Let It Reign: Handicapping UFC Champions

Let It Reign

By Jason Probst Nov 25, 2009
With its present lineup of five champions, the UFC has a group that ranks far superior than any of its predecessors in the history of the organization and the sport. In addition, they rank higher in their respective weight classes -- only Brock Lesnar lacks top dog status, ranking second behind Fedor Emelianenko -- than any previous UFC roster.

That represents a major change from the past, when typically a champion existed alongside a roster of numerous challengers who were much more competitive than today’s contenders, at least from a betting perspective. For an in-depth look at the champions and odds on future challengers, read insider Joey Oddessa’s breakdown here.

Yet for the seeming convergence of dominant champions, a UFC title itself has not proven a long-running job description in the past. With the average UFC championship reign at just 1.38 defenses, being “top dog” in a given division rarely lends itself to a lengthy streak of defenses. A breakdown of the math follows:

Lightweight: 3 reigns, 4 defenses, 1.33 defenses per reign
Welterweight: 8 reigns, 14 defenses, 1.75 defenses per reign
Middleweight: 5 reigns, 8 defenses, 1.6 defenses per reign
Light Heavyweight: 10 reigns, 15 defenses, 1.5 defenses per reign
Heavyweight: 14 reigns, 10 defenses, 0.71 defenses per reign.

For tabulation purposes, a scheduled bout does not count as a successful defense if a challenger misses weight or the match takes place between an interim titleholder and champion.

That’s why the current crop of champions is different. If you lined up all five, it would be a tough call to guess how many defenses each would make during their current reigns. Outside of light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto Machida, none of them have a challenger who registers less than 3-to-1 to dethrone them, and each has a good shot at making a lengthy run. UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva currently holds the promotional record for consecutive title defense with five, along with Tito Ortiz.

That very dynamic of dominance is another theme with which the sport’s top organization must deal -- building champions over an extended run as opposed to the topsy-turvy turnover that defined past reigns. It is a whole new angle from which to market top fighters and will probably inspire more belt-heavy cards, given the increasing likelihood of challengers that are longshots with bookies.

A look at each champion and how his potential challengers stack up follows:
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>
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