Author Archives: Richard Mann

Fight Matrix Ranking Points for the Rizin Lightweight Tournament

10 Oct , 2019,
Richard Mann

Rizin and Bellator are not only sharing card space at the end of this year, but they are also sharing promotional tactics. This weekend Rizin will kick off an interesting lightweight tournament, which features a mix of new prospects and veterans of the game. The field runs the gambit from #211 Tatsuya Kawajiri to BJJ convert #94 Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza to Bellator regular #12 Patricky Freire.

The following chart looks like the Fight Matrix ranking history of all participants since they were first ranked by the system. An interactive version is available via Tableau Public.

Richard Mann is a regular contributor to @ESPNMMA, @FightMetric, @RotoWireMMA and @InterMat. You can follow him on Twitter at @richardamann.

The Lineal Strawweight title will be on the line at Rizin 18

14 Aug , 2019,
Richard Mann
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Basically all lineal titles and number-one rankings are aligned with the UFC titles these days. However, there are a few key exceptions. One of those exceptions is the lineal strawweight title, which will be on the line at Rizin 18 this weekend.

#1 SW Haruo Ochi enters the event as the top-ranked fighter in the division, which Fight Matrix defines as 121.9 lbs and below. His opponent for the night will be UFC veteran #3 SW Jarred Brooks, who previously made a name for himself on the strawweight scene before moving up to flyweight to fight in the UFC.

Ochi dropped to strawweight in 2015 after competing at higher weight classes. In 2017 he captured the Deep strawweight title with a victory over Kanta Sato. A year later he picked up the biggest win of his career over #11 SW Mitsuhisa Sunabe at Rizin 13. In the process he took over the number-one spot at strawweight and claimed the lineal title. Sunabe had been undefeated since 2011 and was the strawweight King of Pancrase.

Brooks was a nationally ranked high school wrestler who was never really able to make it work on the collegiate level. Instead, he launched an MMA career in 2014. In his eight professional fight, he defeated veteran #23 SW Junji Ito and entered the strawweight rankings at number three. He fought once more in the division, scoring a victory over Jun Nakamura under the Pancrase banner, before moving up to flyweight to sign with the UFC. During his run in the UFC, he went 2-2 with victories over #31 FLW Eric Shelton and #34 FLW Roberto Sanchez. The promotion then released him as part of their ill conceived and ultimately unsuccessful plan to eliminate the flyweight division.

Considering the issues that the flyweight division has had getting over in the U.S., it seems unlikely that the strawweight division will ever really make a ton of headlines. However, the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO all sponsor multiple boxing divisions under 125 pounds, so there is still a chance that the strawweight division could flourish on the international scene.

Richard Mann is a regular contributor to @ESPNMMA, @FightMetric, @RotoWireMMA and @InterMat. You can follow him on Twitter at @richardamann.

Fight Matrix Ranking Points for the Bellator Featherweight Tournament

23 Jul , 2019,
Richard Mann

Last week Bellator announced the participants in what they are calling the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix Tournament. Despite obviously being the number-two MMA promotion, Scott Coker and company were able to put together quite the field. Headlining the tournament is reigning Bellator featherweight and lightweight champion #6 LW Patricio Freire. Also in the bracket are former Bellator champions #12 BW Darrion Caldwell, #38 FW Pat Curran and #128 LW Daniel Straus as well as former WSOF champion #39 FW Georgi Karakhanyan.

The following chart looks like the Fight Matrix ranking history of all participants since they were first ranked by the system. An interactive version is available via Tableau Public.

Other Notes:
Highest Ranking Point Total: Patricio Freire with 553 (7/1/2019)
Highest Ranking: Pat Curran at #2 Featherweight (7/1/2012 to 1/1/2013)
Earliest Rank Date: Daniel Weichel (1/1/2004)
Latest Rank Date: Tywan Claxton (1/1/2019)
Most Wins: Daniel Weichel with 39
Most Losses: Daniel Weichel with 11

Richard Mann is a regular contributor to @ESPNMMA, @FightMetric, @RotoWireMMA and @InterMat. You can follow him on Twitter at @richardamann.

