Yes, another list. This will be part one of a five part series doing the top ten fighters in each division.
I am starting at the bottom, with the lightweights.
This division is stacked, but I think I can do an accurate list about it. For those surprised about no Nate Diaz, sorry. No George Sotiropoulos either.
Gleison Tibau. The young, Brazilian lightweight (potential) juggernaut. He has a world of potential, starting with his great takedowns. He has tremendous upper body strength, which he uses for his highlight reel suplexes.
To succeed in his division, he needs to develop a sharp striking game, and learn to keep his opponent on their back. When we last saw him at UFC 104, he took down Josh Neer consistently throughout the fight, but wasn't able to keep him there. Tibau will need to use the ground-and-pound effectively if he is to work his way up in the division.
This guy is going places. The only reason behind him not being higher is his lack of results against solid competition. His ground game is ridiculous, although his striking leaves much to be desired. He is versatile, with a steady mix of punches and kicks. His ground game leaves very little to be desired.
We last saw him get pummeled by Joe Stevenson at UFC 104 . If he can be more consistent, the sky is the limit (BJ, KenFlo, and Stevenson have to retire first) for this young fighter from Davenport, Iowa.
Complain all you want. This is as high as I can justify putting him on the list. After his steroid scandal, the loss to BJ (granted, he rebounded by beating Tyson Griffin), and his (recent) inconsistency, it's hard to believe "The Muscle Shark" was once one of the top Lightweights in the world.
He earned it, too. Throughout his thirty-eight fight career, he has lost four times. Once to Welterweight Georges St. Pierre, once to BJ Penn, once to Frankie Edgar, and once to Matt Hughes, way back in 2003. That's some pretty solid competition to lose to. He has excellent wrestling, and he is no slouch standing either.
However, at thirty-six years old, he needs to make a serious rebound while he is still in his prime.
Roger Huerta is one of the best strikers in his division. He is very flexible, and his kickboxing and wrestling are among the elite. His ten career KO's are a good measure of his striking success.
The talent is there.
He can move higher in the division if he beomes more consistent, but until he pieces together another eleven fight win streak, expect him to just be viewed as a gate-keeper.
Tyson Griffin, at 25, could be the class of the division in about five years if he keeps up the way he is going. In fourteen professional fights, he has lost twice. His wrestling is good, despite the fact that he had no amateur wrestling experience. He also has heavy hands, winning by KO six times, including his fight against Hermes Franca at UFC 103. He is very strong. His submission offense could be worked on.
The next challenger for BJ Penn's belt. Loads of potential. Good wrestling. Dabbles in Jiu-Jitsu. Good takedown throws. Good stand-up. Those are all his upsides.
Still, we must question why he got the title shot instead of Gray Maynard, when Gray Maynard handled him convincingly. When he loses to Penn, who will probably push him around like a rookie for four rounds then end it with a brutal head kick in the fifth, we will question, why?
And here is why...Edgar wins fights. The one notch on his loss column is Gray Maynard. Other than that, nothing. Edgar has alot of raw skill. He, Maynard and Griffin will be the class of this division for years to come. Provided, of course, he starts winning again after he takes the royal ass-kicking awaiting him in Abu Dhabi.
Technically, based on Frankie Edgar's unfair title shot, you would expect Maynard to be behing Edgar. But Maynard, in my opinion, is the more complete fighter. Plus, he has no losses against tough competition. His wrestling is good, and his striking is solid. His freakish size for a lightweight (5-8, 155) often makes for size disadvantages, especially against smaller competition. As with the previous six fighters, the only way he breaks top three is if Florian, Penn, and Stevenson retire, or he beats one of them. That isn't unlikely. Look for him to get a title shot when Edgar loses to BJ.
Joe Stevenson is a beast. If not for Kenny Florian and BJ Penn, he would own this division. His mastery of the ground game is second only to Penn, and his striking is third in the division. He hits hard, and can KO anyone he faces (except Florian and Penn). His ground transitions are beautiful, and so are his takedowns. If his opponents aren't careful, they could find themselves in a quick submission.
Stevenson is susceptible to fighters who come straight at him (Sanchez), and fighters who can match him anywhere the fight goes (Penn, Florian).
Yeah, yeah, everyone knew who was going to be No. 1 and 2. Florian is a great fighter. He consistently performs well in all of his fights. Yes, even the BJ Penn fight. I say he performed well just because he lasted that long, but anyways.
Florian is the rare fighter who is dangerous anywhere the fight goes, and I mean everywhere. His ground-and-pound is good, his striking is world class, and even when he is on his back, he uses his patented razor elbows to inflict damage. He was last seen at UFC 107, beating Clay Guida to a bloody pulp.
What do you get when you cross world class boxing, world class jiu-jitsu, and incredible motivation?
No, not Jose Aldo, BJ Penn!
Penn is the most lethal striker in his division by far. His jabs are precise, his combinations fluid and quick, and his head-kicks are nasty. And un-expected. Penn has faced the best his division has to offer (except Shinya Aoki, who doesn't fight in the UFC).
Joe Stevenson? Penn submitted him.
Kenny Florian? Penn submitted him.
Diego Sanchez? Penn dominated him for four rounds before ending it with a great head kick.
The list could go on and on... BJ Penn has one of the best ground games in the sport also, becoming the first non-Brazilian ever to win the World Jiu Jitsu Championship in the black-belt division. Enough said.
If you disagree with this list...share your opinions in the comments section!
Keep your eyes open for my welterweight list.