Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Next in MMA

So ESPN is back at it again with its "Next" magazine issue. For those that do not know, ESPN each year likes to make a magazine issue that stars athletes that are the future of their respective sports. For example Cam Newton was the winner last year for being "Next" in football (not sure how that has worked out so far). Typically I always have an issue whenever ESPN tries to create a list or a bracket of any sort. I looked at their nominees for who is next in each sport and in typical ESPN fashion they made some really hair scratching choices just for their nominees. Though I could hammer ESPN for choosing Johnny Football as a nominee for being "Next" in football over Russell Wilson or Breanna Stewart for being "Next" in basketball over Damian Lillard, I decided to take my frustrations out on their list of who is "Next" in fighting.

 As I have gotten older my love for combat sports has grown to the point where the knowledge I use to store about football, basketball, baseball, and hockey have been pushed out to make room for MMA. No longer do I pay close attention to recruiting classes or even care who wins what award in college sports. Now I wonder who will be the next great fighter to enter the 145 pound class in the UFC and whether the 125 pound division is sustainable with a lack of well known fighters? Gone are the days of wondering who will be the next great defensive end to challenge the greatness of Bruce Smith and Reggie White. Now I wonder if anyone can eclipse the standard set by Anderson Silva and GSP. ESPN is clearly the gold standard in sports and is the voice of the sports world, but ESPN has always lacked in its knowledge of combat sports especially in MMA. So when I saw their list of who is "Next" in fighting needless to say I thought the list was extremely underwhelming.

Of their list of five fighters, two of their fighters were MMA fighters. I was impressed by the fact that they put Michael Chandler on their list. Michael Chandler is a star in the Bellator ranks and is one of the top 10 fighters in arguably the deepest weight class in MMA, the 155 pound division. However after Michael Chandler, ESPN then listed Alexander Gustavsson which is just an okay choice. Alexander Gustavsson has been relevant in the UFC (the biggest organization in MMA) for more then three years now. I'm not sure what ESPN considers for "Next" but in my book Gustavsson is more of a now guy then a next guy. After the two MMA fighters the next three fighters were boxers. Now I'm not a big boxing fan, but the guys they listed (Broner, Canelo, and Price) are all also well established boxers that hold multiple titles (which I understand isn't very difficult. I think you get a title just for turning professional). The fact that ESPN decided to list more boxers then MMA fighters is a clear sign of their ignorance of the popularity of MMA.

Their ignorance is evident every time the topic of MMA is brought up on one of their shows. The talking heads on ESPN always brush off the topic as if they are asked to discuss an obscure Olympic sport like curling or ribbon dancing. However, UFC alone has gone from being exclusively on Spike TV to having headlining shows of FOX, FX and Fuel TV. The Bellator brand has shows on Spike TV, MTV, and MTV2. UFC fighter Jon Jones has his own line of training gear in Nike. Oh and his line of gear was brought in after Nike dropped Manny Pacquio, (this was before he was left sleeping on the mat by Marquez). MMA is the biggest growing sport in the world with MMA gyms popping up all over in each country. MMA is the biggest individual sport in Brazil and in Canada. It's also considered the most popular combat sport in all European countries and in Asia. With this being a fact ESPN has to get with the times especially if they are going to try to provide commentary on combat sports. With this in mind I think it's my job to provide the correct insight on who is actually "Next" in fighting, specifically in MMA. So here we go!

5) Jon Dodson: The five foot three inched 125 pound American could be the face of a struggling division in the UFC. The 125 pound division gets criticized for not having enough heavy hitters. Though the fights are fast paced the masses always like a good knockout artist. Enter Jon Dodson. In his three UFC fights he has two spectacular knockout victories. Also his post-fight celebrations of flips and acrobatics just adds to his appeal. Jon Dodson will be fighting Demetrious "Might Mouse" Johnson on January 26 in Chicago for the championship. This fight will be the headlining bout on a card that will be on FX. This could be the stage that vaults Dodson into mainstream popularity

4) Anthony "Showtime" Pettis: There is no Milwaukee bias in this choice. Anthony Pettis has been slowed by some injuries, but he could be the most exciting fighter in the deepest weight class in the UFC. The 155 pounder has explosive kicks and amazing grappling. Milwaukee is surprisingly becoming a hotbed for training UFC fighters at the Duke Roufus gym and Anthony Pettis is their best prospect. The 25 year old has a huge fight against Donald Cerrone on the same card as Jon Dodson. A victory in this card should put him in line for a title fight against the current 155 pound king Ben Henderson.

