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Vitor Belfort and the UFC rankings paradox

Vitor Belfort arrives at the sixth annual Fighters

Vitor Belfort arrives at the sixth annual Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards at The Palazzo Las Vegas on February 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Getty

Vitor Belfort won all three of his fights in 2013 by head-kick knockout. Not too shabby for the now 37-year-old Brazilian fighter who first debuted in 1997 at UFC 12.

Since returning to the UFC in 2009, Belfort has fought four times at middleweight, twice at light heavyweight and twice at a catchweight (195, 197 pounds). He's 6-2 in that span, with both losses coming in title fights (one in each division, of course).

That makes it's hard for some to associate Belfort with a particular weight class for the purposes of the UFC's fighter rankings. That he was supposed to fight middleweight champion Chris Weidman at UFC 173 (Belfort was removed from the fight when the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy) would tend to make you think he's a middleweight.

But here's how Belfort compares in the latest UFC rankings, as voted on by members of the media:

Pound for pound: No. 11 (behind Ronda Rousey, ahead of Benson Henderson)

Middleweight: No. 2 (behind Anderson Silva, ahead of Lyoto Machida)

Light heavyweight: No. 12 (behind Jimi Manuwa, ahead of Rafael Cavalcante)

What does this mean? Basically, it means that most of, if not all of the voting members have Belfort ranked high at middleweight. And that at light heavyweight, voters aren't sure what to do. Likely many do not even have him ranked at light heavyweight.

But if you go beyond the math of it (and the complaints about the system), it means this unique quirk: According to these official rankings, there are 11 light heavyweights* better than 12th-ranked Belfort, but only 10 fighters better than Belfort in the entire UFC. (* Actually, it's 12 light heavyweghts if you include Jones, who as champion, is technically not ranked No. 1.)

That one would have mathematicians and logicians scratching their temples until they detached their retinas if they really tried to figure it out.

For the record, of those 10 fighters ahead of Belfort on the pound-for-pound list, only one light heavyweight (Jon Jones) is ahead of him. The middleweights ahead of him on the pound-for-pound list are champion Weidman and No. 1 ranked Silva, so that actually parallels the middleweight rankings.

Enjoy the math.


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