UFC Lightweight Division: The Lay of the Land
With UFC 118 firmly in the history books fans, fighters and the media have had a chance to digest what went down at the UFC's debut show in Boston.
The PPV was nothing more than solid with no real fireworks from any of the main card fights except for the Diaz vs. Davis fight. The main event did at least provide the major talking point from the event as Frankie Edgar outclassed B.J. Penn through five rounds to defend his Lightweight title.
With all talk in the build being about how Edgar's win at UFC 112 was a fluke and how BJ was going to regain his rightful place at the top of the 155lbs division, the result was a surprise. It was not an upset but the nature of how Edgar outworked and outclassed Penn on route to a deserved 50-45 win on all three of the judges score cards was a shock for most followers of MMA.
With Edgar remaining the UFC Lightweight Champion at UFC 118 the future of the division has become very interesting. So lets take a look at the lay of the land at Lightweight.
UFC Lightweight Champion Edgar already has his next opponent and title defense lined up.
Gray Maynard, who also fought on the UFC 118 card, was victorious over the top ranked Kenny Florian to earn a crack at the title. Maynard is undefeated as a professional and moved his record to 10 wins with one no contest.
Maynard is the only fighter who holds a victory over Edgar back at UFC Fight Night 13 and he is a genuine threat to the champion. Maynard has the ability to shut down and neutralize the quicker Edgar and grind on him for three rounds.
With Edgar vs Maynard set, lets look at their opponents from UFC 118.
B.J. Penn's future has become very interesting. The once dominant champion was seemingly undefeatable at Lightweight and was set to rule the division for as long as he desired. However with two back to back losses the aura has gone.
Penn's first loss to Edgar can be contested but his second cannot and the nature of the loss means that he now has to be a few fights away from a title shot.
Penn needs a test and then a contender fight if he is to stay at 155 lbs.
There has been talk here on B/R that he should face Clay Guida. It's a potentially great fight but I just don't see the motivation for Penn and motivation is something he desperately needs. Give Guida to Joe Lauzon who returned victoriously at UFC 118.
I say give BJ Takanori Gomi. Gomi is fresh off a win, it is an easy sell to fans and it would provide a great co-main event to a PPV card.
Finally talk of Penn returning to 170 lbs is just talk, with Georges St. Pierre as champion and such a deep division expect Dana White and Joe Silva to keep Penn from moving divisions again if they can.
Florian finds himself in a much tougher situation then Penn does. Florian is undoubtedly a top talent, but he seems to crumble when faced with a true test or when something is on the line.
Two failed title shots and now a loss in a No. 1 contender fight leave Florian in limbo. He will most likely bounce back but he needs another substantial win streak to regain momentum and he most hope that Edgar beats Maynard.
Florian needs a tough fight and there are a number of contenders out there who would love to add his name to their resume.
If Joe Silva feels nasty then George Sotiropoulos would be a big test for Florian. If not then a fight in early 2011 against Kurt Pellegrino who is also coming off a loss could be a great fight.
Outside of UFC 118 there are number of upcoming fights at lightweight to look forward to that will shape the future of the division.
I've already mentioned top contender Sotiropoulos will be looking for a fight as his last fight was back at UFC 116. The Australian is on a seven fight win streak and is likely only one big name win away from a title shot. He will be desperate to face Florian.
His defeated opponent at UFC 116, Pellegrino is out until 2011 with an injury but will be looking to bounce back in the new year as he remains a top contender.
TUF Season 9 winner Ross Pearson will take on fellow TUF alumni Cole Miller. Pearson is 3-0 in the UFC and has shown improvement in every fight. Miller will be a real test of his ground game, but should Pearson emerge then he will enter the upper end of the division.
Also on the card is the fighter no one seems to talk about, Jim Miller. Miller's only loss in the UFC is to Gray Maynard and he is currently on a four fight win streak. Miller will face Gleison Tibau on September 15th in what should be a great fight.
The winner of this fight is right in the mix at 155 lbs.
At UFC 119 another rising prospect Evan Dunham will take on former champion Sean Sherk.
Dunham is 11-0 and with a win over Sherk his case for a title shot would also be growing. Sherk will be looking to curb the youngsters rise and reinstate himself in the Lightweight picture after a lengthy layoff.
Also on the 119 card is Melvin Guillard vs Jeremy Stephens. Both are rapidly rising in the division and forming nice little win streaks. The winner of this fight will be on the cusp of the top tier in the division.
Finally now that you have digested everything that is going on at Lightweight, here are the other future fights that have caught my eye.
UFC 120: Spencer Fisher vs Kurt Warburton (UFC debut for the highly regarded Warburton).
UFC 121: Paul Taylor vs Sam Stout (This has Fight of the Night written all over it).
Plus the fighters that currently are not booked but should not be forgotten about in the 155 lbs weight class.
Tyson Griffin - losses to Dunham and Gomi have knocked him back. Still a tough fighter though.
Rafael dos Anjos - injured in loss to Guida at UFC 117, look for a strong return in 2011.
Terry Etim - loss at UFC 112 broke four fight win streak, will be set to return once injury is healed.
Joe Stevenson - not fought since loss at UFC 110, currently injured.
Nik Lentz - Won last weekend at UFC 118. Needs to continue improving, expect and early 2011 fight.
There you have it folks. Let me know your thoughts. Where does B.J. Penn go from here? Is Guida really a good fight for him? What about Ken Flo? Which fight are you most looking forward to in the Lightweight Division.
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