UFC on Fox 7 Results: Top 10 Lightweights in the UFC
Benson Henderson picked up another controversial title defense at UFC on Fox 7, tying the UFC lightweight record for consecutive title defenses in the process.
Gilbert Melendez was on the wrong side of a close decision on this occasion, but in giving Henderson such a tough fight, the former Strikeforce champion proved he was deserving of all the recognition he has received as one of the world's best lightweights.
UFC president Dana White announced at the post-fight press conference that the winner of the upcoming fight between Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant would be next for Henderson, but Melendez can't be more than one big win away from a potential rematch for the belt.
Following a big night for the 155-pound division, here is how the class stacks up at the top.
10. Melvin Guillard
Record: 47-13-3 MMA, 11-8 UFC
Melvin Guillard is on a slide, but all of his recent losses have arguably come against top-10 lightweights.
A split decision defeat against Jamie Varner in his last appearance actually showed Guillard wasn't fading as badly as it appeared he might have been after being stopped in the first round in three out of his prior four fights.
T.J. Grant will have a chance to bump Guillard out of these rankings with his upcoming bout against Gray Maynard. However, Grant currently sits slightly behind the former Blackzilian, having beaten Evan Dunham in a competitive contest, whereas Guillard stopped Dunham in the first round.
9. Jamie Varner
Record: 21-7-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC
Jamie Varner has had a career resurgence since returning to the Octagon last May.
With wins over Edson Barboza and Melvin Guillard, Varner is already considered one of the better lightweights in the world again and could be in an even better position had he found a way to avoid being submitted in the final minutes of his recent bout with Joe Lauzon.
At 28 years old, the former WEC champion still has many solid years of competition in him.
8. Joe Lauzon
Record: 22-8 MMA, 9-5 UFC
Wins over Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard had Joe Lauzon rising quickly through the lightweight ranks, but he recently hit a wall when he faced a superior grappler in Jim Miller.
Lauzon has been taking some time off since his bloody battle with Miller, but he should find himself in a big find when he returns to the Octagon in 2013.
The 28-year-old Lauzon may not have the athleticism to reach the top of the lightweight division, but his toughness and well-rounded game will have him competing with the best of the best in the years to come.
7. Jim Miller
Record: 22-4 MMA, 11-3 UFC
Jim Miller's success over the long haul has cemented him as a top UFC lightweight, but losses against two of the lightweights ranked above him on this list will make it difficult for the New Jersey native to advance.
Coming off of a win over Joe Lauzon, Miller has been given another interesting matchup against an opponent in Pat Healy, who had been named the top contender in Strikeforce's lightweight division before the promotion folded.
An impressive win over Healy could be exactly what Miller needs to earn a rematch with Gray Maynard or Nate Diaz.
6. Donald Cerrone
Record: 19-5 MMA, 6-2 UFC
With six wins over two years, Donald Cerrone has had tons of success since joining the UFC roster.
Losses to Anthony Pettis and Nate Diaz have prevented "Cowboy" from earning a title shot, but Cerrone can quickly return to contention with a couple victories in 2013.
A dominant win over K.J. Noons at UFC 160 should get Cerrone back to competing against top-10 lightweights.
5. Nate Diaz
Record: 16-8 MMA, 11-7 UFC
Following an outstanding run of three straight wins, Nate Diaz has lost back-to-back fights.
At UFC on Fox 7, Diaz suffered a knockout loss for the first time in his career. Diaz said he may move to welterweight regardless of the outcome of his bout on Saturday, but that probably wouldn't be the best move considering his previous lack of success at 170 pounds.
While it's going to take some work for him to return to title contention at lightweight, Diaz still has plenty of time at 28 years old.
4. Gray Maynard
Record: 12-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC
With Frankie Edgar out of the picture, Gray Maynard is back in the running for a lightweight title shot.
Should he beat T.J. Grant at UFC 160, Maynard will be champion Benson Henderson's next challenger.
Since his back-to-back fights with Edgar, Maynard has only beaten Clay Guida, but the UFC is clearly more interested in giving Henderson a fresh face rather than an immediate rematch with Gilbert Melendez.
3. Josh Thomson
Record: 20-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC
Despite barely losing to Gilbert Melendez in his previous fight, Josh Thomson wasn't getting much attention heading into his UFC debut.
With his knockout win over Nate Diaz, Thomson has proven he's an elite 155-pound fighter and is already near the front of the line for a lightweight title shot.
The question now becomes: What fight would set him up for that championship bout? A fourth fight with Melendez is even a possibility, though it may not be the most desirable matchup.
2. Gilbert Melendez
Record: 21-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC
Gilbert Melendez may not have a UFC win, but it's clear he's the second best fighter in the division as it currently stands.
With two wins over Josh Thomson and a narrow defeat against champion Benson Henderson, Melendez is sure to be a title threat in the years ahead.
An immediate rematch had to be considered following Saturday's split decision, but Melendez will need at least one win inside the Octagon to get a second shot at the belt.
1. Benson Henderson
Record: 18-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC
Benson Henderson may not be blowing opponents out of the water as lightweight champion, but he's about to start breaking records anyway.
With his win over Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7, Henderson tied B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar with a third consecutive title defense.
Against Gray Maynard or T.J. Grant later in 2013, Henderson will have a chance to make his argument for being the best lightweight fighter in MMA history.