B/R Official Rankings for October: The Top 10 Lightweights in MMA
September wasn’t exactly the most active time for the top-ranked fighters in the lightweight division.
Most of the fighters on this list have fought somewhat recently, so it ‘s no surprise that there wasn’t any movement in the Bleacher Report MMA rankings this month, especially since Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez went down with an injury just over a week before his title defense against Pat Healy.
The rankings will be going through some changes in the next few months, with long time contender Clay Guida dropping down to 145 pounds and a title fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz already set for December, but it appears October is going to be as inactive as September was in one of the most exciting divisions in MMA.
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10. Michael Chandler
Most Recent Fight: Won against Akihiro Gono at Bellator 67
Next Fight: Rick Hawn
Previous Ranking: 10
The UFC dominates this list, as it does with most rankings, but Michael Chandler has been impressive enough to steal a spot, despite being part of the Bellator roster.
Chandler shocked a lot of people when he took out Eddie Alvarez to win the Bellator lightweight title in one of the most underrated bouts of the last few years, and he’s looked like a champion from the moment he stepped into the promotion.
With an undefeated record and a shiny gold belt around his waist, Chandler is one of the hottest prospects in MMA at the moment and is a fighter every MMA fan should be watching closely.
9. Joe Lauzon
Most Recent Fight: Won against Jamie Varner at UFC on FOX 4
Next Fight: Gray Maynard at UFC 155
Previous Ranking: 9
It seems like consistency is the only thing keeping Joe Lauzon from being a true title threat in the lightweight division.
On some nights, Lauzon is an awe-inspiring finisher, charging his opponent and finding a way to get the job done early after going into berzerker mode.
On others, Lauzon looks like he is struggling to belong in the same cage as some of the UFC’s best.
Impressive wins over Melvin Guillard and Jamie Varner in two of his last three fights have pushed him into the top ten, but if Lauzon wants to prove he belongs near the top of the division, he is going to have to find a way to take out Gray Maynard this winter.
8. Clay Guida
Most Recent Fight: Lost against Gray Maynard at UFC on FX 4
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 8
Clay Guida won’t be on this list much longer, but until he officially gets a fight in the featherweight division he’s going to remain on the lightweight list.
Now that he’s decided to make the drop to 145 pounds, it appears Guida is finally done chasing a shot at the lightweight belt, something that had eluded him during his UFC run.
Guida came close multiple times, but losses in key fights to Diego Sanchez and Benson Henderson ended up putting an end to that dream, and now it will be up to “The Carpenter” to make sure the drop down in weight was worth it.
In a relatively shallow featherweight division, Guida is likely only a win or two away from earning his first shot at UFC gold.
7. Jim Miller
Most Recent Fight: Lost against Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 3
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 7
Tough losses to Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz have pushed Jim Miller back a few steps on his quest to get a UFC title shot, but Miller has proven to be one of the toughest fighters in the lightweight division to take out.
All four of Miller’s losses have come against fighters that either have fought for a title or will be in the next few months, and outside of a few setbacks, Miller has been a consistently good fighter throughout his UFC tenure.
All Miller needs is a decent win to push him back into the mix, and expect Miller to make it a fight no matter who he ends up across the cage from next.
6. Donald Cerrone
Record: 19-4, 1 NC
Most Recent Fight: Won against Melvin Guillard at UFC 150
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 6
Other than a loss to Nate Diaz in December, Donald Cerrone has been destroying his competition since joining the UFC roster last year.
“Cowboy” has proven to be one of the most destructive fighters in the division both on the feet and on the mat, using his precision striking and jiu-jitsu skills to finish his opponent in over half of his UFC bouts.
A huge win over Melvin Guillard in August set Cerrone on track to get back into the title picture, and a No. 1 contender's fight with Anthony Pettis seems to be next for “Cowboy.”
5. Anthony Pettis
Most Recent Fight: Won against Joe Lauzon at UFC 144
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 5
As impressive as his head-kick stoppage of Joe Lauzon was, Anthony Pettis needs to get back inside the cage before he starts to lose some ground in the ultra-competitive lightweight division.
Pettis is a win away from a shot at the belt, but with guys like Donald Cerrone and Gray Maynard both getting back into the win column since Pettis earned his win in February, he can’t afford to sit on the sidelines much longer.
A rumored bout with Cerrone is likely for either the end of the year or the beginning of 2013, and if Pettis is able to score the win, a possible rematch with Benson Henderson could be on the horizon.
4. Gilbert Melendez
Most Recent Fight: Won against Josh Thomson at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier
Next Fight: TBA
Previous Ranking: 4
An unfortunate injury forced Gilbert Melendez out of a scheduled title fight this month, but you have to wonder just how long the Zuffa brass is going to let Melendez keep beating up on the Strikeforce lightweight division.
Pat Healy is a tough competitor, but he was the overwhelming underdog heading into his fight against “El Nino” and if Healy is unable to get the job done, there aren’t a lot of options for Scott Coker going forward.
I’m not sure a lot of fans are champing at the bit to see a fourth fight between Melendez and Josh Thomson, but unless Strikeforce is able to find a few new contenders soon, that’s likely what we’ll be stuck with.
3. Nate Diaz
Most Recent Fight: Won against Jim Miller at UFC 144
Next Fight: Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 5
Previous Ranking: 2
Nate Diaz is a win away from earning a UFC title.
A little over a year ago, that sentence would have been laughable, but to the Stockton native’s credit, he’s done everything he’s been asked and more since dropping back down to lightweight last fall.
A sick armbar win over Takanori Gomi got things started, but it was the three-round destruction of Donald Cerrone that forced fight fans to take Diaz seriously as a title contender.
Diaz peppered Cerrone with shots on the feet for the entire fight, and to follow up the biggest win in his UFC career, he went out and finished perennial contender Jim Miller to earn himself a shot at the belt against Benson Henderson.
A win won’t come easy for Diaz against a highly skilled opponent like “Smooth,” but Diaz has been surprising fans for a year now and would love to do it again at UFC on Fox 5 in December.
2. Gray Maynard
Record: 11-1-1, 1 NC
Most Recent Fight: Won against Clay Guida at UFC on FX 4
Next Fight: Joe Lauzon at UFC 155
Previous Ranking: 3
Back into the top two due to Frankie Edgar’s drop to featherweight, Gray Maynard may be the best fighter on the UFC roster to have never wrapped a belt around his waist.
Maynard’s title fights with Edgar proved that he has the skills to make any fight in the 155-pound division competitive, and his improving striking skills are going to make him a serious threat to whomever holds the belt when he works his way back into the title mix.
With victories over Nate Diaz, Clay Guida and the aforementioned Edgar on his resume, Maynard is one of the most decorated fighters in the lightweight division, and he’ll find himself back in title contention sooner than many may think possible.
1. Benson Henderson
Most Recent Fight: Won against Frankie Edgar at UFC 150
Next Fight: Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5
Previous Ranking: 1
After successfully defending his title for the first time against Frankie Edgar at UFC 150, Benson Henderson has cemented his place on top of the UFC’s lightweight division.
A loss to Anthony Pettis in his final WEC bout ended up making the road to a UFC title a bit longer, but Henderson took care of business in his UFC bouts against Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida to earn his shot at the belt.
Back-to-back victories over former division kingpin Edgar have shot Henderson into the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but he’ll have his work cut out for him if he wants to remain at the top of the deepest division in MMA.
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