This week's UFC rankings may be the most controversial yet.
With #4 pound for pound ranked Conor McGregor's 2nd round knockout of Eddie Alvarez (#7 P4P), there is a case to be made that the Irishman has earned the right to sit atop the pound for pound list.
There are going to be those who vehemently oppose the mere concept of placing McGregor at the #1 spot in the pound for pound rankings. However, with McGregor etching himself in history, there is a very valid explanation for McGregor to be the pound for pound king of MMA
The concept of “pound for pound” is a fictional assessment of who the best fighter is regardless of the weight class they compete in. But when a fighter such as McGregor dares to be great by climbing through multiple weight classes, it almost shatters the concept by removing the “fictional” aspect of it.
What McGregor has accomplished in the UFC is unprecedented. It started with a swift and devastating rise up the featherweight rankings that culminated with a 13 second knockout of a man who was arguably the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world.
What gets lost in the shuffle is how definitive a majority of his victories have been. From 2011 to present, McGregor has gone 17-1 with 15 wins inside the distance. That is a pretty significant statistic considering he went the distance at welterweight with Nate Diaz and with a torn ACL against Max Holloway. If you eliminate the two fights with Diaz at welterweight and the unanimous decision with Holloway, McGregor has finished all of his opponents before the third round started. Cap that off with the fact that he iced Aldo in record time and you have a very viable option as a pound for pound contender.
He could have stopped at featherweight and made his case. But he dared to be great and jumped up a pair of weight classes to face Nate Diaz – after Rafael dos Anjos’ injury delayed his chance to fight for the lightweight title. He lost the first fight by second round submission at UFC 196 but came back at UFC 202 to defeat Diaz in a five round welterweight clash. To cap it off, he invades the lightweight division with a 2nd round demolition of Eddie Alvarez, who sat at #7 on the pound for pound list after upsetting dos Anjos, who was on a terrifying run through the lightweight division.
You can argue that Demetrious Johnson is still pound for pound the best fighter in the division. However, he couldn’t get the job done at bantamweight against Dominick Cruz and has since dominated a relatively shallow flyweight division. The argument against Johnson (and the other title holders in the UFC) is that they have proven to be the best in their division but haven’t excelled outside of it.
What’s also rare about McGregor’s feat is that he moved up in weight to do it. B.J. Penn failed in his attempt to beat Georges St-Pierre at welterweight after being a lightweight champion. The great Anderson Silva found success as a light heavyweight, but didn’t face anybody near the top of the division. We’ve heard a lot of talk about fighters moving up for “superfights” but McGregor actually did it. There were the Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo fight and Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre fights lingering around for a minute. Then we heard about Chris Weidman considering a jump in weight. But nobody has actually went out and pulled it off.
That deserves credit, doesn’t it?
We all know that Jon Jones has proven to be one of the best fighters of all time. However, personal problems notwithstanding, he has yet to make that jump to heavyweight to prove how great he is. It’s interesting how much of a risk it is when others talk about doing it, but McGregor gets shrugged off when he actually does it. And we have a nasty habit of reducing his opponents to nothing after he is finished with them. Aldo was arguably #1 pound for pound and Alvarez was #7. Nate Diaz wasn’t a pound for pound fighter but certainly a tough customer to fight in a weight division 25 pounds higher than the one McGregor holds a world title in.
Sure, McGregor still has work to do to prove himself to the naysayers. Khabib Nurmagomedov stands to be the Irishman’s biggest threat in the lightweight division. Although many think that McGregor wouldn’t have much of a chance against The Eagle, we’ll have to wait and see what happens if and when that fight comes to fruition. Speculation for a fight that hasn’t happened yet won’t suffice here.
Dominick Cruz has a valid argument considering that he hasn’t lost a fight in nearly a decade. However, as dominant as he’s been as a champion, being on the shelf for nearly three years takes away from his viability.
If it isn’t Jon Jones or Dominick Cruz or Demetrious Johnson, then it has to by Conor McGregor. He’s done what others couldn’t and made it look easy in both fights. Interestingly enough, his two fights with Diaz were, by far, the toughest of his career. Everything else has been a relative cakewalk.
Oh yeah, and he predicts the future.
If you ask me who the best pound for pound fighter is right now, it absolutely has to be #ConorMcGregor.