The Curious Case of Ranking Anthony Johnson

10 May , 2021,

Rarely has a case of determining a fighter’s ranking been as interesting as Anthony Johnson, who recently came back after a 4+ year layoff.

Why?  Two main reasons.

  1. Lost his most recent fight prior to his comeback, albeit in a UFC championship match.
  2. Dominantly won his comeback fight (after almost getting finished himself) in Bellator, but against an unheralded opponent.

Prior to his comeback, Anthony Johnson was ranked as the #3 LHW here, with 1,225 points. Currently, he sits at #23, with only 192 points.  Some of these lost points remain in a “holding pen” so to speak — with the opportunity for Johnson to earn them back if he proves himself against a worthy opponent, soon.

#3 loses to #1.  Takes 4+ years off, returns to beat #82.  It’s probably safe to say that he’s somewhere between #3 and #82, but exactly where?


Other Sources

  • Tapology – Fan-vote driven, they rank Johnson at #23.  Hey, sound familiar?
  • Ranking MMA – #4.  Seems foolish, or entirely driven by one of the popular mathematical ranking systems.  We’ll get to that in a moment.


Fight Matrix Alternate Systems

  • WHR – #1 and pretty comfortably.  WHR does not punish for inactivity, but the decay of recent opponents can negatively affect a fighter’s rating.  However, Johnson hasn’t had any recent opponents prior to his comeback.
  • Glicko – #4.  Inactivity can cause a fighter’s rating to fluctuate more upon return, but Johnson’s inactivity extends way beyond the maximum fluctuation potential.. and he won on his comeback.
  • Elo – #3 (both).  Elo, the most simplistic system performs better than WHR, the most complicated.  I think Glicko gets this one the most correct.


Who’s Right?

Ranking fighters that return from inactivity is probably best left to the humans.  If Johnson was 41 instead of 37, I’d be tempted to rank him lower, regardless of how his recent fight went, but that’s largely irrelevant, or is it?  Seeing Johnson almost get finished himself, also makes me want to rank him lower, but he ended up winning.  Ultimately, I think a ranking in the #20 area is a fair position.  What do you think?