Questionable Matchmaking Atop the UFC Lightweight Division

E. Spencer KyteSenior Analyst INovember 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 08:   Lightweight champion BJ Penn (R) battles Kenny Florian during their lightweight championship title bout at UFC 101: Declaration at the Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Picture this: you're a Top 10 ranked fighter, standing in the center of the ring with your arm raised in the air, having just bested a fellow contender. As you're enjoying the moment, your thoughts can't help but fixate on the future.

A name-brand win over a fellow contender leads you to believe bigger and better await, a move up the ladder, and maybe the Pay-Per-View playbill in tow. After all, the logic is just that: logical. Win and move up, lose and drop down.

Unfortunately for the contenders in the UFC Lightweight division, that doesn't seem to be the case.

It seems that conventional logic is currently being thrown out the window and the evidence is on display in the upcoming fights on the schedule put together by UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.

The finale of The Ultimate Fighter may be further down the schedule than some of the other fights soon to be discussed, but in terms of questionable combination's at 155 pounds, the fighting future of Frankie Edgar takes center stage.

Jersey's finest will take the cage in the co-main event of the December event, but for a guy coming off back-to-back wins over respected veteran Hermes Franca and former lightweight champion Sean Sherk, his chosen challenger doesn't quite stack up, even after a replacement opportunity presented itself.

When this fight was first announced, Edgar was slated to square off with Kurt Pellegrino. While the fellow Jersey native had put together three-straight wins, "Batman" wasn't really what many fans and forecasters expected for Edgar after decisively defeating Sherk at UFC 98.

The seventh-ranked lightweight in the world according to Sherdog , Pellegrino barely breaks into the Top 20.

Herniated discs would prevent Pellegrino from taking part and present Joe Silva with an opportunity to find an alternate opponent for Edgar, and while many fans looked forward to a top-quality replacement, undefeated but wholly untested Matt Veach was brought in instead.

Nothing against Veach, but the HIT Squad member is biting off far more than he can chew and Edgar goes from beating a former champion to facing a fighter fresh off his UFC debut. How does that make sense?

Gray Maynard was the last man to defeat Frankie Edgar, taking a unanimous decision back in April 2008, his biggest win to date in a career that has yet to see a tick hit the loss column.

Since scoring that win over Edgar, Maynard has maintained his place amongst the top up-and-comers at 155 to the point that some would argue "The Bully" was more deserving of the title shot offered to lightweight newcomer Diego Sanchez.

Regardless, the former Michigan State Spartan has reeled off six straight wins, the most recent of which was a hard fought battle over former title challenger Roger Huerta. As a reward for that win, Maynard will next face...Nathan Diaz?

Not to take anything away from the younger half of The Diaz Brothers, but Maynard should be moving forward in his pursuit of the lightweight title, not taking a step back to fight Diaz.

While his name may be better than many at 155 pounds, Nick's little brother has one win in his last three and it came on the same card that saw Maynard defeat Huerta, as Diaz capitalized on a gift-wrapped guillotine choke from Melvin Guillard.

Apparently, meeting Diaz's demands to fight a Top Five talent is being addressed before moving Maynard into the upper echelon of the division where he belongs.

"The Bully" isn't the only Xtreme Couture lightweight being handed an unexpected opponent for their next trip into the cage, as Tyson Griffin will look to follow up his stoppage of Hermes Franca with a third straight win against Jim Miller.

Though Miller has looked good since joining the UFC after making a name for himself in his native New Jersey, Griffin has suffered just two losses against seven wins, with those losses coming to the aforementioned Edgar and Sean Sherk, and will be coming into the fight off his most impressive performance to date.

As much as Miller is a credible opponent and anything can happen in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, Griffin is another lightweight contender who looks like he's taking two steps back after a big step forward at UFC 103.

Even Kenny Florian's match-up with Clay Guida on the undercard of the UFC 107 title fight between B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez could be questioned, though Florian has very recently disposed of Joe Stevenson and Sean Sherk remains on the shelf with a shoulder injury.

Admittedly, options are limited and Guida will force the former No. 1 contender to bring his A-game in his return to the cage

What makes all of this even more difficult is trying to find an answer to the question, "What happens next?"

Someone is going to emerge from the UFC 107 Main Event with the UFC Lightweight title around their waist and they will need a challenger. With everyone at the top of the charts taking a step back, how do Joe Silva and Dana White determine who is next in line?

Edgar tops many people's list, but faces the weakest competition of the three (on paper) and has already been defeated by Maynard.

Even though he holds a win over Edgar, marketing plays a role in making these matches and Maynard's wrestle-you-to-a-decision style of fighting isn't the most entertaining brand in the business.

Griffin presents the best of both worlds and perhaps the most name recognition of the three having held down the opening slot of the UFC 103 broadcast; but does a three fight winning streak of Rafael dos Anjos, Hermes Franca, and Jim Miller sound like the line to a title shot?

If Joe Silva thinks he's having a hard time now, what happens three months from now when all of his top-ranked contenders have another win under their belts and even stronger cases for a championship shot?

Get ready for an interesting winter in the UFC lightweight division.