MMABlog’s Lightweight MMA Rankings

Rank

Name

Organization

Next Fight

1

B.J. Penn

UFC

St. Pierre (#1 WW) 1/31

2

Takanori Gomi

World Victory Road

Golyaev (NR), 11/1

3

Shinya Aoki

DREAM

 

4

Eddie Alvarez

EliteXC?

 

5

Sean Sherk

UFC

T. Griffin (#15), 9/25

6

Mitsuhiro Ishida

DREAM/Strikeforce

 

7

Tatsuya Kawajiri

DREAM

 

8

Kenny Florian

UFC

Stevenson (#10), 11/15

9

Josh Thomson

Strikeforce

Edwards (NR), 11/21

10

Joe Stevenson

UFC

Florian (#8), 11/15

11

Gesias Calvancante

DREAM

 

12

Joachim Hansen

DREAM

 

13

Gilbert Melendez

Strikeforce

 

14

Jamie Varner

WEC

 

15

Tyson Griffin

UFC

Sherk (#5), 9/25

16

Roger Huerta

UFC

 

17

Gray Maynard

UFC

Clementi (NR), 9/25

18

Frank Edgar

UFC

Wiman (NR), 12/10

19

Vitor Ribeiro

 

 

20

Nate Diaz

UFC

 

21

K.J. Noons

EliteXC?

 

22

Joe Lauzon

UFC

 

23

Nick Diaz

EliteXC

 

24

Spencer Fisher

UFC

Gugerty (NR), 9/25

25

Caol Uno

DREAM

 

 

Others Considered: Clay Guida, Hermes Franca, Marcus Aurelio, Jim Miller, Jorge Masvidal , Rich Clementi, Matt Wiman, and Mac Danzig.

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The Stars of the UFC

There is a recent shift in stars of the UFC.  Those stars are the great investments, the money makers. The stars are not necessarily your best fighters, but they are well liked by the fans and they draw a crowd.  The stars are the people that the UFC will market and set up to be successful.  The stars get the most money and the best fights.  The stars have a louder voice with the UFC brass.  Some of those stars have been discontent like Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Tito Ortiz.  Those guys leaving hurts the UFC.  The guys the UFC recognizes as their stars are the ones they need to cater to more.  The stars are prized in all MMA organizations.  The WEC has Filho, Faber, Condit, and Stann.  PRIDE had Fedor, Cro Cop, Barnett, Wanderlai, Dan Henderson, Gomi, Arona, Shogun and the Nogueira brothers.  EliteXC has Lawler, Kimbo, Frank Shamrock, and Carano.  Strikeforce has Gilbert Melendez and Cung Le.  The stars are not always the champs, but they may be.  In the UFC there is a shift.  The old guard is moving on.  They are still there, and still draw a crowd and are still good PPV fights, but in a few years will be gone.  The old guard consisted of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes.  There is a star level, then there is a second tier level of guys you want to hold onto at all costs, who have a following, and then there is the emerging star tier. Then you have your great fighters who perform in the octagon are respected, but may not have the charisma to be the face of the organization.  These guys can win and hold belts, but they won’t be the Chuck Liddell’s.  This system explains why the UFC gives a title shot and coaches spot to Forrest Griffin, who i no way has earned the title of number 1 contender.  He is good, but not that good.  He may eventually earn that, but this is premature.  Why did he get it?  Because he is popular.  He will sell PPVs and people will watch TUF because of him.  Personality will carry a guy a long way, just look at the Houston Alexander bandwagon. A lack of personality will hurt a guy, just ask Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, who if they had the charisma would be stars because they have the ability.  These guys can move up and down these different levels, but some guys have already been crowed as stars and can do little to harm that.  Your stars are the guys you hold on to at all costs.  Your second tier you want to keep because they are your contenders and can become stars.  Your third tier you be careful with because they can become stars if you play your cards right.  Your fourth tier are some of the best fighters, they put on good fights, they win fight night bonuses and they should be signed and kep in the organization if you can.  The effect of a star leaving the UFC is much greater than when someone else does.  The UFC is hurt by loosing their four biggest heavyweight stars Couture, Cro Cop, Arlovski and Sylvia.  The UFC is not so much hurt by loosing Jake O’Brien.  It would be nice to keep O’Brien, but if you can’t you move on.  Also, you sign MMA free agents based on this tier.  I and many others consider Fedor for example a star level guy, an instant smash hit and a great investment.  You pay him well, but he will make you money.  Dana White apparently considered him second tier, and didn’t sign him.  My opinion you give the Fedors and the Couture and the Liddells whatever they want.  My system looks like this:

