155; the UFC’s most plentiful division with some of the most exciting fighters ever to grace the Octagon. Lightweights have always been known to be some of the toughest entertainers in MMA history, but what is often overlooked about the division is the massive fight for the belt. In other divisions, only a few contenders are looked at as being “champion worthy”, but the lightweight division has so much talent, seen and unseen, to always overload that list of worthy title contenders. Right now, the lightweight division has a lot of attention with its most recent belt change, so here is where the division stands:
The UFC’s newly crowned lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, made a dominant mark on the 155lb division that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. Pettis not only finished the former champion, Ben Henderson, but he did it in a way that leaves us, the fans, wanting to see more. And more is what we’ll get as the dynamic striker squares up against Josh Thomson to defend his lightweight belt on the 10th of edition of UFC on FOX. Making a triumphant and explosive return to the UFC from his up-and-down days in Strikeforce, Thomson became the first person to knockout Nathan Diaz. This was, unfortunately, his only appearance in the UFC since his early UFC career, but in the current times of chaos with injuries, Josh Thomson is a solid choice. Expect this title fight to not only be an entertaining display of two very dynamic fighters, but it should also give Pettis the chance he’s been asking for to really put his full skill potential on display.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rustam Khabilov at UFC 170
Perhaps the biggest “dark-horse” of the entire lightweight division, Rafael dos Anjos brings in an outstanding 5-fight in streak into this explosive affair against the Russian up-and-comer, Rustam Khabilov. Dos Anjos has yet to rack in much attention, but his most noticeable performances came in his last two bouts when he out-dueled Evan Dunham and former top-contender Donald Cerrone for decision victories. He brings in a hefty resume into this bout against Rustam Khabilov, a a fighter with a 3-0 record in the UFC. Khabilov is an exciting Sambo fighter who is coming off of a solid performance over Jorge Masvidal. The winner of this bout could very well become the official dark-horse of this giant race for the belt.
Ben Henderson – In losing the belt, Henderson is now pegged down a notch into the swirling pool of hungry sharks. Henderson smashed his way to the top once before, so it’s common knowledge now that he’d be able to do it again. However, these are new waters now with some really bright new contenders. It’ll be interesting to see if Henderson can maintain his hold on the upper-echelon of the division. His next opponent is unknown at this time.
TJ Grant – One man’s loss is another’s gain. That speaks the truth about TJ Grant who was originally scheduled to fight Ben Henderson for the belt; however, an injury pulled him from the bout and it was Anthony Pettis who took his place and achieved success. Injuries halted Grant yet again as he was scheduled to then face Anthony Pettis, but now it’s Josh Thomson who will be replacing him. Grant’s momentum he had going by knockout out Gray Maynard, before it was cool, has seemingly been extinguished by all the others’ success. Grant still has a solid claim to at least a number-one contender bout, so look for that to be materialized in the future.
Gilbert Melendez – Fresh off of a “Fight of the Year” candidate performance against Diego Sanchez, Melendez looks to be hungry at getting back to that title. He dropped a razor-thin decision to Ben Henderson in his UFC debut, but now with a complete mix-up in the lightweight hierarchy, it could possibly lead Melendez right back up the ladder. Melendez could very well fight TJ Grant for a true number-one contender spot, but whether that will happen or not is an absolute shot in the dark.
Khabib Nurmagomedov – At the very front of this Russian “wave” swooping over the UFC is this man, Khabib Nurmagomedov. An avid Sambo practitioner, Khabib’s suplexes have him the path needed to top contention. A recent performance against Pat Healy, which tops off a 5-0 UFC record, has put Khabib as quite the popular name. While he doesn’t have the extensive resume as some of his other fellow contenders, Nurmagomedov looks to be an unstoppable force. Expect a tough fight to come his way that should really test to see if he deserves top contention.
Other Notable Welterweight Contenders:
Other Notable Welterweight Bouts:
Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes and Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson at UFC 168
Donald Cerrone vs. Adriano Martins at UFC on FOX 10
Ross Pearson vs. Melvin Guillard at UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa
Diego Sanchez vs. Myles Jury at UFC 171
Front-Page Photo Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports