Who Really is this Year's Breakout Star in the UFC Lightweight Division?

Joe ThompsonContributor IApril 1, 2008

Who really is the standout in such a versatile division in the sport's premier organization? There is no clear answer, as there are several fighters who can take this title. Let’s look at the choices...

You cannot deny the strength of NJ native Frankie "the Answer" Edgar, who has wins over the likes of Spencer Fisher and Tyson Griffin. In his UFC debut against Griffin, Frank Edgar used his excellent boxing skills and state wrestling champion background to out-muscle Griffin in a close decision. Edgar's refusal to tap out during a deep knee bar shows his resilience and will to win.

Tomorrow we will see Edgar fight Gray Maynard, which is sure to be another great fight where both fighters will probably showcase their wrestling skills. Odds are going toward Edgar who is sure to move up in this weight class, contingent on this win of course.

Chances are we will see this young fighter battle it out with another top fighter in the future months, possibly even Huerta or Florian, two other shining stars.

And what about Tyson Griffin?

Sure, he has that one loss to Edgar, but with 11 wins over such opponents as Thiago Tavares, we are sure to see more from such a young talent. In fact, all three of Griffin’s UFC fights in 2007 made the years’ top 10 best fights list.

If your fights all make that list how can you not be considered the breakout star? So what if his last three fights ended via decision? No one can deny their excitement. And you can't forget he is the only one to have ever beat WEC champion Urijah Faber.

Unfortunately, we will probably have to wait until UFC 86 in July to see Griffin fight again.

There's also Roger Huerta, who is the odds out favorite in answering this question. El Matador has 11 straight wins, including a 19 second TKO over John Halverson and wins over Alberto Crane and Clay Guida.

With his 22-1 record (only loss was due to a dislocated jaw) and meticulous grappling style, it is undeniable we will see him rise in the division. In fact, as far as 2007 goes, Huerta fought five fights in a time where some fighters only fight twice a year.

And so comes the argument that Huerta is the new “poster boy” of the UFC with his good looks and Mexican heritage, bringing in a new fan base. A lot of flack comes with this as well, but even fickle MMA fans recognize performance.

Then there's Kenny Florian, the TUF finalist who took just one minute and 46 seconds to defeat Canadian Muay Thai champion Sam Stout and lost only a close decision to former lightweight champion Sean Sherk.

His last two fights were actually won in the first round, defeating Din Thomas via rear naked choke and Alvin Robinson via submission by strikes. Tomorrow we will see him matched up against another TUF contender in Joe Lauzon, another great rising fighter in the UFC, but some say not as well-versed as Kenflo, even with half the fights that Lauzon has.

Last but not least there is Nate Diaz, whose last two fights were won via submission in the first round. Winner of TUF 5, he is also the brother to UFC vet Nick Diaz.

Diaz seemed to improve over the past year, especially with his great camp—Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which includes his brother and other greats like Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez.

Diaz’s next fight is tomorrow night also versus Kurt Pelligrino, a fight sure to boost him in the division if he comes out on top.

If I had to choose a real breakout star, my pick is Edgar. Huerta is in a close second due to his popularity, but on skill alone I'm going with the Jersey boy.