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Lightweight Pile-Up: A Definitive List of Who is Worthy

Ever since champ Frankie Edgar battled challenger Gray Maynard to a draw at UFC 125, there’s been something of a traffic jam clogging the road to the top.  No, wait, scratch that.  There hasn’t been a traffic jam as much as there’s been a jackknifed tractor trailer, a ten-car pile-up, and an overturned school bus inexplicably dumping angry kangaroos out onto the pavement, cluttering the 155-pound highway and turning it into an absolute mess.  Who is next in line for a title shot after Edgar and Maynard complete their trilogy?  Who of the UFC’s talent-rich division has earned it?  After this weekend’s TUF 13 Finale, we know Anthony Pettis’ top contender status has faded, but there are still a number of other tough, accomplished guys ready, willing and waiting.  Therefore, here’s MMA Convert’s definitive list of who is (and is almost) worthy.

Jim Miller – He may not have won a WEC belt, but Miller has beaten almost everyone the UFC brass has put in front of him.  His only losses – ever – have been to Edgar and Maynard, and his current win streak is up to seven.  With jiu-jitsu, wrestling, ever-improving striking and a limitless work ethic, Miller is far and away next in line.  He just has to get by former WEC champ Ben Henderson at a UFC Live: “Hardy vs. Lytle” in August first.

Clay Guida – After keeping Pettis on the ground for three rounds on Saturday night and extending his win streak to four, Guida earned himself a whole lot of points in the grand scheme of things.  But back-to-back losses to Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez make it hard to justify his claim to the belt.  For defeating Pettis, he’s ahead of most of the pack; however, he’s still got a little ways to go.

Anthony Pettis – Pettis was promised a title shot by virtue of his status as last WEC champ ever, and with his dangerous guard and thrilling kicks, few could argue against that.  It’s a shame Edgar and Maynard put the division in suspended animation, though, because it forced Pettis to take the Guida fight.  Now it’s back to the drawing board for the promising 155er – although a couple more electrifying wins could easily put him back in the running.

Ben Henderson – The well-rounded Henderson may have lost his WEC belt to Pettis, but he still remains one tough hombre, and he had little trouble reminding us of that when he took on Mark Bocek at UFC 129 and thumped the Canadian grappler for three rounds.  Though Henderson is probably a couple victories away from earning his shot, if he were to defeat Miller in August all bets are off.  Beating the top-top contender means you get to cut ahead of the line, ‘cause the maître d’ has got a table for you, and would you like to see the wine list, sir?

Don Cerrone – The “Cowboy” was a contender in the WEC, and with a few key wins in the Octagon, he could be a contender there as well.  Cerrone is facing Vagna Rocha at UFC 131 this weekend, which should be a decent test of his jiu-jitsu defense.  If he gets past that, he could conceivably give someone like Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk or Evan Dunham a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence.

Melvin Guillard – Back in 2005, Guillard was a TUF 2 washout with a glaring hole in his game (submissions).  Now, however, he’s transformed into some sort of deadly fist-dispenser that thinks before he acts.  And while he lost to Nate Diaz in 2009, he’s since been coming out on top, and he totally crushed Dunham earlier this year.  I say give him a couple more “name” guys and see where he stands.  Guillard might end up surprising all of us.

Dennis Siver – Like Guillard, only a bit more German, Siver is another person who’s metamorphosed into a competent, capable fighter.  In his last excursion he derailed top contender George Sotiropoulos, and at UFC 132 he’s facing Matt Wiman.  A win there, plus maybe a couple more after that, should have him painted as a viable challenger for the belt, too.

  • sam_snee

    To show im not biased, Jim, i really like this write up here. It made me both laugh and think. I agree with most of what you said (though that doesnt matter, and you probably dont care). I especially like the cutting in line metaphor. wine list, sir? haha. good stuff. I suppose it’s the nature of the article that leads to positive vibes, but anywho, i liked it. My opinion: take it with a grain of salt, or as a side dish to your thesis dinner. good write up dude.

    • jim genia

      of course i care, sam.  accepting feedback is essential for growth as a writer.  thanks for the kudos.

      • sam_snee

        word

  • sam_snee

    i also feel bad for george sotiropolous, as his name was only mentioned as Siver’s latest defeat. I think he deserves to be on there somewhat, more than henderson, seeing as he’s beaten tougher competition as of late. I have a new nickname for G-Sot. here it is: G-Sot, “The Man with an Italian Last Name, Australian Accent, and Arabic Face”

    • Luckiethirteen

      I would say Sotoropolous (spelling?) is Greek… If I had to guess

    • Azzy

      Sotoropolous is Greek; nearly all Italian last names end in vowels as derived from Latin.

  • Anonymous

    I would have Ben above Pettis only cus he won his UFC debut, and Dennis Siver above Cerrone.
    Didn’t Diego move back to welterweight?

  • http://twitter.com/Warriordave927 warriordave927

    I agree with snee George air deserves a spot in the “in the mix” cluster phuck that is the #3-5 spots in the ufc lightweight division,also if the zuffa decides that gil melendez deserves to be in the ufc like his team mate nick diaz that’s gonna be another person to add to this list while we are waiting for #1 to be decided

  • Lanfear

    Certainly need G-Sot in there. He might have lost his last fight, but it was a close one and he looked far from outclassed. I would love to see him and Miller fight off for top contendor sometime in the future. After George gets back on the winning side of the fence of course.

  • Rb

    I would like to see guillard fighting some higher competition than he has been givin most of the time, I think hes proving himself to be to good to be stuck in non stop prelim matches.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Silliman/514229401 Matt Silliman

    I love the article Jim, it’s so open for discussion.  I”m guessing you were sticking to “current” UFC fighters in your argument.  I personally think Gilbert Melendez should be on the list, especially after they just signed GSP vs. Diaz.  Now we know it’s possible and we know gilbert wants it.  That’s assuming he gets by the Noons vs. Masvidal winner ( I’ve got noons winning that one) 

    I have a feeling the Siver is gonna be replaced by Wiman after UFC 132.

    You also can’t forget about B.J Penn. I know he isn’t fighting currently at 155, but he destroyed everyone but Edgar and it might not take him much more than 1 fight to get another shot…..if he decided to go down in weight. 

    • Anonymous

      I think the only reason they signed nick is because gsp has virtually gone through everyone. They need fresh guys to throw at gsp. As far as the lightweight division, I feel it’s pretty stacked and Frankie needs to clear his division before getting a crack at Melendez.

      • sam_snee

        agree. though is Melendez comes to the UFC he should start with some top guys, such as any mentioned in the article. but not a title shot right away.

  • The Jester

    “As far as the lightweight division, I feel it’s pretty stacked and Frankie needs to clear his division before getting a crack at Melendez.”
     
    Getting a crack at Melendez? As if it is some kind of privilege for Edgar to fight him? It’s the complete opposite. Melendez should have to prove himself in the UFC before getting a crack at Frankie.

    • Anonymous

      Doesn’t make sense buddy!
      Champs need to fight champs! And the only one who got screwed was Anthony pettis, I still exempt him from it because he never successfully defended his title. In Melendez case he has so…yeah

  • LVmma

    Great work brother! You make it a pleasure to read.

    • jim genia

      thanks!

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