MMA 125: Ranking the Top 20 Lightweights in Mixed Martial Arts

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MMA 125: Ranking the Top 20 Lightweights in Mixed Martial Arts
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Ten years ago, the UFC's lightweight division was in dire straits. Limited to a handful of cards every year, the company took a hard look at a weight class that had failed to take MMA fans by the proverbial throat and cut bait.

Today, that seems unthinkable. Not only does the UFC have so many cards to fill that it's opened the promotion up to both men below 135 pounds and even women, but the lightweight division is so stacked with talent that we've included 20 fighters on this list rather than the usual 15.

Lightweights are now part of the old guard, firmly established thanks mainly to the force of one man's charisma: BJ Penn. The Hawaiian's is a shadow that still looms large, even as his immediate successor has given way, in turn, to a new generation of fighter. 

These new lightweights are Penn's progeny, like him a combination of crisp stand-up, solid wrestling and fight-ending grappling. All that's missing is his unyielding will and palpable love of combat. That's what captured fans' hearts and remains the difference between grudging respect and passionate advocacy.

The 155-pound division is still looking for the next BJ Penn. Can UFC champion Anthony Pettis fill that role? Can anyone? For hundreds of little guys trying to make a living in the fight game, millions of dollars ride on the answer.

This list is not a ranking based on past performance. MMA math does not apply here. Instead, these ratings are a snapshot of where these athletes stand right now compared to their lightweight peers. We've scored each fighter on a 100-point scale based on their abilities in four key categories. You can read more about how the ratings are determined here

Disagree with our order or analysis? Incensed over a notable omission? Let us know about it in the comments.

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