Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The world heavyweight champion in boxing was universallly recognized from the Great John L. Sullivan in the late 1800s through Muhammad Ali in the 60s. During in the 70s determining who the champion was in the various weight classes started to get cloudy. So boxing fans invented the concept of the lineal champion.

In short, the lineal champ is the man who beat the man, going back to some universally recognized figure.

While the dominance of the UFC has created a situation parallel to that of the other major US sports with a single, univerally recognized league, and thus largely removed the need for a concpt like a lineal champ, it can still be fun.

While the lineal champ can be subjective, with various authorities handling things like changing weight class or quality of opposition differently, the lineal champion in MMA appears to be Alistair Overeem, no matter how you slice it.

The first MMA heavyweight title was given to Mark Coleman after his submission victory over Dan Severn at UFC 12.

Mark Coleman [6-0] record before losing to:
Maurice Smith [4-7] at UFC 14.

Maurice Smith [6-7] record before losing to:
Randy Couture[3-0] at UFC 15.5.

Randy Couture [4-0] record before losing to:
Enson Inoue [8-3] at Vale Tudo Japan.

Enson Inoue [10-3] record before losing to:
Mark Kerr [11-0] at PRIDE Grand Prix 2000.

Mark Kerr [12-0] record before losing to:
Kazuyki Fujita [3-0] at PRIDE Grand Prix 2000.

Kazuyki Fujita [4-0] record before losing to:
Mark Coleman [9-4] at PRIDE Grand Prix 2000.

Mark Coleman [12-4] record before losing to:
Rodrigo Nogueira  [12-1] at PRIDE 16.

Rodrigo Nogueira [19-1] record before losing to:
Fedor Emelianenko [12-1] at Pride 25.

Fedor Emelianenko [31-1] record before losing to:
Fabrico Werdum [13-4] at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum.

Fabrico Werdum [14-4]record before losing to:
Alistair Overeem [43-11] at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum.

One potentail area of dispute in determining a lineal champion is determining the original champion. If you consider Royce Gracie the original openweight champion because of tournament wins in UFC 1, the road still leads to ‘Reem.

Royce Gracie UFC 1 Champ. [8-0] record before losing to:
Harold Howard [1-0] via forfeit at UFC 3.

Harold Howard [2-0] record before losing to:
Steve Jennum [0-0] at UFC 3.

Steve Jennum [2-0] record before losing to:
Tank Abbott [2-1] at UU 95 – Ultimate Ultimate 1995.

Tank Abbott [3-1] record before losing to:
Dan Severn [6-2] at UU 95 – Ultimate Ultimate 1995.

Dan Severn [14-2] record before losing to:
Mark Coleman [5-0] at UFC 12.

And then, again, the road leads back to Alistair Overeem.

Even if you do not count Royce Gracie’s loss to Harold Howard legit and follow his next loss to Sakuraba, you still get Overeem.

Royce Gracie UFC 1 Champ [11-1] record before losing to:
Sakuraba [8-1] at PRIDE Grand Prix 2000.

Sakuraba [9-1] record before losing to:
Igor Vovchanchyn [34-2] at PRIDE Grand Prix 2000.

Igor Vovchanchyn [35-2] record before losing to:
Mark Coleman [10-4] at PRIDE Grand Prix 2000.

Mark Coleman [12-4] record before losing to:
Rodrigo Nogueira [12-1] at PRIDE 16.

And once again, we find ‘Reem as the lineal champion.

The good news is MMA is not boxing. Boxing is a hot mess with a larger number of sanctioning bodies and champions and weight classes that any single person can remember. Like the NFL with American Football, or FIFA with Soccer, or the PGA with Golf, MMA has a single, dominant, universally recognized organizing body.

Overeem will shortly be licensed, and, if he beats Bigfoot at UFC 156, will get a title shot in short order. Then the lineal and official champions will be united in MMA, and that is something for fans to celebrate, something boxing hasn’t enjoyed since many uninterrupted generations of greatness ended in the 70s.

Huge thanks to UGer RoyCisneros for his efforts in determining the lineal champion in MMA.

And lastly, it is lineal, not linear.