UFC 98 Fallout: Sorting Out the Lightweight Divison

Brian OswaldMMA Editor May 24, 2009

Frankie Edgar did what only a minority of fans were predicting when he out decisioned Sean Sherk. Sherk was expected by most to win and move one step closer toward another title shot.

Edgar had other intentions and impressed both B.J Penn and Miguel Torres in the process. As for Sherk, he literally ‘left the building’ only to return for his post fight to submit his post-fight urinalysis. I think it is safe to assume Lyoto Machida will be steering clear of that plastic cup. 

Even Dana White was impressed in his post fight remarks.

"I never give predictions on fights, but in my head I kept saying 'There's no way Frankie Edgar can win this fight. He's smaller. As long as Sherk's been in the game – he's bigger. They're both wrestlers. And I'll tell you, this kid put on an amazing show.”

The lightweight division marches on when Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida collide at the TUF 9 season finale. Also on that fight card, Nate Diaz will take on Joe Stevenson. Diaz is coming off a split decision loss to Guida while Stevenson is coming off a decision loss to Sanchez.

On Aug. 8, the lightweight division will culminate when B.J. Penn defends his belt against Kenny Florian at UFC 101.

Waiting in the wings are Gray Maynard, coming off his striking UFC 96 win over Jim Miller, and Tyson Griffin, coming off his exhilarating win at UFN 18 win against Rafael dos Anjos.

Now that we have all our puzzle pieces, let’s assemble the lightweight puzzle. Doing so requires picking winners in fights, so here goes.

If Sanchez beats Guida, he is likely in line to fight the winner of Penn-Florian. The only other set-up for Sanchez would be if the UFC makes him fight Frankie Edgar while Gray Maynard gets the winner of Penn-Florian. Maynard gets the nod since he decisioned Edgar at UFC 13.  

But it seems more reasonable to think the UFC would like to put together a fight between Sanchez and the Penn-Florian winner. Sanchez dropped down from 170 pounds to make a title run and, at this juncture, has more forward momentum and marketability then Maynard does.

If Sanchez does get the nod, an Edgar-Maynard rematch would make the most sense on paper, but will the UFC actually want to schedule these two for another fight? The winner would clearly be a top fighter in the division, and it would be intriguing to see how both have improved since their first fight, just over a year ago.

When the dust settles, the following matchups are most likely to take place:

B.J. Penn vs. Diego Sanchez         
Gray Maynard vs. Frankie Edgar    
Kenny Florian vs. Tyson Griffin
Sean Sherk vs. Nate Diaz
Clay Guida. Vs. Joe Stevenson    

If Kenny Florian loses to Penn, a logical fight comes against Tyson Griffin. Griffin is all set to step back into the title mix after his win over Dos Anjos. If Florian wins, he obviously goes on to fight Sanchez, while we can only guess what B.J Penn would do if he loses two straight fights.

Sean Sherk, coming off his loss to Edgar, would be in line to face the winner of Nate Diaz vs. Joe Stevenson. In the last fight listed, Clay Guida could face off against Joe Stevenson, assuming they both lose their respective fights.

This scenario is based on assuming the UFC will round robin their top 10 lightweight fighters which is not necessarily likely. Often, when a top fighter loses, they get a fight against an up and comer or relative unknown.

See Tyson Griffin vs. Rafael dos Anjos or Josh Koschek vs. Pualo Thiago.

Looking outside the Top 10, fighters like Joe Lauzon and Hermes Franca are in contention, yet are sidelined with injuries.

Fighters to keep an eye on are the Spencer Fisher vs. Caol Uno winner (UFC 99), Mac Danzig vs. Jim Miller winner (UFC 100), Josh Neer vs. Kurt Pellgrino winner (UFC 101) and Gleison Tibau.

Frankie Edgar shook up the lightweight division when he handed Sherk only the fourth loss in thirty-eight fights. It will be interesting to see how the division unfolds in the second of half of 2009.

One thing is for certain: Frankie is now a force and any talk of the smaller fighter dropping down to the WEC featherweight division have now been silenced.