After UFC 112 last Saturday night, the UFC's lightweight division has now become its most interesting division. Let's face it, unless you are a close friend or family member of new champ Frankie Edgar, you were shocked when he beat BJ Penn.
Even more shocking is that he took BJ down, but that is another story for another time.
Now that he is the champion, who will Frankie "The Answer" Edgar fight next? There are a few obvious choices like Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard, but below them is an endless pool of inconsistency, save for a few fighters and an Australian guy.
So, for starters, let's take a look at how both Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard stack up against "The Answer." We will start with KenFlo.
Outside of BJ Penn, Kenny Florian is easily the second best lightweight in the world. He has only lost three times in his UFC career, and he is perhaps the most consistent lightweight outside of former champ Penn at finishing fights.
Florian held a striking advantage against the majority of his former opponents, with the exceptions being Diego Sanchez about five years ago and BJ Penn last August. He is also incredibly well balanced; His grappling is as dangerous as anyone's.
He has improved exponentially in both of his fights since his loss to Penn eight months ago. His anticipation of when a punch is being thrown has improved very much, as was evidenced in his fight against Takanori Gomi, where Florian was only hit about four times over the course of two and a half rounds.
On the ground, Florian is as dangerous as anyone. His number of wins by submission is astounding when you consider how little he has fought, and against that level of competition, it is outstanding.
Against Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian holds the advantage in every phase on paper, but as we saw against Penn, advantages don't necessarily mean anything.
Unlike Kenny Florian, Gray Maynard has fought with Edgar in the UFC before, and cruised to a unanimous decision victory. Again unlike Kenny Florian, Gray Maynard can't seem to finish his opponents. And for one similarity, Maynard is also consistent, going undefeated in his career with one no contest.
Gray Maynard uses his large, muscular frame to inflict his will upon his opponents. His recipe for success is basically takedown, ground and pound, rinse, repeat. His grappling is among the best of the division; He could survive in this division for years on his wrestling alone. But his striking leaves a lot to be desired.
Since Maynard's fight with Frankie Edgar at UFC Fight Night 13, he hasn't really improved as far as adding new wrinkles to his gameplan. For now, it can get him wins,, but what will happen when he fights someone with a deep arsena of weapons at their disposal? Name someone like that he has faced thus far in his career.
Kenny Florian-Gray Maynard Head-To-Head
Next, we can make a pretty fair judgement as to who has earned the title fight.
Kenny Florian has faced great competition for his whole career. He has wins over notable fighters such as Joe Lauzon, Joe Stevenson, Sam Stout, and Takanori Gomi.
He has only lost four times, and they were back to back losses to Drew Fickett and Diego Sanchez almost six years ago, and title shot losses to a prime Sean Sherk and a focused BJ Penn.
Gray Maynard has never lost, as was discussed above, but who on his resumé really stands out? Rich Clementi? Nate Diaz? Dennis Siver?
Despite all of the seemingly pro-Kenny Florian talk going on, I actually think Maynard should get the title fight first. It would be an interesting storyline for the UFC to build up.
A fight between Edgar, a fighter who vanquished BJ Penn, and Maynard, a fighter who has never lost and holds a win over Edgar, would indeed be interesting.
It would also be a good test for Frankie Edgar to see how far he has come since UFN 13. If he can't defeat Gray Maynard, then he has no business being in the octagon with Kenny Florian, at least in my opinion.
If he beats Gray Maynard, then a fight between him and KenFlo would be perfect. They might even be able to hold it in Boston, which is KenFlo's hometown and a close neighbor of New Jersey, from which Edgar hails.
So unless something else comes up, Joe Silva should book a fight between Frankie "The Answer" Edgar and Gray "The Bully" Maynard for the title next. It could perhaps be the co-main event to Anderson "The Jackass" Silva's triumphant return.