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UFC 166 Results: Top 10 Lightweights in the UFC

Nathan McCarterFeatured Columnist IVOctober 24, 2016

UFC 166 Results: Top 10 Lightweights in the UFC

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    UFC 166 featured one Top 10 lightweight in action, and Gilbert Melendez took care of business.

    The No. 2 lightweight defeated Diego Sanchez in an instant classic. The win puts him right back into the mix for a lightweight title shot, but there is still a lot to work out in the muddled division.

    With a new champion and several challengers waiting in the wings, it may take another fight to determine who challenges the winner of Anthony Pettis vs. Josh Thomson. The division continues to get better and better.

    After recent happenings in the division, it is time to take a look at the top 10 lightweights in the UFC.

No. 10: Jorge Masvidal

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    A bevy of guys could occupy the No. 10 slot, but most of them are former ranked fighters who are coming off losses. How about we reward a guy for being on a win streak?

    Former Strikeforce title contender Jorge Masvidal picked up his third straight win in July over Michael Chiesa via submission.

    Masvidal is a well-rounded lightweight. He is more noted for his boxing, but he showed off his submission skills against Chiesa. That should have put the rest of the division on notice. Masvidal is for real, and he can easily move up the rankings further.

    He returns to the cage against Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight Night 31 on November 6.

No. 9: Nate Diaz

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Nate Diaz has dropped two straight in the UFC, but he lost to elite competition in Josh Thomson and Benson Henderson.

    He is still as talented as ever and has all the tools to jump back up the ladder with a win in his next outing.

    He got some much-needed time away after the loss to Thomson, and it will be interesting to see what kind of form he returns in. He may only have one more good run up the ladder in him. He has absorbed a good amount of punishment in his career, and that takes a toll on a fighter.

    He's still a top 10 fighter but just barely.

No. 8: Gray Maynard

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Gray Maynard has fought four times in the past three years and has only come away with a 1-2-1 record.

    You can thank his stiff level of competition for that. Two title fights with Frankie Edgar and a contender's bout with TJ Grant put the blemishes on his record. His lone win came against Clay Guida.

    Maynard could easily climb back into the mix, but with other fighters being more active and winning, it is no wonder why he has fallen to the back end of the field.

    He will return to the cage against Nate Diaz, or so we think. There's no word on whether Diaz is still attending his high school reunion that evening or not. Seriously.

No. 7: Rafael Dos Anjos

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Rafael dos Anjos was last in the Octagon in August, picking up a big decision win over Donald Cerrone. It was his fifth in a row. That deserves some recognition.

    He has quietly worked his way up the ladder, and sooner or later he is going to get a shot against someone in the top tier of the division.

    He is a well-rounded fighter who goes after the finish. He's not the best striker or grappler; he just works tirelessly. He is the definition of what happens when you work hard with the tools you are given.

    Can he rise even higher at 155? I see no reason why not.

    He won't be the favorite against any of the higher-ranked fighters, but he is most a live dog in those fights.

No. 6: Khabib Nurmagomedov

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Nurmagomedov is ranked No. 7 in the official UFC rankings, but he's not getting the respect he deserves considering who is above him.

    He hasn't just won in the Octagon; he has been dominant.

    In his most recent win, he defeated Pat Healy. Healy is a dog-tough lightweight who was coming off a big win of his own (that was overturned to a no-contest due to a positive post-fight drug test). Nurmagomedov controlled the fight and walked out of the cage with a decisive victory.

    He wants a big fight in early 2014, and he deserves it. Keep an eye on him as he moves up the ranks.

No. 5: Josh Thomson

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    TJ Grant can't go? Enter Josh Thomson.

    The former Strikeforce lightweight champion brought the noise in his UFC return by knocking out Nate Diaz. The AKA product has been one of the best in the division for a long time, but his time outside of the UFC moved him out of most casual fans' minds.

    He's back and re-introducing his skills to the fans.

    Watch out for a barnburner of a title fight at UFC on Fox 9 in December.

No. 4: TJ Grant

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Poor TJ Grant.

    After earning his way to the top of the division and getting a title shot, he was sidelined by injuries. Not only have they cost him a title shot, but they may have moved him back into the pack.

    There is no word from the UFC on what the next move will be for Grant, but with Melendez coming off a great win and Henderson ready to fight in early 2014, Grant could get passed by again for another title shot.

    He may have to return in a non-title bout and re-earn that shot at hold.

    Regardless, Grant is in the top five.

No. 3: Benson Henderson

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Benson Henderson's title reign was made up of controversial decision after controversial decision, but don't hold that against him.

    He is still one of the elite of the division.

    He game-plans well and executes masterfully. He dropped the title to Pettis, but he should return even better than before. Henderson has that type of drive. He is a fun fighter to watch.

    Expect to see him back in action in early 2014 in a premier lightweight tilt.

No. 2: Gilbert Melendez

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    Melendez is sitting behind Benson Henderson in the official rankings, but I scored their title fight for Melendez. Officially, however, it was a loss.

    With Henderson's recent loss and Melendez picking up a win, I feel better about moving him above the former champion now.

    Melendez was happy to play Diego Sanchez's game at UFC 166, and he got the better of it. In the wild exchanges, it was Melendez who landed repeatedly and not Sanchez. While Sanchez was not ranked entering the fight, he is most certainly not your typical unranked lightweight.

    It was a quality win for Melendez, and time will tell what's next for him.

No. 1: Anthony Pettis

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    The champion is the reigning top dog of the division, and not just because he won the gold.

    It was the manner in which he did.

    Pettis has been a solid top-10 lightweight since his days in the WEC. He finished off his time in that organization by taking the lightweight strap off Henderson. He won his UFC title against the same man but did so even more impressively than in the first fight.

    Pettis is dynamic. He can finish an opponent with punches, knees and kicks, and now he has shown the ability to catch anyone in a submission. He's the total package and is only getting better.

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