Mixed Martial Arts: Injuries, suspensions impact MMA rankings

Injuries are a part of sports, but never have they had more impact upon the UFC than they have in 2012, when scores of headliners missed fights because of them.

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Mixed Martial Arts - Rampage leaves UFC on a low
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UFC 123, Quinton Rampage Jackson

Add in drug suspensions and it's been an extraordinarily bad year for UFC president Dana White and his beleaguered matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby.

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is among several fighters who have withdrawn from at least one fight.They got a sign on the year's first show how difficult it would be. At UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro on January 13, Fabio Maldonado, Paolo Thiago, Siyar Bahadurzada and Rob Broughton dropped off the card because of injuries. Stanislav Nedkov had to withdraw because of a visa issue.

It hasn't relented in the ensuing nine months. Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, both of whom would be highly ranked in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10, haven't fought this year. They're ineligible for the poll because both have been out more than 12 months.

Light heavyweight Dan Henderson, who is 10th in this month's poll, hasn't fought since November. He injured a knee and had to pull out of UFC 151, ultimately forcing that card's cancellation. He'll soon be ineligible due to inactivity.

Featherweight champion Jose Aldo fought on that ill-fated UFC 142 card, but hasn't fought again and has nothing scheduled yet.

Other elite fighters and big names like Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Rory MacDonald, Brian Stann,Thiago Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir, Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold, Erik Koch and Brandon Vera, among many others, had to pull out of at least one fight in 2012.

Compounding the UFC's matchmaking woes is the fact that welterweight Nick Diaz and heavyweight Alistair Overeem, both among the company's top draws, are in the middle of drug-related suspensions and won't fight again in 2012.

Overeem hasn't fought since destroying Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 on December 30 in Las Vegas.

It's been an amazing run of bad luck, which ultimately hurt the depth of the cards. It's also had a dramatic impact upon the Yahoo! Sports rankings.

Neither St-Pierre nor Cruz are in the latest top 10, though each clearly would be. Fighters who are on suspension are ineligible to be ranked. There is a chance that both Overeem and Diaz would be in the top 10 were they not sidelined.

Soon, Henderson is going to fall out of the rankings for inactivity and it's likely that Aldo will in January. Aldo last fought on January 13, but has no fight scheduled and the UFC is booked through the end of the year.

If all remaining title fights this year go off as scheduled – St. Pierre vs. interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 154 on November 17; Nate Diaz vs. lightweight champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 6 on December 8; and heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC 155 on December 29 – the UFC will end the year with only 11 regular (not interim) title fights.

White's goal is to have the belt defended at least twice and, hopefully, three times a year.

Assuming the rate of injuries abates, the UFC will have a number of stacked cards in the early part of 2013 to accommodate those who are returning from the injury lists. But until then, matchmaking is going to be a major headache.

With that, let's take a look at the rankings in the October poll:

1. Anderson Silva

2. Jon Jones

3. Jose Aldo

4. Junior dos Santos

5. Benson Henderson

6. Frankie Edgar

7. Gilbert Melendez

8. Demetrious Johnson

9. Carlos Condit

10. Dan Henderson

Others receiving votes: Cain Velasquez 23; Rashad Evans, 19; Renan Barao, 11; Ronda Rousey, 9; Gray Maynard, 5; Joseph Benavidez, 2; Daniel Cormier, 1; Chris Weidman, 1.

Ineligible: Nick Diaz (serving marijuana suspension); Alistair Overeem (serving PED suspension); Dominick Cruz (inactive more than 12 months) Georges St. Pierre (inactive more than 12 months).

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