UFC’s Stars:

  • Anderson Silva
  • Georges St. Pierre
  • B.J. Penn
  • Rich Franklin
  • Chuck Liddell
  • Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
  • Forrest Griffin
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Matt Hughes
  • Wanderlai Silva

Second Level: UFC’s Near Stars:

  • Brandon Vera
  • Matt Serra
  • Jon Fitch
  • Diego Sanchez
  • Dan Henderson
  • Josh Koscheck
  • Sean Sherk
  • Kenny Florian
  • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
  • Rashad Evans
  • Michael Bisping
  • Joe Stevenson
  • Gabriel Gonzaga
  • Chris Leben
  • Karo Parisyan
  • Clay Guida

Third Level: The UFC’s Emerging Stars:

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Roger Huerta
  • Mac Danzig
  • Joe Lauzon
  • Cain Velasquez

Fourth Level: UFC’s Stud Fighters, but Not Stars:

  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  • Fabricio Werdum
  • Keith Jardine
  • Frank Mir
  • Thiago Silva
  • Heath Herring
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Marcus Aurelio
  • Yushin Okami
  • Marcus Davis
  • Patrick Cote
  • Evan Tanner
  • Stephan Bonnar
  • Martin Kampmann
  • Marvin Eastman
  • Ricardo Almeida
  • Mike Swick
  • Thiago Tavares
  • Nate Quarry
  • Wilson Gouveia
  • Nate Marquardt
  • Kauhiro Nakamura
  • Jason MacDonald
  • Demian Maia
  • Thiago Alves
  • Thales Leites
  • Frank Edgar
  • Matt Hammil
  • Nate Diaz
  • Akihiro Gono
  • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
  • Gray Maynard
  • Hermes Franca
  • Cheick Kongo
  • Din Thomas
  • Spencer Fisher
  • Tyson Griffin

Note: The reality show really helped some of these fighters draw a fan base, because people saw them on TUF they root for them to suceed in their careers

Which TUF Season Produced the Best Fighters?

1. TUF 1

TUF 1 saved the UFC.  Dana White acknowledges that the finale fight of Bonnar vs. Griffin was a defining UFC moment, perhaps that is why Griffin is getting a title shot.  In this season you have 2 or 3 guys that could hold a title eventually.  Kenny Florian is looking dominant.  Diego and Josh both are doing well as is Mike Swick in the welterweight divison.  Chris Leben may never win a title, but he is winning a lot.   

Notable Alumni: Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, and Chris Leben

2. TUF 2

This may not have as many stud fighters as season 1, but season 2 was good and produced 4 serious contenders (Stevenson, Marcus Davis, Keith Jardine, and Rashad Evans).   

Notable Alumni: Joe Stevenson, Luke Cummo, Josh Burkman, Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Marcus Davis, Jorge Gurgel, Melvin Guillard and Rob MacDonald

3. TUF 4

The comeback season was a success.  Travis Lutter lost to Anderson Silva, but still looked good.  We will see how he does against Rich Franklin.  We all know of Matt Serra winning against St. Pierre.  Clementi, Cote and Lytle all have looked good lately.  This season has a lot of names that UFC fans know. 

