Ranking fighters is a difficult proposition under perfect circumstances. Doing it in situations like the one involving Frankie Edgar increases the degree of difficulty a hundredfold.
Edgar is clearly one of the elite fighters in the world. He's proven that repeatedly, in wins over lightweight stars such as B.J. Penn, Gray Maynard and Jim Miller, among others.
He's fought a very high level of opposition and has yet to be blown out in his fights.
He's 14-3-1, which in MMA qualifies as an exceptional record. But he's 1-2-1 in his last four.
Of course, the losses were razor-thin decisions to Benson Henderson in lightweight title matches. Edgar lost his title to Henderson on Feb. 25 in Japan in a fight so close it merited an immediate rematch. Henderson then took a split decision Aug. 11 at UFC 150 in the rematch, though many have been outraged at the call, believing Edgar won.
At this point, the question becomes how to deal with Edgar in the rankings given the stark reality of his poor recent record. Henderson was listed on the ballots of all 23 voters in the August Yahoo! Sports rankings. Edgar was listed on 19 of the 23.
Four voters who included both men on their ballots had Edgar rated above Henderson, indicating they disagreed with the judges' call, at least at UFC 150.
Those voting for Edgar are essentially keeping flyweight Joseph Benavidez out of the rankings. Benavidez finished 11th in the August voting, appearing on just 11 of the 23 ballots.
Four voters – Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting, Dave Doyle of MMA Fighting and SI.com, John Morgan of MMA Junkie/USA Today and myself – voted for Benavidez but not for Edgar.
The other seven who voted for Benavidez all voted Edgar above him. Benavidez enters his flyweight title fight against Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152 on Sept. 22 with a 16-2 record. He's won his last four and six of his last seven, though he's fought mostly above his weight class.
The only losses in his career were both to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
There is no right answer in this, and clearly both Edgar and Benavidez are great fighters. So, too, are guys like Rashad Evans, Cain Velasquez, Renan Barao and Daniel Cormier, all of whom received votes but did not make the Top 10.
I chose not to vote for Edgar, even though I scored UFC 150 for him four rounds to one (49-46). However, I agreed with the judges in February when they gave the decision to Henderson.
My tipping point became Edgar's number of tremendously close fights. I felt others, including Benavidez, Evans and Velasquez, had separated themselves more from the pack than Edgar.
I dropped Henderson to eighth on my ballot, down from fifth, because I thought he lost at UFC 150. But he has excelled recently and has compiled a series of big wins.
My own personal votes – and remember, I'm just one of 23 voters on the panel – were: Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, Cruz, Junior dos Santos, Velasquez, Benavidez, Henderson, Evans and Carlos Condit.
For those wondering, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre is ineligible because he's been inactive more than a year. Welterweight contender Nick Diaz is ineligible because he's on a suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission.
With that, let's take a look at the updated rankings, which are very similar to the previous ones:
1. Anderson Silva
2. Jon Jones
3. Jose Aldo
4. Dominick Cruz
5. Junior dos Santos
6. Benson Henderson
7. Frankie Edgar
8. Gilbert Melendez
9. Dan Henderson
10. Carlos Condit
- Frankie Edgar
- Benson Henderson