divisions at current. As a result, we tend to credit fighters from past periods in 135, 145, 155 a bit more… those in 205 a bit less.. Examples: Alexandre Franca Nogueira (the prior), Frank Shamrock (the latter)

    • oleg says:

      Going back in time makes it a bit more difficult because of the “How do you weight eras against one another?” question. Straight statistics can’t answer that. The depth of divisions at the time of ranking can still be accounted in the formula, but there are some intangibles to be considered as well…

      Sometimes it seems like our point bloat over time is too high and we are giving too much credit to recent champions over past ones in the all-time calculations. On the other hand it’s hard to argue that being #1 today has far more significance than being #1 in 2002, considering how much the sport has grown – and this applies to the overall evolution of the fighters, not just the depth of the talent pool… You would be hard pressed to find a fighter from 15 years ago in any weight class who was as well-rounded as DJ.

      We’ve had numerous tweaks to the all-time ranking algorithm over time, at the moment I feel like they reflect a fair balance of current vs past eras.

    • oleg says:

      If you look at the number of fighters ranked per division that should give you a good idea of flyweight’s depth relative to others. We keep the bottom at around 20 rating points, and expand the rankings as divisions get deeper.

    • Ked Becker says:

      as far as I know, the statistics calculation is pretty straight forward. since any group of 500 is equivalent to any other theoretical group of 500, then someone who is ranked no. 1 in that group is equal to the other theoretical’s group’s no. 1. so out of a group of 1,000, we can only assume he should be ranked among the first two. for 1,500 – the first three, etc. so for 50,000 we can only assume he should be ranked among the first 100, so definitely someone who is officially ranked #5 out of 50,000 should be considered more impressive than someone who is assumed to be in the first 100 of an equivalent group. if the Flyweight division is anywhere near that much different in size than other divisions than DJ shouldn’t be even considered the best current P4P in the world, not to mention of all time.
      If he can be considered for this title, the same principle could be applied over time to check for best of all time eligibility.

    • jcs says:

      Sounds like the Garbrandt fight might happen at 125… Not sure if the Dillashaw result will affect the probability of that..

    • oleg says:

      He was already fairly successful at 135 despite being smaller than all his opponents lost to Pickett early in his career and Cruz when Dom was at his peak. His frame is much better suited for 125 but the division is still shallow and not producing many viable contenders. Unless Borg beats Benavidez, he’s going to have to start the rematch circuit.

      Should defend one more time against Borg/Benavidez winner just to beat Anderson’s title defence record, then move up. I’d have him at a clear #4 at 135 today and would love to see how he does against the Top 3. The improvements he’s made since the Cruz fight and his early fights at 125 are incredible.

      Not sure about all time, I’d probably have him higher than 20 though, maybe right outside of the Top 10. He’s definitely the most well rounded fighter in the sport today and well deserving of his #1 P4P spot.


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