We saw it coming a mile away. The first time we loaded an online match in EA Sports UFC, none other than Anderson "The Spider" Silva was standing across the octagon.
Look, we get it, he's possibly the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Why wouldn't you want to play as him in a next generation combat sports video game? Well, for us that answer is simple, because the person standing across the cage from us is also Anderson Silva. While the online modes of EA Sports UFC are brilliant, something is definitely lost when Mike Goldberg announces that Anderson Silva is about to do battle with... Anderson Silva.
But what can you do? If "The Spider" is the best fighter available and you want a legitimate chance to emerge victorious, how do you not choose him?
We're glad you asked.
Today, we spent an uncomfortable amount of time combing through the fighter bios, then testing them out in the octagon. What we've come up with is a list of the top two fighters from each weight category. Fair warning: one of them will almost always be the champion, with the other being an option that hopefully won't be obvious, but will allow you to remain competitive.
Longest... intro... ever! Let's get to it.
(Overall: Stand Up-Ground-Submissions)
Women's Bantamweight Division (135lbs)
"Rowdy" Ronda Rousey (96: 93-96-98)
This one is a no brainer. Rowdy is not only the current champion in the only women's division currently in the UFC, she's also the best by a few hundred miles. Leaving her off this list would pretty much kill any of the integrity it might have had. For those looking to use Ronda effectively, clinch with your opponent, then take them to the ground and go for the armbar. There are no women in EA Sports UFC that will be able to hang with Rousey on the ground.
"Alpha" Cat Zingano (93: 91-92-93)
The best fighter that Rousey has never fought, Zingano is undefeated and was scheduled to compete for the belt in 2013, but due to injury couldn't make the bout. Still, Alpha is no joke in the cage, and is by far the best bet to beat Rousey in real life, or EA Sports UFC. Should you agree and decide to give her a shot, try to maintain distance, avoiding Ronda's takedowns and Judo throws from the clinch. Keep the fight on the feet, hitting Rowdy with punches in bunches, cutting angles and backing away before she gets a hold of you.
Men's Flyweight Division (125lbs)
Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson (96: 96-95-94)
Without question, Mighty Mouse is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. Gamers will like the fact that he's sponsored by Xbox (unless you're a PlayStation fan boy/girl), but regardless, he is by far the most well rounded fighter in the Flyweight division. Oh, he's also the champion. If you decide to hit the octagon with Mr. Johnson, feel free to take the fight wherever you feel most comfortable, or where your opponent can't keep up with you. He's just flat out a well rounded option.
John "The Magician" Dodson (94: 95:93-91)
No matter how good Dodson is, if he's your choice to fight Mighty Mouse, you're in for a tough night. If your opponent chooses anyone else in the division, enjoy your victory. The two top dogs in the division are miles apart from the rest of the pack. If you choose The Magician, try to keep the fight standing and you might have a shot. After all, Dodson did hurt Johnson a few times in their real life title fight in early 2013. As an alternative, if you manage to wear down your opponent's stamina, Dodson has a fairly slick submission game that might catch people off guard.
Men's Bantamweight Division (135lbs)
The fact that T.J. Dillashaw isn't in EA Sports UFC is disappointing. After all, he is the 135lb champion, putting an absolute shellacking on Renan Barao for more than 20 minutes before scoring the TKO victory. Although we fully expect to see Dillashaw, a Team Alpha Male standout, added in a future update (along with Diego Sanchez at Lightweight, please), he wasn't the champion before the game was released and therefore fell through the cracks.
Renan "The Baron" Barao (96: 95-96-99)
If you watched Barao fight Dillashaw at UFC 173, you'll have a hard time believing that this man is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. Trust us, he is. In fact, Barao went undefeated for over six years and 33 fights. Not too shabby. With the absence of Dillashaw, he's the obvious choice for those competing in the Bantamweight division. Should you opt to go with him, fight anywhere you desire, this guy has no holes in his game, unless your name is T.J. Dillashaw. Seriously, go watch that fight.
