Frank Edgar better be ready to scramble on Feb. 26 against Ben Henderson. | Photo: Dave Mandel
1. Frankie Edgar (14-1-1)
After surviving another brutal first round against Gray Maynard on Oct. 8, Edgar closed out the pair’s trilogy with another spectacular comeback, knocking out his “Bully” in the fourth round. Next up for the New Jerseyan is a Feb. 26 UFC title defense in Japan against former World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Ben Henderson.
2. Gilbert Melendez (19-2)
While recent comments from UFC boss Dana White indicate that “El Nino” will be storming the Octagon in short order, Melendez still has one more hurdle to jump. The Strikeforce lightweight champion is still expected to defend his belt against American Top Team slugger Jorge Masvidal on Dec. 17.
3. Gray Maynard (10-1-1, 1 NC)
Maynard doled out more damage to Frankie Edgar in their third encounter, but just as in their second meeting, he could not finish off the scrappy champ. The result: Maynard’s first career loss, a brutal fourth-round knockout, and a bump back down the ladder in the crowded UFC 155-pound division.
4. Ben Henderson (15-2)
Henderson has looked nothing short of exceptional since transferring to the UFC, earning dominant unanimous decisions over Clay Guida, Jim Miller and Mark Bocek. The 27-year-old has expressed disappointment with his inability to finish in recent outings, something he’ll have the chance to rectify when he faces divisional ace Frankie Edgar for the UFC title in Japan on Feb. 26.
5. Shinya Aoki (29-5, 1 NC)
Since enduring a five-round drubbing from Melendez in April 2010, Aoki has reeled off six straight victories, including submissions of Tatsuya Kawajiri and Lyle Beerbohm. Most recently, the “Tobikan Judan” recorded his third straight win via neck crank on Sept. 24 by tapping ex-WEC champ Rob McCullough.
6. Eddie Alvarez (22-2)
The busy schedule which Alvarez once kept has slowed drastically since he won Bellator’s lightweight title in 2009. Now recovered from an injury which postponed his October title defense, Alvarez will put his belt on the line against fourth-season tournament winner Michael Chandler on Nov. 19.
7. Jim Miller (20-3)
Miller was on the doorstep of a UFC lightweight title shot but stumbled again. The New Jersey native simply could not keep up with the potent ground attack of Benson Henderson and lost a unanimous decision that will set him back in the lightweight title picture.
8. Clay Guida (29-12)
Once more on the cusp of contention, Guida had his title dreams busted -- along with his four-fight winning streak -- by Ben Henderson in a thrilling Nov. 12 three-rounder. The lightweight stalwart finishes 2011 with a 2-1 mark, having topped Anthony Pettis and Takanori Gomi.
9. Anthony Pettis (13-2)
World Extreme Cagefighting’s final lightweight champion got his first UFC win on Oct. 8, using takedowns to narrowly outpoint Jeremy Stephens, much in the same way Clay Guida earned a decision in Pettis’ June debut. The 24-year-old Roufusport fighter has now won six of eight bouts under Zuffa employ.
10. Donald Cerrone (16-3)
The former WEC lightweight title contender has looked like a man reborn since entering the Octagon in February, racking up wins and keeping plenty busy. After tearing through four opponents in eight months, Cerrone has been granted a co-headlining slot against Nate Diaz at December’s major UFC 141 card.
Other contenders: Melvin Guillard, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, Dennis Siver, Gleison Tibau.
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