Few things set the MMA world abuzz quicker than talk of a super-fight. Just the thought of two dominant champions battling for supremacy pushes the sport's fanbase into a frenzy. Debates are launched on forum boards and podcasts volley the topic during round table discussions. From all corners of the MMA universe, fans and pundits alike weigh in with their opinions.
While these fights are the stuff in which promotional dreams are made, it is also the rare occurrence where fans will invest themselves emotionally into a situation which could very well end up being nothing more than fantasy. This situation is certainly nothing new in the sport, and while the reality of these bouts happening have been few and far between, this doesn't stop the passionate faithful from voicing their requests.
For years fans clamored to see heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko throw down with UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture or former champion Brock Lesnar, but despite serious effort, the powers that be were never able to make it happen. Despite how badly we want to see Anderson Silva square-off with Georges St. Pierre or Jon Jones, there is a good chance those matchups will never materialize. But the proposed idea of these "dream fights" are enough to rattle the foundation.
I'm just as guilty for getting jacked up for super-fights as the next person, but there is another movement happening in MMA which is guaranteed to provide a consistent flow of high-profile bouts and action-packed fights for the foreseeable future. I'm talking about the pack of elite level lightweights, and there is nothing more competitive happening in the sport than what is happening at 155 pounds. Potential super-fights are fun to think about, but there are a number of bouts already scheduled or on the horizon in the lightweight division that deserve their share of the spotlight.
The upcoming matchups aren't just your typical divisional pictures fights. They are battles to determine who is the best lightweight fighter in the world. Where other divisions are scraping up possible contenders, the 155-pound weight class is piled up with fighters who are eager for a shot. Whether it is in the UFC or in outside organizations, over the next five months, every top lightweight in the world will step in to do their thing.
Over this time fans are going to see Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz scrap it out for the lightweight strap in December in one of the year's most anticipated fights. They will see Strikeforce's scrappy lightweight king Gilbert Melendez continue to strengthen his case as the best in the world as he battles No. 1 contender Pat Healy on September 29th.
Former No. 1 contender Gray Maynard will look to regain his footing atop the division when he faces Joe Lauzon at 155. Outside the Zuffa banner, Bellator's two top lightweights Micheal Chandler and Eddie Alvarez are also both slated to return to the cage.
In addition to the matches which are already signed, fans can also look forward to several other top fighters getting back to work. While it is still yet unofficial, the red-hot Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone has seemingly been successful at picking a fight with former WEC champion Anthony Pettis. Both fighters have verbally stated it is a fight they want, but nothing has been signed as of yet.
On the flip side, there are several other perennial contenders who are looking to climb their way back to the top. Following his loss to Nate Diaz in May and time off to recover from injury, Jim Miller is eager to get back to his winning ways. Miller has been a staple in the division's upper-tier over the past two years and despite a recent rough patch, is looking to bounce back strong.
The same can be said for Clay Guida. "The Carpenter's" heart and hectic pace earned him a place amongst the divisional best, but losses to Henderson and Maynard pushed him to the back of the line. More than the loss itself, the manner in which the Maynard fight went down in Atlantic City put a rare damper on the fan favorite.
Of course you can't mention top lightweight fighters without bringing up Frankie Edgar. While the former champion dropped back to back title fights to Benson Henderson and has since made the drop to featherweight, a possible return to the division he once ruled isn't out of the question. Should he lose to champion Jose Aldo in their fight later this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Edgar go back up.
The division presents a versatile mixture of striking, grappling and fast-paced action where fights can be finished at any moment. All of these factors combined have driven the lightweights to the top of the sport's "must-watch" list.