Breaking Down The UFC Lightweight Division

Current UFC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson. via cdn2.sbnation.com

Continuing with the series of in-depth divisional breakdowns that started earlier today with a look at the Bantamweight division (read it here) and then the Featherweight division (read it here), we move on to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight division.

With the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in the middle of one of its longest stretches of down time in months, (and with the summer season jam-packed with events), I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to take an in-depth look at all the divisions to clearly identify who is in the title picture, who isn't, who is building themselves into a contender and whose jobs are on the line.

The UFC is essentially an endlessly on-going tournament, with two brackets: One for match winners and one for match losers. Just about the only time that Joe Silva and Dana White match up a guy coming off a win with a guy coming off a loss is if the guy coming off a loss was fighting for a title. Otherwise, it's almost always winner vs winner and loser vs loser.

It's a pretty sensible way of doing things, ensuring that there will always be guys with a few wins in a row and others with a couple of losses in a row, opening up the chance for new blood to enter into the company.

So anytime you are looking at a division and trying to see what the future will hold, it's mandatory to know who are the fighter's on win streaks and who are the fighters on losing streaks. As such, I've been organizing each division by wins and losses for a few months now and throughout today I'll be posting up my take on each division based on this data. I'm not going to be doing an in-depth feature on the flyweight division, as there has only been two fights in the division thus far.

Therefore, we move on to the Lightweight division (155 pounds):


(**Wins/Losses include World Extreme Cagefighting fights**)

Five Wins: Jacob Volkmann
Four Wins: Ben Henderson, Edson Barboza
Three Wins: Gleison Tibau, Anthony Ferguson
Two Wins: Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz, Evan Dunham, Danny Castillo, Paul Sass, Thiago Tavares
One Win: Mark Bocek, Jim Miller, T.J. Grant, Matt Wiman, Sean Sherk, Takanori Gomi, Michael Johnson, Paul Taylor, Dennis Hallman, Ramsey Nijem, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Fabricio Camoes, Tim Means, Justin Salas, John Cholish

Rookies: Reza Madadi, Yoislandy Izquiero, Carlo Prater, Henry Martinez

One Loss: Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Clay Guida, Donald Cerrone, Mac Danzig, Rafael dos Anjos, Joe Lauzon, John Makdessi, Anthony Njokuani, Jeremy Stephens, Sam Stout, Eiji Mitsuoka, Bernardo Magalhaes, Anton Kuivanen, Mitch Clarke, Yves Edwards, Terry Etim, Aaron Riley, Efrain Escudero
Two Losses: George Sotiropoulos, Melvin Guillard, Nik Lentz, Spencer Fisher, Kamal Shalorus, Cody Mckenzie, T.J. O'Brien, Rafaello Oliveira
Three Losses: Shane Roller

The lightweight division is in an interesting spot. There hasn't been a dominant champion since B.J. Penn held the title and the guy with the most wins in a row is, gasp, Jacob Volkmann! Making things even more interesting is that because of 2011 being all about Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard, a handful of perennial contenders are in the losers bracket, having been forced to fight amongst themselves while "The Answer" and "The Bully" settled their score. Jim Miller and Nate Diaz would seem to be fighting each other for the next shot, but this division has seen so many bait and switches that nothing is set in stone.

BOOKED FIGHTS:

There is a bunch of fights set to go down in the next few months at 155 pounds and just about every top guy will be involved. Indeed, of the 11 fighters with multiple win streaks going, only Anthony Pettis and Gleison Tibau are awaiting a fight. Not only that, but all the top guys that are coming off a single loss have dance cards as well (Donald Cerrone, Clay Guida, Gray Maynard and, of course, Frankie Edgar). There will several cool match ups made possible after these fights, too many to list, but I'm particularly interested in seeing who comes out of Dunham/Barboza, Volkmann/Sass, Maynard/Guida and Ferguson/Tavares. Those four fights right there could easily be isolated as eight-man tournament with the winner coming out as a possible title challenger.

UNBOOKED WINNERS:

Gleison Tibau, Anthony Pettis, Sean Sherk, Michael Johnson, Paul Taylor, Dennis Hallman, Ramsey Nijem, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Fabricio Camoes, Tim Means, Justin Salas

I can see the reason Anthony Pettis badly wanted to get a title shot, as there really isn't much out there for him right now. Does he go up against Tibau? Not much for him to gain there. What about Sean Sherk, who has only fought once in the last 15 months? Again, not a whole lot of positive for Pettis, so perhaps he'll wait for a winner of one of the fights already set to give him an opponent. The rest of the list contains a lot of newcomers and I have no idea how they'll be matched up amongst themselves, but they surely will be. One fight that I'd like to see is Dennis Hallman vs Sean Sherk.

UNBOOKED LOSERS:

Melvin Guillard, Joe Lauzon, Sam Stout, George Sotiropoulos, Eiji Mitsuoka, Anton Kuivanen, Mitch Clarke, Yves Edwards, Terry Etim, T.J. O'Brien, Spencer Fisher, Rafaello Oliveira, Shane Roller.

Joining Pettis in the "nothing to gain, lots to lose" boat are Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon, who would be perfect opponents for each other if it wasn't for the fact that they just fought. I suspect we're going to see "G-Sot" and Guillard face off, as they are both sitting with two losses after long unbeaten streaks had them knocking on the title door. As for Lauzon, a match with Spencer Fisher, Yves Edwards or maybe Terry Etim seems to make the most sense. The rest of the crew on this list is miles away from any meaningful fights.

That wraps up the lightweights. With so many fights coming up, this division is finally going to start opening up and shifting around. Who will be at the top when the dust settles? Will it be a new blood like Ben Henderson, Nate Diaz or Edson Barboza? Or will the guys who've been at the top for the last few years, guys like Frank Edgar, Gray Maynard or Jim Miller regain the crown?

Comments and criticism are welcome!

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