Sports Nickel: MMA Lightweight Rankings

Some changes this time around. Yes, I’ll allow Frankie Edgar to hold the top spot just this once. We all know he won’t be there the next time these rankings come out. The colored numbers represent the movement of fighters, if they indeed had any. Red means dropped and green…well, I’m sure I don’t have to explain that, do I? Brace yourself for the SportsNickel.com Top Ten MMA Lightweights. Would a top five have made more sense because of the nickel? Absolutely. But now we can say we’re giving you 100% more content for free! Damn, we’re nice.

Disagree with my rankings? Let me know. Maybe you’ll be able to persuade me (not likely.)

1. Frankie Edgar (12-1) [+1]
- W – B.J. Penn [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Matt Veach [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
- W – Sean Sherk [Decision, Unanimous]
**Next Fight – B.J. Penn

What an upset. He had a great gameplan and he executed it in the eyes of the judges. Not in my eyes, as I thought he lost. But whatever. What’s done is done and he’s on top of the world. Congrats. He’ll have to train harder than ever before if he wants to keep that belt from B.J. Penn’s grasp. I would advise him to use the same gameplan, but I don’t think that’s going to help. I guess we’ll see this summer.

2. B.J. Penn (15-6-1) [-1]
- L – Frankie Edgar [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Diego Sanchez [TKO, Doctor Stoppage]
- W – Kenny Florian [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
**Next Fight – Frankie Edgar

Alright, fine, I’ll drop B.J. to number two. Let me hear it haters. I know I had him at #1 last time even though he was beaten, technically, by Frankie Edgar. The decision was so close in everyone’s eyes that they are having an immediate rematch this August. I, for one, seriously think Penn won that fight. I’m sure Penn will show everyone why he should still be the number one lightweight in the world when he stops Frankie Edgar in the rematch. Penn just needs motivation to fight, and now he has it. No way it goes to a decision next time around. (Disclaimer: By no means am I a B.J. Penn fan. Just keeping it real.)

3. Eddie Alvarez (20-2)
- W – Josh Neer [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
- W – Katsunori Kikuno [Submission, Arm Triangle Choke]
- W – Toby Imada [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
**Next Fight – Pat Curran

Eddie Alvarez is that one fighter you look at and wonder why he’s not in the UFC. I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough, but I think he likes fighting as much as possible and probably doesn’t want to rush anything. I think he’s ready, but what do I know? Everything, that’s what. Eddie’s boxing is pretty good and his wrestling/submission game is one of the top in the division. Those skills coupled with a good chin and his “Mexican heart” will get him far in MMA. Hopefully he’ll make it to the UFC soon as everyone should be watching this guy perform. I fully expect him to defend his Bellator title against Curran.

4. Kenny Florian (14-4)
- W – Takanori Gomi [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
- W – Clay Guida [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
- L – B.J. Penn [Submission, Rear Naked Choke]
**Next Fight – Gray Maynard

Kenny has looked like a new man since losing to B.J. Penn. His striking has improved and his focus seems to be unflappable. I thought he would have some trouble with Clay Guida’s wrestling and hyper motor, but he walked through that fight. Then Gomi was brought in and destroyed by Florian. His stick-and-move is impressive and he transfers from his Muay Thai to his boxing seamlessly. I can see another title shot in his future.

5. Gilbert Melendez (18-2)
- W – Shinya Aoki [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Josh Thomson [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Mitsuhiro Ishida [TKO, Punches]
**Next Fight – Unknown

Melendez walked all over the one-time #2 lightweight in the world, Shinya Aoki. It really wasn’t a fight to the casual spectator, but make no mistake about it, Aoki was one Melendez mistake away from winning. But Gilbert had a great gameplan and he dominted Aoki. His wrestling is great and his striking is ever improving. He wanted some love and now he has it. Number five Gilbert.

6. Ben Henderson (12-1-0)
- W – Donald Cerrone [Submission, Guillotine Choke]
- W – Jamie Varner [Submission, Guillotine Choke]
- W – Donald Cerrone [Decision, Unanimous]
**Next Fight – Unknown

Ben’s quick win over Donald Cerrone vaulted him all the way to number six. I wanted to place him above Melendez but couldn’t. Melendez just beat arguably the number two guy in the world (even if I didn’t think he was that good) so I have to give the edge to Gilbert. I would love for them to fight though. Would be quite interesting.

7. Shinya Aoki (24-5, 1 NC)
- W – Tatsuya Kawajiri [Submission, Achilles Lock]
- L – Gilbert Melendez [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Mizuto Hirota [Technical Submission, Hammerlock]
**Next Fight – Unknown

Considered one of the top two lighweights in the world going into the fight with Gilbert Melendez, he came out in the bottom Top-10 in my eyes. Aoki is a grappler, plain and simple. Possibly the best in the division, but still. He has serviceable striking, but that’s about it. I’m always skeptical about putting purely overseas fighters amongst the top in any division and Aoki just proved my point. He came over here and got crushed. He rebounded nicely against Kawajiri, but he’s not going to leap over Ben Henderson with that win.

7. Gray Maynard (9-0, 1 NC) [+1]
- W – Nate Diaz [Decision, Split]
- W – Roger Huerta [Decision, Split]
- W – Jim Miller [Decision, Unanimous]
**Next Fight – Kenny Florian

Gray is boring. There I said it. He’s a great wrestler. Probably the best in the division. But he lacks the ability to finish. Six straight decision victories. I guess a win is a win, but he really needs to learn to put guys away. I know, he beat up Jim Miller with his stand up and he almost had Huerta with that kimura. Close but no cigar. And I really don’t know if he really won that Huerta fight. I had it 29-28 Roger, but whatever. He does press, so that’s good, and his striking is improving. Maybe he’ll get a finish soon. Maybe.

9. Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-6-2)  [-1]
- L – Shinya Aoki [Submission, Achilles Lock]
- W – Kazunori Yokota [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Melchor Manibusan [TKO, Punches]
**Next Fight – Unknown

Kawajiri is another overseas fighter I had reservations about putting on this list. He is a really good fighter, no doubt, and that win over Calvancante is impressive. But he has struggled with size and strength. He lost to both Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez. Still, Kawajiri has won 7 or his last 8 and deserves to be on the list. He’s finished 18 of his 26 fights and 12 of those by knockout, so he’s still a very dangerous opponent at this weight. He got caught by Aoki, so he has to fall a spot.

10. Roger Huerta (21-4-1, 1 NC)
- L – Pat Curran [Decision, Unanimous]
- W – Chad Hinton [Submission, Kneebar]
- L – Gray Maynard [Decision, Split]
**Next Fight – Unknown

Roger, Roger, Roger…you looked like a new man against Chad Hinton. Well, not new, but renewed. Then Curran upsets you and takes away the superfight with Eddie Alvarez everyone wanted to see. I may never forgive you. I think the Curran fight was close, and could’ve been called either way. I would’ve leaned toward Roger because of aggression and control, but 29-28 you can’t really argue with. Hopefully he bounces back soon. He’s always entertaining to watch.

Related posts:

  1. MMA Lightweight Rankings
  2. MMA Welterweight Rankings, v.2
  3. MMA Heavyweight Rankings, v.2


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