Comparing the 10 Title Defenses of Demetrious Johnson and Anderson Silva

18 Apr , 2017,
Richard Mann

With a victory over Wilson Reis in the main event last Saturday, Demetrious Johnson tied Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive UFC title defenses. Many pundits have been quick to decry the accomplishment due to the current state of the flyweight division. The UFC did not crown their first flyweight champion until 2012, and the division has been in the developing stages ever since. With that being said, Johnson has been nothing short of dominant. How do the two strings of title defenses compare?

In terms of ranking points alone, Silva faced a much tougher road than Johnson. As you can see in the following chart, Silva’s opponents almost always had more ranking points. However, that does not tell the entire story. Fighters competing in more developed divisions will obviously have more points. Ranking points are the result of the Fight Matrix statistical model. The more points a fighter has, the higher the fighter is ranked. You can find more information here.

When determining the per-bout level of opposition a fan might ask himself/herself, “how big of an upset would this be?” Using this criteria might give a clearer picture of the level of competition faced by both fighters. Fight Matrix hands out two different “Upset of Year” awards, most noteworthy and most lopsided. Most noteworthy is simply “the largest difference (X minus Y) between raw rating points,” while most lopsided is “the largest proportional difference (X divided by Y) between raw rating points.”

In terms of ranking points difference, Silva seems to have faced much more overmatched opponents. After his first three title defenses, he had at least a 400 point advantage in all of his successful title defenses.

The proportional difference is champion’s ranking points divided by the challenger’s. The higher the number the closer or more even the bout. As you can see from the following chart, the path of both champions is remarkably similar. Plus, Johnson’s third title defense against Joseph Benavidez is the toughest challenge that either fighter faced during the run.

Johnson’s run of title defenses might not be on the level of Silva’s, but it is certainly worthy of respect. Plus, there does not appear to be a challenger who could unseat the champion on the horizon.

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    1. oleg April 19, 2017 at 12:37 pm Reply

      Yeah something like that, or maybe even all belt timelines on a single graph.

    2. oleg April 18, 2017 at 6:46 pm Reply

      You should make one of these graphs for all the current UFC titles since their inception…

    3. oleg April 18, 2017 at 5:14 pm Reply

      And apparently Tanner and Terrel were #2 and 3 at the time so my historical perspective is way off 🙂

      • Richard Mann April 19, 2017 at 12:19 pm Reply

        Haha. The fact that Terrell was #3 says a lot about the middleweight division. As for each title, do you mean a graph for all the challengers/champions for the life of the belt?

    4. oleg April 18, 2017 at 5:11 pm Reply

      Oops, Tanner fought Terrel not Lawler for the rebooted UFC MW title.

    5. oleg April 18, 2017 at 3:05 pm Reply

      That’s a fair assessment. UFC didn’t have a 185 division for a while after Bustamante left, and restarted it from scratch with a totally arbitrary matchup of Tanner-Lawler. Franklin was a more deserving champion but his title shot was also arbitrary and his two title defences were major mismatches.

      At least 125 started with a mini-tourney including the #1 and #3 flyweights ranked at the time, and solid contenders coming down from 135.

      Silva beat some great fighters during his reign but also a few guys who didn’t truly deserve a title shot but got it by default for lack of other contenders (Leites & Cote), or for a completely stupid reason (Lutter – but he didn’t make weight so ended up being a non-title fight). Same can be said about DJ.

    6. Richard Mann April 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm Reply

      I thought that was interesting as well. I guess it means both divisions were similarly shallow.

    7. oleg April 18, 2017 at 11:42 am Reply

      Interesting that the respective peaks and valleys of both over time almost mirror each other.

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