Fight Matrix Ranking Points for ONE Championship Flyweight Tournament

27 Mar , 2019,
Richard Mann

On Sunday former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will fight outside the Octagon for the first time since 2010 as he makes his debut for ONE Championship. The card, dubbed “A New Era” will feature the first round of a flyweight tournament. Johnson is a heavy favorite in the field, and he is the only fighter in the bracket who is currently ranked inside the top 10. It will be interesting to see how ONE progresses as a promotion with a few high level signings and a new U.S. television deal. In the past, high profile fighters, such as Ben Askren, have struggled to maintain their Fight Matrix ranking due to lack of competition. How will it effect Johnson’s legacy? Given the lack of depth of the flyweight and bantamweight divisions outside of the UFC, it will be hard to see how ONE will provide strong opponents for Johnson without co-promoting with another promotion like Bellator or Rizin. Even those two companies had to join forces to make a super fight for champions Kyoji Horiguchi and Darrion Caldwell.

The following chart shows the career ranking points for all competitors in the upcoming ONE Championship flyweight tournament. An interactive version is available via Tableau Public.

Richard Mann is a regular contributor to @espnmma, @FightMetric, @RotoWireMMA and @InterMat. You can follow him on Twitter at @richardamann.

Ranking Points for Copa Combate

8 Nov , 2017,
Richard Mann

On Saturday Combate Americas will host their first “Copa Combate” tournament. The semifinals and finals of the one-night eight-man bantamweight tournament will air live on NBCSN. The following matches are set for the first round:

Michael Erosa vs. #215 FW Marcelo Rojo
Carlos Rivera vs. #365 FW Ricky Palacios
#62 BW John Castaneda vs. Kevin Moreyra
Marc Gomez vs. Andres Ayala

As you can see, Castaneda seems to be a pretty big favorite from a ranking perspective. Plus, he is coming off a victory over Cheyden Leialoha in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. As you can seen in the following chart, he appears to have the most consistent upward career trajectory. Will he be able to keep this up and take the tournament title? The winner is expected to face newly signed UFC veteran #21 BW Erik Perez, who would be a step up in competition for all participants in this tournament.

Rankings Impact of Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix 2017 Autumn: Aki no Jin

16 Oct , 2017,
Richard Mann

The following chart shows the change in ranking following this past weekend’s Rizin event. Gabriel Oliveira was the biggest winner from the event. He moved up 69 spots in the bantamweight rankings thanks to his victory over veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri. The chart only includes fighters who were previously ranked in the same weight class.

Ranking Points for the 2017 Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix

11 Oct , 2017,
Richard Mann

Rizin Fighting Federation returns on Sunday with their ninth event. The card features, among other things, three more first round bouts for the 2017 Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix as well as a “wild card qualification bout.” There were three bouts on the April show with #41FW Kyoji Horiguchi, #83BW Khalid Taha and #74BW Takafumi Otsuka advancing to the second round. The follow chart shows the ranking points for all tournament competitors over the last two years.

As you can see the two standouts from a rankings perspective are Horiguchi and #18BW Shintaro Ishiwatari. Horiguchi’s ranking dipped recently due mostly to inactivity, but he is still the odds on favorite to take the tournament. Ishiwatari is currently riding a four-fight winning streak with wins over Ostuka, #55BW Victor Henry, #258 FW Jonathan Brookins and #35BW Rafael Silva. The reigning bantamweight King of Pancrase also has the highest Rankings Momentum of all the competitors at +8.04.

Mamoru Yamaguchi is a true pioneer of the flyweight division

17 Aug , 2017,
Richard Mann

This weekend, former two-division Shooto world champion and current flyweight King of Pancrase Mamoru Yamaguchi returns to action at Pancrase 289. The 40-year-old fighter will defend his title against Senzo Ikeda, and the card will air live on UFC Fight Pass.

