So remember when I said I would be active in the gap between UFC 136 and UFC 137? Woops.
But hopefully I’ll make it up to everybody with some spectacularly good insights into the world of MMA.
After Frank Edgar’s vanquishing of Gray Maynard at UFC 136, I think it’s very interesting to look at the lightweight division, to see what’s coming up in the future.
As usual when discussing such a thing, I’ll begin by listing the top 20 lightweights currently measured by SILVA. Keep in mind that SILVA is NOT a ranking system; this is estimating how good each fighter is, as opposed to measuring each fighter’s recent accomplishments:
- Gilbert Melendez – 52.63
- Frank Edgar – 52.05
- Edson Barboza – 48.77
- Gray Maynard – 48.69
- Eddie Alvarez – 48.03
- Shinya Aoki – 46.47
- Jim Miller – 45.90
- Paul Sass – 45.80
- Jacob Volkmann – 44.61
- Donald Cerrone – 43.49
- Ben Henderson – 43.16
- Kamal Shalorus – 40.29
- Sean Sherk – 38.14
- Clay Guida – 35.14
- Anthony Njokuani – 34.21
- Melvin Guillard – 33.21
- Bart Palaszewski – 33.19
- Charles Oliveira – 32.92
- Evan Dunham – 32.54
- Shane Roller – 32.51
Why 20 lightweights? Well, because the division is particularly deep, so I think it’s prudent to take a particularly deep look at it.
Frank Edgar just can’t get any respect, it seems. Despite beating previously top-rated Gray Maynard by KO at UFC 136, Edgar finds himself second in SILVA, behind Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. That may or may not turn out to be an accurate rating, but they’re so close in SILVA that a fight between Edgar and Melendez should be viewed as a coin flip.
It appears that the UFC has been unable to move Melendez from Strikeforce to the UFC to take on Edgar, instead scheduling Melendez to defend his Strikeforce title against Jorge Masvidal later this year. If Melendez can’t challenge Edgar soon, who will? Let’s use process of elimination to narrow down the field.
Not ready: #3 Edson Barboza, #8 Paul Sass, #9 Jacob Volkmann, #15 Anthony Njokuani
These fighters have all won their last fight, but none of them have beaten the high-level opponent needed to be taken seriously as title contenders.
Recently lost: #4 Gray Maynard, #7 Jim Miller, #12 Kamal Shalorus, #16 Melvin Guillard, #18 Charles Oliveira, #19 Evan Dunham, #20 Shane Roller
These fighters have varying degrees of worthiness to be considered for a title shot, but will need to put together some wins before entering serious consideration.
Out of the UFC: #1 Gilbert Melendez, #5 Eddie Alvarez, #6 Shinya Aoki
Obviously, if you want a title shot in the UFC, you need to fight for the UFC first.
Long layoff: #13 Sean Sherk, #17 Bart Palaszewski
Not fighting is no way to keep yourself relevant in a division, unless your name is Rashad Evans.
The title picture
It’s amazing how well the process of elimination works sometimes. Simply using basic facts to remove fighters from immediate title consideration has left the following list:
- Frank Edgar
- Donald Cerrone
- Ben Henderson
- Clay Guida
Edgar is obviously the champion, leaving Cerrone, Henderson, and Guida. Hey, look! Ben Henderson and Clay Guida have a fight coming up on November 12th! How convenient!
Yes, I know, the idea that the winner of Henderson vs. Guida will be receiving a title shot is not earth-shattering, or unique, or cutting-edge news. It’s still good to have numbers and facts combine to suggest that this is a fight worthy of determining top contender status.
Meanwhile, Donald Cerrone has also built up some momentum, but it could be argued that he should be placed in the “not ready” group, as his best UFC win was against Charles Oliveira, followed by Paul Kelly and Vagner Rocha. Cerrone has a fight coming up on the 29th of this month against Dennis Siver. SILVA thinks Siver is overrated, giving him a SILVA score of just 30.51, but if Cerrone manages to beat him, it’s easy to see that win giving Cerrone some serious momentum in the court of public opinion.
Again, I don’t have anything here that will blow your mind, but it seems to me that events in the lightweight division will unfold as follows:
- If Gilbert Melendez gets the next title shot against Frank Edgar, then the winner of Henderson/Guida will fight Donald Cerrone (assuming Cerrone beats Dennis Siver) for the right to be the next title challenger after that.
- If Melendez doesn’t get the next title shot, it will go to the winner of Henderson/Guida, with Melendez probably getting the next title shot after that, leaving Cerrone having to wait a little longer.
I would bet on that second thing happening. Like I mentioned earlier, Melendez has a fight against Jorge Masvidal coming up in December, and I don’t know what his status would be from a contractual standpoint following that fight. The safe bet is to say that the Henderson/Guida winner gets the next title shot.