The UFC Is Killing the Lightweight Division

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IJanuary 25, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 07:  UFC Fighter BJ Penn arrives at the 1st Annual Epiphone Revolver Golden Gods Awards at the Club Nokia on April 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

BJ Penn is unquestionably the top lightweight fighter in the UFC. He has dominated his fellow 155-pound fighters as easily as any champion currently fighting in the world today.

Every time Dana White and company throw a new contender his way, he methodically stalks his opponent and decimates them with succinct striking and world-class jiu-jitsu.

In his last four fights in the division, he has choked out Joe Stevenson and Kenny Florian while stopping fights with Sean Sherk and Diego Sanchez due to striking.

Penn will face Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 in April. Edgar and Gray Maynard were picked by the UFC as the newest threats to win the Lightweight title. No fan with any significant knowledge of the sport gives either man any shot against The Prodigy.

White and company refuse to give a fighter like Florian a second chance so soon, saying he's had his chance and he needs to reestablish himself as a top contender.

Even highly thought of newcomer to the UFC, Takanori Gomi, must first prove himself against a top contender before getting a shot at the champion. Many believe that Gomi could have defeated Penn a few years ago, but he may now be past his prime and unable to beat Penn.

Even if he is past his prime, Gomi will at least be a new face to the division and the fight could be built up and become quite profitable for the UFC.

The problem comes after the fight, and if Penn is victorious once again. He'll have then beaten every conceivable contender and it would seem unlikely for any rematch to give him much of a challenge.

The UFC needs to capitalize on having a champion like Penn. Having him face subpar competition like Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard does nothing to build up his legacy. To become an all-time great like he wants, the UFC needs to consider shaking things up for the champion.

One option would be to consolidate the lightweight division of the WEC.

Champion Benson Henderson, along with top contenders Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone, would at the very least add extra depth to the division. The three have had some exciting matches between them, and potential matches with Penn would all be intriguing. Penn would be the unquestioned favorite in each match, but none of them would fare any worse than Edgar or Maynard.

The WEC could then add a 125-pound division and even start up a women's division to go along with their current 135 and 145-pound weight classes. Those two weight classes are already the anchor of the promotion anyway, so their major stars (Urijah Faber and Miguel Angel Torres) would still be in the company.

Another option for Penn would be to vacate the Lightweight title and move up to the Welterweight division.

Penn could leave the division tomorrow and still be considered one of the best ever at 155 pounds. If any fighter ever stepped up their game enough where Penn thought they were a legitimate threat, he could easily drop back down for the challenge.

There are several fights at 170-pounds that would be quite interesting for the Hawaiian Kid. The obvious one would be a third fight with Georges St. Pierre. The two will likely meet one more time somewhere in the future, but not anytime in the next year or so.

Fights with Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and Josh Koscheck would all be huge draws for the UFC, and each could pose a challenge for Penn.

There is a chance GSP could leave the Welterweight division and move up a weight class himself. If that were to happen, Penn could very easily sit atop to different weight classes and cement his place in history that he so deeply desires.

To achieve greatness, one must also face greatness. BJ Penn is in danger of no longer being great, but it isn't his fault. He needs to face great competition and not just every fighter Dana White can pull from a relatively weak division. Penn needs to refocus his priorities so that, in the future, the choices he makes now don't tarnish a Hall of Fame legacy.

To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here .