Renan Barao is the Real Pound for Pound King

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Originally the pound for pound ranking existed to accurately assess the abilities of then middleweight champion boxer “Sugar” Ray Robinson when stacked up against heavyweights who dwarfed him in size and strength. The idea was to determine who had the best technique, the most relative power and who would rule supreme if the physical differences between larger and smaller athletes were removed from the equation.

That’s how the promoters would phrase it anyway. The more cynical among us would argue that the pound for pound rankings are speculative claptrap, a conversation encouraged by promoters to get fans talking and yet another title to add to a fighter’s resume when promoting a fight. Either way pound for pound rankings are here to stay and with Renan Barao’s recent excellence it’s time to reassess his place within the ranks.

Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones currently sits atop the throne according to the UFC’s official rankings (a spot he inherited from Anderson Silva following his fall thanks to Chris Weidman) and is followed by Jose Aldo, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Renan Barao in fourth. Notice something strange?

Yes, Jones is a world class athlete and absolutely the greatest light heavyweight in history as of this present moment but his placement above Barao seems more due to spectacle and marketing potential than a sincere comparison of their skills. It is an established fact that the skill level in the lower weight classes is typically of a higher standard than the bigger men and isn’t this the very point of these rankings? To determine who has the best technique irrespective of stature?

If he continues to improve and put on such impressive performances a pound for pound list with Renan Barao anywhere but number one seems fundamentally flawed. Questionable stoppage or not the fact remains Barao was on his way to giving Urijah Faber the worst beating of his career and even excluding his most recent performance has there ever been a moment when Barao has been anything other than dominant? He is exceptionally well rounded, conditioned and at the tender age of 27 has amassed a ridiculous 33 fight winning streak. Jones and Velasquez are titans in their own right but when you compare Jones’ narrow eek past Alexander Gustafsson and Velasquez’s knockout loss to Junior Dos Santos against Renan Barao’s absolute domination it seems like putting him in fourth is more for marketing purposes than anything else.

One must also remember that the divisions south of 170lbs are far more talent stacked than 205lb and especially 265lbs, yet Barao has still annihilated them all. It’s not even a stretch to wager that defeating Urijah Faber by knockout in the very first round is a more impressive feat than any of those the light heavyweight and heavyweight champion have accomplished.

Unfortunately the only area in which Barao falters is arguably the most important to his employers. Despite his success in the cage Barao is not particularly memorable outside of it. Given the champ only speaks Portuguese he cannot communicate with the US market and build his fan base there (something Junior Dos Santos realised early into his career and remedied making him one of the most popularly heavyweights) and his star within his native Brazil seems small compared to superstars like Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort. The divisions below welterweight have always struggled to build superstars and this is just another hindrance for Barao achieving the status his fighting ability rightly warrants.

To assume the pound for pound rankings are an objective measure of skill and to deny Barao leading status is either simply naive or a confirmation that the rankings don’t mean very much at all. He can finish fights where Jose Aldo has coasted and his gargantuan winning streak far eclipses those of the other champions. His record is currently the closest thing in the UFC to pound for pound king boxer Floyd Mayweather yet sadly he couldn’t be farther when it comes to cultivating his own star power. It’s time the UFC recognise this and begin doing what they can to fill the holes left from the exits of Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre.

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