After last night’s fights, things in the lightweight division in the UFC have been scrambled up pretty darn well, especially with Ben Henderson’s victory over Jim Miller. We know that Gray Maynard will be challenging Frank Edgar again for the lightweight title, but after that, who’s next?
First, let’s take a look at the top 15 UFC lightweights according to SILVA:
- Gray Maynard – 54.05
- Frank Edgar – 50.23
- Edson Barboza – 46.54
- Jim Miller – 45.90
- Paul Sass – 44.64
- Jacob Volkmann – 44.61
- Donald Cerrone – 43.49
- Takanori Gomi – 43.46
- Ben Henderson – 43.16
- Kamal Shalorus – 40.29
- Sean Sherk – 38.14
- Clay Guida – 35.14
- Anthony Njokuani – 34.21
- Bart Palaszewski – 33.19
- Charles Oliveira – 32.92
Now, let’s use process of elimination to determine who may be in the running for next title challenger.
#1 Gray Maynard and #2 Frank Edgar are already fighting for the title, so they’re out (and I can’t imagine that the result of the fight would warrant another rematch).
#3 Edson Barboza and #5 Paul Sass are up and coming fighters and haven’t entered real title contention yet.
#4 Jim Miller, #8 Takanori Gomi, #10 Kamal Shalorus, #14 Bart Palaszewski, and #15 Charles Oliveira are coming off losses.
#11 Sean Sherk has been very inactive.
That leaves the following candidates for the next title contender: #6 Jacob Volkmann, #7 Donald Cerrone, #9 Ben Henderson, #12 Clay Guida, and #13 Anthony Njokuani.
I think we can safely dismiss Volkmann and Njokuani. Neither man has a win against a highly-ranked or highly-rated opponent. Volkmann’s best victories are against Antonio McKee, Paul Kelly, and Danny Castillo. Njokuani’s best wins are against Chris Horodecki, Bart Palaszewski, and Andre Winner.
That leaves Cerrone, Henderson, and Guida. I think Cerrone has to take a back seat to Henderson and Guida, for the following reason: Cerrone has lost to Henderson twice in his career, and Henderson lost to Anthony Pettis, who was recently defeated by Guida. It’s MMA math, but in determining who the next title contender should be, it’s a valid way to look at things.
In my opinion, Henderson has the best victory between him and Guida, with his win against Jim Miller. Miller is an extremely highly-ranked and highly-rated lightweight, and Henderson beat him in very convincing fashion. Guida has some strong wins recently, but none are quite as strong as the Miller win.
With that said, I’m going to predict that Guida will be the next title challenger, mostly due to his win against Pettis. It needs to be remembered that Pettis was going to be the challenger to the title at one point, a status that was taken away after losing to Guida. While Henderson might have the better overall resume in my opinion, Guida is the fighter who is in the right place at the right time.
My prediction: Guida will challenge the winner of Edgar-Maynard 3 (and lose). Henderson will need one more fight before being granted a title shot, possibly against Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, assuming that Melendez beats Jorge Masvidal. The others, including Cerrone and Volkmann, are still multiple wins away from serious title consideration.