Notable Alumni: Travis Lutter, Charles McCarthy, Jorge Rivera, Rich Clementi, Pete Sell, Patrick Cote, Matt Serra, Chris Lytle and Din Thomas

4. TUF 5

This season is still developing talent.  However, these lightweights are all contenders. I think this season has 5 or so guys that could be top 15 material in a stacked divison. 

Notable Alumni: Joe Lauzon, Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz, Manny Gamburyan, Matt Wiman, Cole Miller, Corey Hill

5.  TUF 3

Not a bad season, but disappointing as far as how these guys have done after the show.  Bisping has done fair and dropped to middleweight and we will see how he does there.  Matt Hamill may be the success story of this show.  Kendall Grove has fallen hard.  Ed Herman can rise some if he keeps winning.   

Notable Alumni: Kendall Grove, Kalib Starnes, Ed Herman, Micahel Bisping, Matt Hamill

6. TUF 6

This show was the weakest of all.  We will see the effects of it.  In two years there may be two or three guys in the UFC from TUF 6.  Mac Danzig was so much better than everyone else on this season.  George can be decent and do well in the UFC.  Tommy Speer is so raw.  Matt Arroyo has good skills, but we will see.  Guys like Koppenhaver and Rollins have earned some time in the UFC, but I doubt it will last.  Watch for Mac though to climb the lightweight ranks. 

Notable Alumni: Mac Danzig, Tommy Speer, George Sotiropolous

UFN 13 Predictions

Tommy Speer vs. Anthony Johnson

Tommy Speer looked greated on TUF, however in the finale against Mac Danzig he didn’t look good.  If he can stand with someone and ground and pound them Tommy can beat anyone.  We will see how his training has come since TUF.  If he stick with Hughes it could really help him.  Tommy Speer by unanimous decision.

George Sotiropolous vs. Roman Mitchyan

This is a tough fight to pick because Roman Mitchyan didn’t stay around long enough on TUF due to an injury.  He seems tough as nails and he can beat anyone on the ground.  I almost picked him, but George seemed so good and so confident on TUF.  I pick George by unanimous decision

Manny Gamburyan (Ranked #18) vs. Jeff Cox (unranked)

Okay, well Manny was the TUF runner up and near winner if it wasn’t for an injury, why is he still fighting third tier guys.  All the others on TUF with him are fighting good guys.  Lauzon has Florian.  Maynard has Edgar.  Diaz has Pellegrino.  It is time for Manny to fight better competition.  A win here will force him to fight better people.  I pick Manny Gamburyan via submission late in round 1

Clay Guida (Ranked #9)vs. Samy Schiavo (unranked)

It is amazing how Guida can be beating Roger Huerta senseless for two rounds and then get caught and loose the fight and now Guida is on a UFN undercard fighting an unknown and Huerta is in the title talk.  Guida can fight with anyone.  I pick Guida by TKO in round 2.  He needs to show he can finish this fight.

Din Thomas (Ranked #12) vs. Josh Neer

This isn’t an easy fight.  However, Din Thomas is very good.   I think Din will win in round 2 with a KO.

Marcus Aurelio (Ranked #10) vs. Ryan Roberts (unranked)

The original fight was scheduled to be Aureilo vs. Spencer Fisher.  Obviously this is on paper an easier fight to Auerilo.  I will pick Marcus because he has fight much better competition.  I expect a unanimous decision win, although it is ideal for Marcus to stop the fight quick.  It gets him back in the top ten talk.

Frank Edgar (Ranked #7) vs. Gray Maynard (Ranked #20)

Frank Edgar looked good his last fight, but so did Gray.  I was shocked by this fight.  Gray Maynard has done very well in the UFC, but Edgar is a top five guy.  It seems like a bit too early for this fight for Gray.  That will hurt him, but I would not be shocked if Gray wins.  Both are great wrestlers.  Gray can hit really hard so can Edgar.  I nearly picked Gray for this, but I have to go with Frankie Edgar, who is in and will stay in the title picture with a win.

