Opinion: Stop focusing on Win/Loss Records, focus on Opponents
In the UFC today, we have some fighters with some sparkling records. Let’s look at the records of current top 5 fighter’s on ESPN’s Top-10 Pound-for-Pound Rankings (as of 8/25/21):
1. Kamaru Usman, Record: 19-1, UFC Welterweight Champion
2. Jon Jones, Record: 26-1-1 NC, Former UFC Light Heavyweight (Moved to HW)
3. Israel Adesanya, Record: 21-1, UFC Middleweight Champion
4. Francis Ngannou, Record: 16-3, UFC Heavyweight Champion
5. Dustin Poirier, Record: 28-6-1 NC, #1 Ranked UFC Lightweight Contender
These records are outstanding… No one can debate the numbers. Although, I would ask you to take a deep dive into Usman and Adesanya’s opponents while compiling their impressive records. I venture to say that, outside of their last seven fights, their competition was rather lackluster.
Good MMA fighters, fighting at the UFC level and having a record of 30–0? Let’s get real, that’s almost impossible. Most elite MMA fighters have a couple of losses or more on their records. A professional boxer with a 40–0 record can be misleading too, as boxers are known for padding their records against unknown opponents during their come-up.
MMA is different though. I can’t remember any elite UFC fighter doing such a thing. Although the UFC seems to protect young stars in their matchmaking by giving them favorable matchups early in their careers. Once a fighter reaches the top-15 of their division, they have to face the best competition, according to their level of skill. As a result, most fights between two ranked UFC names are often evenly matched.
Let’s look at some fighters who have mediocre records, while focusing on the level of competition they have faced:
- Randy “Captain America” Couture: 19-11 (former UFC LHW & HW Champion)
Good Wins: Vitor Belfort (2), Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Tim Sylvia, Brandon Vera, Mark Coleman
Good Losses: Chuck Liddell (2), Brock Lesnar, Lyoto Machida, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Josh Barnett
- Michael “The Menace” Johnson: Record: 20-17-0
Good Wins: Dustin Poirier, Edson Barboza, Joe Lauzon, Tony Ferguson, Artem Lobov, Andre Fili
Good Losses: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz, Beneil Dariush, Justin Gaethje, Josh Emmett
- Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone: 24-13-1 NC (UFC record only)
Good Wins: Charles Oliveira, Edson Barboza, Eddie Alvarez, Al Iaquinta, Benson Henderson, Myles Jury
Good Losses: Anthony Pettis, Rafael dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler, Leon Edwards, Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson
- Rafael dos Anjos: 19-11 (UFC record only) (former UFC Lightweight Champion)
Good Wins: Paul Felder, Kevin Lee, Robbie Lawler, Neil Magny, Anthony Pettis, Benson Henderson
Good Losses: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Tony Ferguson, Leon Edwards
I know you might be reading this and saying, there is no such thing as a good loss. A good loss is when your opponent was/is a champ or is consistently viewed as a top-10 fighter in their division. MMA is a very complex sport and there are so many ways you can finish a fight. Therefore, it “should be” normal to see an MMA fighter with a couple of losses on his/her record.
Fight fans tend to get swept away by impressive records but sometimes, records can be inflated and mostly overrated. So next time you’re thinking about your GOAT lists, take a look at fighter resumes on Tapology beforehand.