"The California Kid" Urijah Faber (94: 92-97-97)
For those familiar with MMA, you'll wonder why we chose Urijah Faber instead of his mortal enemy, Dominick Cruz. Well, The Dominator hasn't fought in more than two years, which was more than likely the reason he received the same rating as a man he demolished, Urijah Faber. But, because Faber scores higher in the Ground and Submission categories, we felt he was a good bet to hold his own in the octagon against Barao. If you agree and decide to go with him, try to take the fight to the ground. While Barao does have a great Submission rating, Faber is outclassed on his feet. Of course, if you want to put up your fists and throw down, Dominick Cruz isn't a bad option, at least until Dillashaw shows up.
Men's Featherweight Division (145lbs)
Jose Aldo (96: 95-95-98)
If you think that Renan Barao's six-year undefeated streak was impressive, well, Aldo hasn't been beaten since 2005. To put that in perspective, that was a full year before the PS3 was released. Two generations of consoles ago, Jose Aldo tasted defeat. Again, like many other champions, if you choose him, take the fight wherever you want. To the best of our knowledge, and until T.J. Dillashaw decides to put on a solid 10lbs of muscle, this man doesn't have any holes in his game.
Chad "Money" Mendes (94: 91-96-97)
We think Frankie Edgar should be ranked higher than Mendes. It's not that Money isn't a spectacular fighter, but c'mon, it's Frankie Edgar. If we're going just by ratings, however, you have to go with Mendes just on the Submission rating alone. Of course, if you decided he is the guy to be, take it to the ground and try to lock on one of those famous guillotine chokes that Team Alpha Male members are known for. As an honorable mention, you also wouldn't be crazy to pick Frankie "The Answer" Edgar if you're not in the mood for Aldo or Mendes.
Men's Lightweight Division (155lbs)
Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (95: 93-93-96)
If you never watched the fight between then title holder, Benson Henderson, and Anthony Pettis at WEC 53, you're missing out. Watch a UFC highlight reel and you'll likely spot some crazy fool using the cage as a springboard to kick their opponent in the face. That's Anthony Pettis. In EA Sports UFC, you'll find his Submission rating to be the stand out of the three. We're sure that it has something to do with the fact he (again) stole Benson "Smooth" Henderson's title away at UFC 164 back in 2013. Still, should the fine people at EA Canada read this, please bump up his Stand Up rating just a bit. Even as is, if you want to use Mr. Pettis in EA Sports UFC (and you likely do), throw caution to the wind and keep the fight on the feet. If our opponent takes you down, well that 96 Submission rating will see that they are second guessing their decision in no time.
"The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung (92: 89-90-97)
We expect that if anyone comments on this article, it could potentially be because we snubbed Benson Henderson in our Lightweight picks. While we agree that he is amazing (93: 92-92-92), Chan Sung Jung matches up well against him in almost every category except Submissions, where The Korean Zombie has a clear advantage. That's why we went with Jung. The guy can put people to sleep faster than one of Benson Henderson's five round, split decision victories (MMA fans will get that one). Of course, if you do go with Chan Sung Jung against Pettis, you're giving up ground in every category. For this reason, a solid fight plan is a must. Stay away from your opponent (who will undoubtedly bounce off the cage) and let him or her punch themselves out; think Homer Simpson's boxing career. Once your opponent is properly tired, take them to the ground and start bending their extremities in unnatural directions.
Men's Welterweight Division (170lbs)
Johny "Big Rig" Hendricks (95: 95:96:92)
First of all, as much as we all love Georges "Rush" St-Pierre, Hendricks definitely won their title fight in 2013. Second, he didn't win by as large of a margin as most people believe he did. Still, with an Overall and Stand-Up rating of 95, he's going to be a popular pick in his weight class. With notables like Robbie Lawler, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit close behind, there's some great fights to be had. If you don't want to go with the obvious pick, giving one of them a shot won't hurt. Should you opt to go with Big Rig, however, stay on your feet as long as you can, and if you go to the ground, work some ground and pound rather than try for a submission.
Georges "Rush" St-Pierre (95: 96-96-91)
Late in 2013, George St-Pierre vacated his title to enjoy some rest and relaxation. Having been at the top of the Welterweight food chain for the better part of six years, he has as rating equal to Hendricks, and rightfully so. Rush is not only the primary reason that MMA is so huge in Canada, he's without a shadow of a doubt the King of ground and pound. If you choose Georges, take the fight to the ground, then start battering your opponent with punches and elbows from the top. While he's no slouch in the submission game, busting people up from their guard is what Rush does.