Nate Diaz (Ranked #16) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (Ranked #14)

Nate has looked really good.  That bite through this lip for Kurt his last fight was sick.  This is going to be a tough fight.  It will do two things.  It will show how good Nate Diaz is and it will show if Kurt Pellegrino belongs further up the rankings.  If Nate is like his brother he will be incosnsitent, however he has potential against anyone.  Both can grapple.  I don’t know how Nate will take a hit.  We will see.  I still pick Nate Diaz via submission in round 3.  Should be a good fight. 

Houston Alexander (Ranked #14) vs. James Irvin (Ranked #19)

The question is was Houston Alexander a fluke?  No doubt he can hit hard and can finish a fight.  It seems he is not a top ten guy yet as Thiago Silva destroyed him.  How will he do against another mid level fighter.  I think Irvin will go to sleep in the first round before the half way point.  So I pick Houston Alexander via KO in round 1.

Matt Hamill (Ranked #15) vs. Tim Boetsch (Ranked #20)

Tim Boetsch looked mean his last fight.  Matt Hamill got cheated his last fight.  I think Hamill is very good.  He has stand up.  He can wrestle better than anyone.  He is good.  I look for him to take Boetsch down and use some ground and pound on him.  Hamill by TKO or Ref Stoppage in round 1. 

Karo Parisyan (Ranked #5) vs. Thiago Alves (Ranked #11)

This may be a good fight.  Karo has looked so good against so many guys.  There is no doubt he is a top level guy.  Thiago Alves is no slouch.  With a win here he will be right there with Jon Fitch in the title shot discussion.  This won’t be a easy win though.  I think in the end though Karo wins by unanimous decision.

Kenny Florian (Ranked #3) vs. Joe Lauzon (Ranked #8)

The hardest fight to pick is the main event.  Both have some experience against elite fighters.  Both have good wins.  Both are long and thing.  Both can wrestle.  Both have great stand up.  Both have brutal elbows.  Both have jiu Jitsu skills.  Honestly, this could be a toss up and should be fight of the night.  Win or loose both these guys are around to stay in the top tier of the divison.  The winner should be in the title shot discussion.  If Florian wins he could get the next shot.  If Lauzon wins, Huerta will get the next shot and Joe will have to win one more.  Both these guys have great training.  I think in the end Joe Lauzon will pull out a win and will catch Kenny in round 2. 

Most possible upset(s): Gray Maynard over Frank Edgar.  Thiago Alves over Karo Parisyan.  Tim Boetsch over Mat Hamill

This fight night has huge implications for the lightweight divison and will sort out a lot of the rankings.  Winners move up, losers move down the rankings.  Nine of the top twenty fighters in my rankings are fighting from the lightweight divison including #3,7,8,9,10,12,14, 16, 20

UFC Stacking Cards

UFC is stacking there cards of late full of talents.  There is so many fights on these upcoming cards I don’t know what to do and surely good fights will go untelevised. 

UFC 82 is so stacked that some great fighters will be prelim fighters.  UFC 82 includes a main event match between Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson for the title.  Jon Fitch will take on talented newcomer Chris Wilson.  Yushin Okami who has been fighting well will fight Evan Tanner who is looking to get his life straight and his title back.  The UFC will also welcome back Andrei Arlovski (and maybe say goodbye) who will fight Jake O’Brien.  The card also includes Heath Herring vs. Cheick Kongo, David Bielkheden vs. Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck vs. Dustin Hazelett, Luke Cummo vs. Luigi Fiorvanti and Jorge Gurgel vs. John Halverson.

Ultimate Fight Night 13 may be most stacked of all.  The main events will be Kenny Florian vs. Joe Lauzon and Matt Hamill vs. Stephan Bonnar.  Also featuring a good fight between Karo Parisyan and Thiago Alves.  Houston Alexander and James Irvin were just bumped up to this card.  Also we will see a great fight between Spencer Fisher and Marcus Aurelio.  Din Thomas vs. Josh Neer and Clay Guida vs. Sammy Schiavo will be undercarded along with Tommy Speer’s first fight since TUF Finale.  Not to mention it has been romored that Frank Edgar would fight on this card.  Wow what a card!

