In 2010, Jamie Varner went 0-3-1 under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner.
Making this worse, the draw to Kamal Shalorus would have pushed Varner's record to 0-4 if not for Shalorus losing a point for illegal groin strikes.
It really doesn't get much worse than that for a professional fighter, folks.
If you would have told me back then that Jamie Varner would re-emerge as a legitimate contender in the UFC's deepest division just two years later, I would have called the nearest mental ward and begged them to come pick you up.
If 2012 is any indication, though, maybe I am the one who needs to strap on the straightjacket.
Varner has seen a truly remarkable resurgence in the UFC's lightweight division, and there is no doubt he is at his absolute best as a mixed martial artist right now.
After a huge first-round upset over Edson Barboza at UFC 146, Varner faced Joe Lauzon at UFC on Fox: Shogun vs. Vera. Despite losing in the third round via submission, Varner was in line to win a decision in what many consider the best fight of 2012.
What I'm suggesting is that if you're going to lose, that's pretty much the best way to do it.
At UFC 155, Varner took another step forward in the division with a convincing win over dangerous striker Melvin Guillard.
Employing crisp boxing and a relentless dedication to his wrestling, Varner bested Guillard for three rounds (unless you're Adalaide Byrd, who scored the bout 30-27 for Guillard...are you kidding me?) and threw his name into the already-full hat of lightweight contenders.
With the win, Varner deserves a high-profile fight in his next outing, and there are several opponents up for the task.
The first who jumps to mind is UFC 155 castmate Jim Miller.
Both fighters earned decision victories on this card and still need one or two convincing wins before challenging for Benson Henderson's lightweight title. Why not see who takes the next step and who falls to the back of the line?
Outside of Miller, I can see a case made for Gray Maynard, Rafael dos Anjos, Nate Diaz or the loser of Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis as Varner's next opponent.
As is evident, the lightweight division is absolutely loaded, and there is no shortage of worthy opponents for a guy like Varner.
It's not uncommon for the UFC to match up guys coming off big wins on the same card, though, and because of that, I think Miller makes the most sense.
That said, whoever Varner's next opponent may be, he better come prepared because Varner is not the irrelevant fighter of 2010.
That much is perfectly clear.
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