Throughout the week, MMA For Real will take a look at each of the UFC's classic five divisions while discussing the hierarchy in each division in regards to fighters are championship contention or could one day be. Today, we continue with the UFC's lightweight division. See things differently? Want to give your thoughts on which track the division should go? Express yourself in the comments section!
Frankie Edgar: Edgar is the UFC lightweight champion after two impressive performances in 2010. In April, he defeated B.J. Penn by a contested unanimous decision. The two rematched in August and this time around, Edgar left no doubt as he whitewashed Penn on all scorecards. Edgar used a high-pace to scoot past Penn on both occasions, even throwing in takedowns in the second fight. At 13-1, Edgar has climbed to the mountain top. He'll make the first defense of his title at UFC 125 against Gray Maynard, the only man to beat him.
Gray Maynard: Maynard finally earned his title shot after beating Kenny Florian by decision at UFC 118 in August. At 8-0 (1 NC) in the UFC, Maynard has risen through the ranks while beating the likes of Edgar, Dennis Siver, Nate Diaz, Jim Miller and Roger Huerta. Maynard has mixed solid, yet unspectacular, boxing with dominant wrestling to get to where he is today. Maynard currently is the bettors favorite for his rematch with Edgar.
Ben Henderson/Anthony Pettis winner: The WEC merger complicates things slightly here, as the winner of this fight will meet the winner of the Edgar/Maynard fight to crown an undisputed champion.
George Sotiropoulos: In terms of the championship picture, the fighter with the screws put to him the most by it is George Sotiropoulos, who has really burst onto the scene as a player in 2010. Winner of five straight lightweight fights and eight overall, Sotiropoulos will instead face Dennis Siver at UFC 127 in February. A win there should sow up a title shot for the Australian.
On the cusp:
Evan Dunham: Dunham looked to be on the fast track to a title shot before some questionable judging robbed him of a win against former champion Sean Sherk in September. The loss dropped Dunham to 11-1-0 in his career. A dynamic fighter, Dunham will get a chance to climb right back up the mountain when he meets former two-time title challenger Kenny Florian next month in Texas.
Takanori Gomi: The former PRIDE lightweight champion is right back in the mix of things following his 64 second flattening of Tyson Griffin in August. He'll face Clay Guida at UFC 125.
Kenny Florian: Having already fought for the title twice and falling both times, Florian has a lot of work to do to get back to a title shot, especially considering he just lost to Maynard. Having been labeled a choker by UFC president Dana White, Florian is going to have to be impressive in victory against Dunham. If not, he could join the list of also-rans.
Charles Oliveira: "do Bronx" has been impressive in his first two UFC outings, besting Darren Elkins and Efrain Escudero. Against Escudero, he showed great jiu-jitsu and solid striking that should only improve over time as he ages. He gets a big test when he faces the always-tough Jim Miller next week at UFC 124.