3) Dustin Porier: The 23 year old Louisiana native has been on a tear ever since he was introduced to the UFC. He had a minor setback against Chan Sung Chung, but his submission defeat to the Korean Zombie happened after he was dominating that fight in the first round with timely strikes. With only two losses under his belt and with a recent bounce back victory over former TUF winner Jonathan Brookins, Porier is on track to be a serious threat to current 145 pound king Jose Aldo. With time, the American Top Team prospect should be fighting for a title sooner rather then later.

2) Chris Weidman: He could arguably be number one on this list, but the guy in front is just a little bit more dominant. However, this 185 pounder is the most serious threat to the MMA king, Anderson Silva. His dominant performance over Anthony Munoz sent a message to every fighter in the 185 pound division. The 28 year old is yet to lose a fight and has avoided the injury bug for the most part. Another dominant performance against another top 5 contender should put him in line to take on Silva. A victory over Silva would make Weidman the first American to hold the middleweight title since Rich Franklin was relevant in the early 2000s.

1) Rory McDonald: We thought there would never be another GSP, but here he is. If anything he's the evil GSP. Unlike GSP, this Canadian does not care for fan approval. His robotic post-fight interviews reminds many fans of Ivan Drago. However his skill sets are completely unstoppable. He has ran through every opponent that has been placed in front of him. His lone lost to former #1 contender Carlos Condit came in the very last round when he was knocked out after dominating Condit for the previous two rounds. He will have a chance to revenge that lost at UFC 158. The 23 year old could be the most dominate fighter in the UFC over the next five years. Rory McDonald has all of the striking and wrestling as his mentor GSP and he has time on his side. He's a bigger version of GSP and has way better kicks then GSP ever had. Canada has arguably the most rabid MMA fan base and they also have the next big thing in Rory McDonald.

Monday, December 3, 2012


So, you all may remember WARSCOR, my attempt at a career rating system which could be my version of Adam Darowski's wWAR.  Of course, there's also the fact that Adam has rolled out his newest thing:  The Hall of Stats.  Well, I got jealous.  One of my biggest criticisms of wWAR was that it was too arbitrary:  it had cutoffs in weird spots, and for no reason. The Hall of Stats has cutoffs at replacement and average.

WARSCOR has the advantage of being adaptable to be used with Win Shares, rWAR, fWAR, (the now-defunct gWAR, which I miss a whole lot, because it used DRA for defense,) and WARP (although that's my least favorite of the group, because it doesn't have full historical stats).  And since I don't actually run a website with it, I am free to just do what I need for a specific project, not sort of figure everything out for every player in history.

But, of course, Adam had to go and come up with something better.  I realized that, perhaps, average is a better comparison than replacement.  Hmph.  It's tough to say.  But here's what I did.  I ran the WARSCOR system using replacement level.  Then I did the exact same thing with Wins Above Average (baseball-reference-style - let's not get ahead of ourselves TOO much).  Then, I took the geometric mean.  Easy as that.  Here it was for Adam's list of the top 9 3B not in the Hall of Fame, with their WARSCOR, WAASCOR, and the Composite:

Stan Hack, 38.4; 21.0; 27.1
Heinie Groh, 37.3; 22.8; 28.3
Ron Cey, 39.3; 23.2; 29.2
Robin Ventura, 39.8; 23.6; 29.7
Darrell Evans, 41.4; 23.5; 30.0
Buddy Bell, 44.6; 27.9; 34.4
Sal Bando, 45.5; 28.4; 35.0 (35.954)
Graig Nettles, 46.2; 28.1; 35.0 (34.958)
Ken Boyer, 46.9; 28.0; 35.1

It's really only when you have a distance of  at least 1.0 that you can start to even say there's a remote distinction between the players.  Therefore, you can see that Bando, Nettles, and Boyer can't be distinguished between in a meaningful way, although it's probably not outrageous to say that they're significantly better than Bell.  But it's also pretty clear that Evans falls into the lower group.  There's a rather HUGE gap between Evans and Bell, and one can see that, if we were to say that people were to go into the Hall of Fame, this might be a good place to separate into different factions.

So, there you have it.  A new, even more convoluted system.  But one that I'm pretty proud of, and would stand behind.