Author Archives: Richard Mann

Fight Matrix Ranking Points for ONE Championship Flyweight Tournament

27 Mar , 2019,
Richard Mann
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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
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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
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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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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.”

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How does Tonya Evinger stack up against UFC bantamweights?

24 Mar , 2017,
Richard Mann
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Tonya Evinger will get a second chance to successfully defend her Invicta FC bantamweight title against Yana Kunitskaya after their first fight ended controversially. The bout will be the main event of Invicta FC 22, which airs live Saturday night on UFC Fight Pass. Evinger is currently riding a nine-fight winning streak that dates back to 2011. Since she is the champion of a smaller organization, the question persists: how does she compare to the fighter’s in the UFC’s bantamweight division. The short answer is, quite well. She is currently ranked #6 in the division. However, that does not tell the entire story.

Not only does Evinger hold a high ranking, but she has also maintained a level comparable to her contemporaries in the UFC for multiple years. The following table shows ranking points for all fighters currently ranked in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight rankings as well as Evinger for the period between 4/1/2015 and 1/1/2017. The bottom line is that Evinger deserves a shot in the UFC if she wins on Saturday.

Fedor Emelianenko Ranking History

17 Feb , 2017,
Richard Mann
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On Saturday night, former Pride FC champion Fedor Emelianenko makes his Bellator debut against Matt Mitrione in the main event of Bellator 172. Emelianenko spent a large chunk of his career as the number-one ranked heavyweight. As you can see in the following chart, he has not experienced the same kind of success recently. However, his time on top is virtually unmatched.