There is some confusion on UFC 83.  Some have said it will be March 8, and looks lame.  Whatever the case may be, there will be an event April 19 (either 83 or 84) which will feature Matt Serra vs. Georges St. Pierre.  Also,  Rich Franklin vs. Travis Lutter.  We also suspect both Keith Jardine and Shogun to fight here, but not necessarily each other.  In addition Mac Danzig will fight here. Another good fight here will be Rich Clementi vs. Sam Stout, but will probably be undercard. Wow!!!

The May 24th event will feature the much hyped and anticipated BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk fight as well as a couple signifcant lightheavyweight bouts between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva as well as Tito Ortiz vs. Lyoto Machida, which could be Tito’s going away party.  MMAJunkie announced that would also include Ivan Salaverry vs. Rousimar Palhares a talented middleweight.

This is just the start, there are more fights to be added, but the first half of the year looks stacked.  You add into that mix TUF 7 and the title fight between Griffin and Jackson and TUF Finale by summer, it’s going to be a stack first half of 2008, keep it up Dana!

The effect of the Ultimate Fighter on the UFC

ultimate-fighter.jpg

There is a lot of talk about which UFC divison is the stongest.  I have discussed my opinion before, but I was curious which divison has been best bolstered by TUF. Below I listed each current UFC fighter and their current divison.  Some guys have fought in the UFC and left for other organizations so I did not include them.  Some guys have fought at one weight and dropped down recently like Michael Bisping.  I made my decison based not solely on numer of fighters, but quality fighters and number of contenders in the divison from TUF. Here is my evaluation…

The least bolstered is the Heavyweight divison, because there are no current UFC TUF alumni in that divison.  Evans and Jardine comepeted in Heavyweight and then dropped to lightheavyweight.

The fourth most bolstered is the middleweight divison.  There are 11 TUF alums in the middleweight divison currently and none are real contenders right now.  You have a bunch of second tier guys in: Travis Lutter, Ed Herman, Kendall Grove, Nate Quarry and Patrick Cote.  Some of those guys are close to breaking through to contender levels.  I would say your most succesful guy has been Chris Leben and I believe Michael Bisping will be a contender, but contender is a tough word in a divison where Anderson Silva owns the belt.  I don’t think these guys could beat the top 4 or 5 in that divison.

The third best divison is the lightheavyweight divison.  However, these five guys are all above average guys.  I consider three of them legit contenders in the divison (Griffin, Jardine and Evans) and I consider Bonnar and Hamill the best of the second tier guys.  Bonnar and Hamill are slated to fight in April, the winner will become a serious contender threat and break into the top 12 in that divison.  I put them below the others sheerly because they don’t have as many alums in the divison now.

To be honest the second and first was a toss up between the welterweight and lightweight divisons who have both benefited from TUF competitors dropping to their weight classes.  Here are my arguments for both.  The welterweight divison has a champ in Matt Serra.  Also one could argue that they have 2 other top five fighters in Koscheck and Sanchez, making TUF alums 3 of the top five in that divison.  If you throw Marcus Davis, who is a serious contender is the mix you have some good fighters, not to mention guys like Mike Swick who have just dropped down.  The jury is still out on the TUF 6 guys.  We will have to wait and see who will stick around the welterweigh divison.  I look for Speer, Sotiropplous, and Arroyo to make a little splash. 

The lightweight divison has the most TUF alums by far.  Obviously, Joe Stevenson has been the most successful and could get a title shot.  They also have another top five guy in their divison in Kenny Florian.  Joe Lauzon is set to fight Kenny and could move into seriosu contention if he pulls out a win.  I wouldn’t overlook guys like Mac Danzig, Nate Diaz, Cole Miller, Manny Gamburyan or Gray Maynard.  Din Thomas has proven himself well and Rich Clementi and Jorge Gurgel are no scrubs.

