Frankie Edgar | Sherdog.com
1. Frankie Edgar (13-1-1)
In round one of his lightweight title defense against Gray Maynard at UFC 125, Edgar looked dead to rights, as he took an epic, brutal pummeling from “The Bully.” Somehow, Edgar fought back valiantly over the last 20 minutes, shutting down Maynard’s wrestling and becoming the more effective boxer. After five rounds, Edgar forced a split draw in a sensational fight from a rivalry that will see another chapter in 2011.
2. Gilbert Melendez (18-2)
A potential rematch with Shinya Aoki fell apart, leaving Melendez with no clear fight until early 2011. In the meantime, Melendez has taken to calling out Paul Daley, announcing his interest in a 165-pound catchweight bout against the big-hitting Brit.
3. Gray Maynard (10-0-1, 1 NC)
Through five minutes at UFC 125, it seemed like a lock that Maynard would leave the MGM Grand Garden Arena Las Vegas with the UFC lightweight crown, as he absolutely crushed Frankie Edgar in the first round. However, the champion did not go away and battled back to force a draw, retaining his title in an early contender for “Fight of the Year.”
4. B.J. Penn (16-7-1)
Penn and Matt Hughes were rivals for nearly six years. However, in the rubber match between the former UFC champs, it took “The Prodigy” just 21 seconds to brutally put down Hughes for the count. Next for Penn will be another fight at 170 pounds -- and a major one, at that -- as he meets Jon Fitch in the UFC 127 headliner on Feb. 27 in Sydney, Australia.
5. Shinya Aoki (26-5, 1 NC)
It was not really an MMA bout -- that would be too sensible for Japan’s New Year’s Eve fight lineup -- but Aoki was embarrassed by cosplaying kickboxer Yuichiro Nagashima on Dec. 31. After surviving the kickboxing round of their “mixed rules” bout, Aoki was clobbered with a giant knee just four seconds into the MMA round by “Jienotsu,” making for a bitter end to 2010.
6. Eddie Alvarez (21-2)
In his Oct. 21 bout with Roger Huerta, Alvarez was positively destructive, using his uppercut and newly found low kicks to batter the UFC veteran and force the doctor to halt the fight after 10 minutes. Alvarez took the post-fight opportunity to call out Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, and the Bellator Fighting Championships promotion itself further exacerbated the call for the crossover mega-fight.
7. Kenny Florian (14-5)
Florian was set for a major lightweight clash with prospect Evan Dunham at UFC “Fight for the Troops 2” on Jan. 22 in Texas. However, a knee injury forced “KenFlo” out of the bout. He was soon replaced by Melvin Guillard.
8. Tatsuya Kawajiri (27-6-2)
On New Year’s Eve, Kawajiri dulled the bitter sting of his July submission loss to Shinya Aoki by soundly handling former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson. Kawajiri dominated top position against “The Punk” en route to an impressive unanimous decision win, perhaps paving the way for stateside competition for the “Crusher” in 2011.
9. Sean Sherk (36-4-1)
After 16 months on the shelf due to a plethora of injuries, Sherk returned to action at UFC 119 against unbeaten up-and-comer Evan Dunham. After a strong first round, Sherk flagged in the bout, losing in the eyes of most onlookers. However, two of three people that matter -- the judges -- sided with Sherk, who secured a crucial but highly unpopular win.
10. Evan Dunham (11-1)
Following a split decision loss to Sean Sherk that most observers feel he won, Dunham was rewarded by UFC brass with a high-profile duel against former lightweight title challenger Kenny Florian at “Fight for the Troops 2” on Jan. 22. However, a knee injury to Florian means Dunham will instead take on surging lightweight Melvin Guillard instead.
Other contenders: Clay Guida, Benson Henderson, Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis, George Sotiropoulos.
Continue Reading » Page Seven: Featherweight Rankings