UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar proved his dominance in the division last night when he defeated the only fighter to ever have a victory over him, Gray Maynard, at UFC 136.
Edgar survived another early first-round knockout from Maynard to fight back in triumphant fashion, eventually finishing the fight with a knockout of his own in the fourth round. With that win, Edgar has now pushed his record to an impressive 14-1-1, and he has not been defeated in over three years.
Though it appears that he may be the next long-running champion in the UFC, Frankie Edgar does have the tough task of competing in arguably the most stacked division in the company, with challengers seemingly coming from every corner of the globe looking to take his title.
It might be difficult to picture him losing his title anytime soon, but these five potential challengers are all looking to play the role that Frankie himself played when he upset previous champion BJ Penn in April 2010.
MMA Record: 29-9-2 (1)
Last fight: Lost to Joe Lauzon at UFC 136
Before his surprising loss to Joe Lauzon at UFC 136, Melvin Guillard was on-pace to a get a shot at the UFC lightweight title in 2012. The 28-year-old Guillard was on a five-fight winning streak, which included victories over Shane Roller, Evan Dunham and Jeremy Stephens.
The loss drops Guillard back a peg in the division, but if there is a silver lining, it is that he wasn’t completely dominated for 15-minutes in the fight and made to look like a fool. Instead, it appears as if he may have simply underestimated Lauzon, who took advantage by catching him in the standup game before using his incredible jiu-jitsu skills to submit Guillard with a rear-naked choke.
Lauzon himself could arguably be placed in this spot at No. 5, but the two losses he suffered in 2010 at the hands of George Sotiropoulos and Sam Stout make it tough to put Lauzon quite this high.
MMA Record: 21-6
Last fight: Defeated Kenny Florian at UFC 136
As the best featherweight on the planet, Jose Aldo has almost completely cleared out the 145-pound division in the WEC and now in the UFC. There are a few contenders remaining, but the reality is that if he defeats Chad Mendes in the coming months, there really isn’t much left for him to do outside of a few rematches.
As Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg pointed out in Saturday night’s fights, the next step for Jose Aldo might very well be at 155 pounds.
MMA Record: 14-2
Last fight: Defeated Jim Miller at UFC: Hardy vs. Lytle
Former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson had a tough task ahead of him when he made his move to the UFC. Despite being a three-time champion in the WEC, many fans remembered him best as being the guy who was on the receiving end of Anthony Pettis’ “Showtime Kick” at WEC 53.
Henderson has been up to the task, though, as he has now won back-to-back fights in the Octagon, including a huge victory over consensus top-five lightweight Jim Miller in August. As great as his performance was in that fight, it will be his next fight that could be the biggest of his entire career.
MMA Record: 29-11
Last fight: Defeated Anthony Pettis at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale
Clay Guida’s UFC run has been up-and-down, but one thing is for certain: he has always been extremely entertaining.
But some have conflicting opinions about his most recent fight against Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. While he dominated the fight and stuck to his gameplan of staying away from the hands (and feet) of Pettis, critics of his performance were unhappy that he didn’t seem to care as much about putting on an aesthetically-pleasing fight for the fans.
Still, there’s no denying that this “new” Clay Guida was perhaps the most prepared version we have ever seen and the one who may be able to earn himself a shot at the UFC lightweight championship with one more victory against Ben Henderson at UFC on FOX.
MMA Record: 19-2
Last fight: Defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez may not be the most well-known fighter by casual fans, but he is the consensus No. 2 lightweight in the world. UFC President Dana White made it clear recently that Melendez is on his way to the Octagon, and although the official announcement has not been made yet, it sounds as if we may only be days away.
Better yet, White also added that he has considered giving Melendez an immediate shot at the UFC lightweight championship when he does make the move from Strikeforce to the UFC. So we may very well see what could amount to a championship unification match sometime in 2012 or even still in 2011.