To be the best you have to beat the best, but according to American Kickboxing Academy coach, Javier Mendez, sometimes a single win can push a fighter higher up the rankings than they may otherwise deserve.
Interestingly enough, Mendez was talking about this in relation to his own fighter, Islam Makhachev. Following Makhachev’s dominating submission win over Charles Oliveira for the Lightweight title (watch it), Islam found himself in the No. 3 pound-for-pound spot. One month later, No. 2-seeded pound-for-pound fighter, Israel Adesanya, fell to Alex Pereira, and when the new rankings came out, Makhachev moved up to replace him in that slot.
That doesn’t sit right with Mendez.
“Look, you know this just as much as I do,” Mendez said in an interview with MMA Junkie. “Islam went to No. 2 spot pound-for-pound in the UFC in just one fight? How? I know he’s good, and I believe he’s No. 1. I do believe that. But, to give him that spot of No. 2 pound-for-pound in just one fight? No, I know in my heart with time he’ll be No. 1. Simple as that. He’s going to be No. 1. But they gave him this just because of one fight. No.
“I don’t like that,” he concluded. “It was done too quickly.”
In theory, UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings should be the hardest to climb, harder than any individual division’s rankings. In practice, fighters jump into the division off single wins over other fighters who have earned their slots because of years of consistent wins and title defenses. Pereira — who’s UFC career comprises four fights — now sits in the No. 9 P4P spot because of his win over Adesanya, who’s now No. 6 after losing at UFC 281.
How should the pound-for-pound rankings work? Well, movement up should be a lot slower and more deliberate with less straight swaps. But, there’s not much anyone can do about it because the rankings are determined by a breakdown of rankings submitted by MMA media. Unless everyone recalibrates their thinking on how the somewhat silly P4P rankings should work, they will continue as is.
“He’s the man, but he needs to do more,” Mendez added. “That’s what I believe. He needs to beat Volkanovski, then Dariush. He needs to beat those guys, so you can say he’s No. 1. Look at what Volkanovski is doing. He mopped the floor with all the challengers that are in his weight class. Everyone. He cleared them all out. Islam needs to clear everyone out. Again, I feel he’s No. 1, but in order to get that you need to finish everyone, that’s how it works. That’s how I think.”
For now, Mendez will have to cope with his fighter’s sudden inclusion at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings. When Makhachev fights No. 1-ranked P4P fighter Alexander Volkanovski in Australia at UFC 284, we can revisit the topic and see where he stands then.
Where do you have Islam Makhachev on your pound-for-pound rankings, Maniacs?