Men's Middleweight Division (185lbs)
Chris "The All-American" Weidman (94: 95-94-91)
Our first selection at Middleweight, Chris Weidman, isn't up for debate. First he knocked Anderson Silva out cold, then he intentionally checked a leg kick and snapped The Spider’s left fibula and tibia in half. If you haven't seen it, do so on an empty stomach or risk up-chucking your dinner. If you choose to fight with Weidman, keep the fight standing if at all possible. While we don't completely agree with the rating he holds for Stand-Up, you can't argue with it given what he did to Silva. If the fight does go to the mats, work the ground and pound, opting for a submission if your opponent is gassed out.
Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (93: 94-91-90)
Excuse us while we take cover under our desk. We'll be here until your verbal assault has finished. There is a reason we didn't choose Anderson "The Spider" Silva at Middleweight, and it's not because he lacks the skill to make the list. No, we opted to leave him out of this conversation because any time you fight at Middleweight, there's a 95 percent chance your opponent will choose Anderson. As we talked about at the beginning for this article, Silva versus Silva isn't the most imaginative matchup in the world, so we decided to give you some competitive options to your opponent's obvious selection. When you go with Lyoto Machida, again, try to keep the fight standing. This guy was using angles and distance to make the rest of the UFC look silly before angles and distance were words most of the UFC were familiar with. Not only was he the first (sort of) test for Jon Jones at 205lbs, he is about to do battle with Weidman for the Middleweight strap at UFC 175 on July 5th. Why don't you run a pre-fight simulation and let us know if he can steal the belt away from The All-American?
Men's Light Heavyweight Division (205lbs)
Jon "Bones" Jones (97: 97-97-98)
Quite frankly, the wear and tear that our keyboard will suffer explaining this one isn't worth it. Jon Jones is on every pound-for-pound list out there, not to mention sitting at the top. The only blemish on Bone's record is a loss to Matt Hamill in 2009. No, Hamill didn't get the best of him. Jones delivered some illegal 12-6 elbows, messing Hamill up so badly that blood pooled in his eye sockets as he laid battered on the canvas. If you decide to fight as Jon Jones, first of all, shame on you. Second, let us offer a bit of praise for a wise decision. Yeah, we're hypocrites like that. In terms of strategy, rather than worry about your game plan, just try to think of cool ways you can knock your opponent out for your montage.
Daniel "DC" Cormier (92: 94-92-84)
We're not even kidding, but we just turned on our PS4 to verify that Cormier's Submission rating was an 84. Again, if anyone from EA Canada reads this, please watch his fight at UFC 173 as evidence to put this at 94. While everything we said about Jones was true, DC is a real threat to the 205lb title. For starters, he didn't start training in MMA until he was 30 years old, and since then rattled off 15 wins and no losses. He hasn't even come close to losing. Should you decide to give DC a shot (you really should), try to take your opponent to the ground and let the pain rain down from top position. While we easily could have gone with Alexander Gustafsson here as well, DC seemed like the road less traveled, an appealing idea to break up the repetitiveness in the online bouts.
Men's Heavyweight Division (265lbs)
Cain Velasquez (97: 97-96-94)
When you're as good as Velasquez, you don't need a nickname to strike fear into your opponents. Other than a flash KO loss to Junior Dos Santos (a loss he avenged... twice) this man is undefeated. He moves like a Lightweight, yet hits like a Heavyweight and can keep a ridiculous pace for five full rounds. Prepare yourself, because your opponent is going to choose this fighter. If you happen to be that person, Cain is best used on the ground, busting up his opponent and daring him to tap out due to strikes. Although his Submission rating isn't as high as everything else, that's because he's too busy punching everyone in the face to bother choking them out.
Fabricio "Via Cavalo" (Go Horse) Werdum (94: 94-94-97)
When you look at Go Horse's (not making this nickname up) stats, he can definitely hang with Velasquez in any aspect of the game. Whether he can keep pace in their upcoming (real life) title fight remains to be seen. In EA Sports UFC, however, Werdum is our go-to guy. First of all, nobody chooses him because only the true MMA fans have heard of him. Second, his stats back up the assault he recently put on top contender Travis Browne. If you decide to give Go Horse (sorry, can't stop saying it) a try, take your first opportunity to get the fight to the ground, then proceed to pop your opponent's joints like they're the bubble wrap that we all (even as adults) love to mess around with.