If you made me pick the most benefited from TUF I would say the lightweights, with the welterweights close behind.  It is kind of interesting to note that in 2008 at least 3 guys from TUF will get a title crack (Serra, Stevenson, and Griffin) and possibly more. 

TUF will continue to have an impact on the UFC for the good.  They hope to help out the middleweight divison, but likely good welterweights will bulk up to get on the show and the best of the next season will help the welterweight divison most.  In my opinion, they need to help out the middleweight, but in order to do so the show has to feature light heavyweights.  I look forward to see the new twists and turns of TUF 7, and to see the impact of the future TUF alumni on the UFC.  Ultimate Fighter has been Dana White’s best move and he admits is helped the UFC greatly.

Heavyweights:

None!

Light Heavyweights

  • Stephan Bonnar
  • Forrest Griffin
  • Keith Jardine*
  • Rashad Evans*
  • Matt Hamill

Middleweights

  • Chris Leben
  • Nate Quarry
  • Michael Bisping
  • Ed Herman
  • Kalib Starnes
  • Kendall Grove
  • Rory Singer
  • Travis Lutter
  • Charles McCarthy
  • Pete Sell
  • Patrick Cote

Welterweights

  • Diego Sanchez*
  • Josh Kosheck*
  • Mike Swick*
  • Josh Burkman
  • Luke Cummo
  • Marcus Davis
  • Matt Serra
  • Chris Lytle
  • Tommy Speer
  • George Sotiropolous
  • Matt Arroyo

Lightweights

  • Kenny Florian**
  • Joe Stevenson*
  • Jorge Gurgel*
  • Melvin Guillard*
  • Rich Clementi*
  • Din Thomas*
  • Gray Maynard
  • Matt Wiman
  • Joe Lauzon
  • Rob Emerson
  • Corey Hill
  • Nate Diaz
  • Manny Gamburyan
  • Cole Miller
  • Mac Danzig*

*Is now fighting in a different divison than he competed in under TUF

What to expect in MMA in ’08

  • I expect to see new title holders in every division but one and that is the middleweight.  All though Anderson could be challenged by Dan Henderson.  My picks for the title holders: Nogueira, Not sure about lightheavyweight, Anderson Silva, St. Pierre, and B.J. Penn.
  • I expect to see a few more fighters signed to UFC contracts.  Highlighting the list: Matt Lindland, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, and some other big name surprise
  • I expect TUF to be a disappointment with Rampage Jackson getting a lot of camera time saying his crazy off the wall things
  • I expect the middleweight division to get tougher
  • I expect a few UFC stars to retire (Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin)
  • I expect Sean Sherk to get another title shot, but B.J. Penn to beat him badly
  • I expect the light heavyweight division to get crazier with guys like Machdia, Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, and Shogun in the title mix.
  • I expect Chuck Liddell to avenge his loss to Keith Jardine by summer
  • I expect that Shogun is still only one fight away from a title shot, I think that my top ten in the lightheavyweight at the top ten at light heavyweight, perhaps not in that order.
  • I expect Dan Henderson to try Anderson Silva like he hasn’t been tried in a while
  • I expect Jon Fitch, Kenny Florian, Sean Sherk, Roger Huerta, Matt Lindland, and either Arlovski or Cro Cop to get a title shot. 
  • I expect the former PRIDE guys to turn it around in the octagon
  • I expect another solid fight from Wanderlai Silva, can you say rematch?
  • I expect the Fedor vs. Randy fight to happen
  • I expect other organizations to become more of a competition to the UFC
  • I expect Dana White to say many more expletives on national television
  • I expect TUF alums to suceed this year even more
  • I expect Diego Sanchez to drop to lightweight
  • I expect Brock Lesnar to be a middle of the road fighter
  • I expect Brandon Vera to drop to lightheavyweight
  • I expect Bisping to cry when he gets beat in middleweight
  • I expect Tito to loose in the Apprentice