Yamaguchi, currently ranked #26 in the flyweight division, might not be the most recognizable name to average MMA fans. However, you can’t tell the story of the MMA’s flyweight division without including him. In 2000, he became the first Shooto featherweight (132 pounds) champion with a victory over Jin Akimoto. Three years later, he took the first Shooto bantamweight (123 pounds) championship after defeating Yasuhiro Urushitani. Urushitani went on to participate in the tournament to determine the first UFC flyweight champion.

The following chart shows the percentage of Yamaguchi’s ranking points compared to the number-one ranked fighter in his division for each quarter of his career.



The higher the percentage, the closer to the number one ranking for Yamaguchi. This is a similar calculation used to determine the “Fight Matrix Most Lopsided Upset of the Year” award.

As you can see, Yamaguchi was not only a pioneer of the flyweight division but also a perennial contender until the UFC adopted the division in 2012. At his advanced age, it is impressive that he is still ranked near the flyweight top 25. His current run as King of Pancrase is a dignified culmination of a historic career, which, unfortunately, is rarely seen in the sport.

Richard Mann runs the data-driven combat sports blog You can follow him on Twitter @RichardAMann

Aaron Pico faces unusually tough debut opponent at Bellator NYC

22 Jun , 2017,
Richard Mann
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On Saturday, wrestling prodigy Aaron Pico will make his MMA debut on the main card of Bellator 180/NYC. For the uninitiated, Pico made news in 2014 when he left high school wrestling and forfeited any potential collegiate wrestling career to sign with Zinkin Entertainment. He continued to compete in freestyle wrestling for a shot at the Olympics, but MMA was always the ultimate goal. This past summer he ended up one match short of winning the U.S. Olympic Trials and has since focused on his MMA debut.

In his debut, the 20-year-old fighter will face Zach Freeman. “The Altar Boy” holds an 8-2 professional record and has been ranked as high as #118 LW in the Fight Matrix system. It is safe to say that Pico will face one of the toughest debut opponents for a wrestling prospect in the last 10 years.

The following table shows the debut opponents for all NCAA Division I wrestling All-Americans in the last 10 years who have transitioned into MMA. As you can see, only three others besides Pico have faced fighters who were ever ranked and only two others faced opponents who were ranked at the time. Freeman also has more wins that any of the other opponents, slightly beating out Phil Davis’ debut opponent Brett Chism.

How did Ben Askren drop 44 spots in the rankings without losing?

25 May , 2017,
Richard Mann

On Friday, Ben Askren will defend his ONE Championship welterweight title against Agilan Thangalapani. The challenger is 7-0 and currently ranked #204 at middleweight. During his six-fight ONE career, he has fought fighters with the following records: 0-1, 2-2, 3-6, 3-1, 4-5 and 6-2. This is what a title challenger looks like in a promotion run by people who publicly say things like, “If Conor McGregor was a free agent, ONE Championship would not try to sign him.”

Askren left Bellator in 2013 and signed with ONE the following year. During his Bellator run, he went 9-0, won the promotion’s welterweight title and defended it four times. At the time, many expected the Olympic wrestler to sign with the UFC. He even posted on Twitter, “I am now free to go to the UFC and beat whoever I want.” Instead, fans were treated to a never-ending war of words between Askren and UFC president Dana White.

During his time in ONE, his ranking has fallen from #6 welterweight in 2013 all the way to #50 in the current ranking release. This is partially due to inactivity, but his lack of quality opponents is the main impetus for the drop.

In 2014, Askren made his ONE debut with a first-round submission victory over Bakhtiyar Abbasov. He then returned and bested Nobutatsu Suzuki for the promotion’s welterweight title. The following year, he fought to a no contest with Luis Santos after Askren landed an accidental eye poke. The two were supposed to rematch, but Santos missed weight and ate too much brunch, so the fight never materialized. Last year, Askren defeated Nikolay Aleksakhin.

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