In the wake of what some people consider to be Frankie Edgar’s second-straight upset of BJ Penn, the Lightweight division in UFC holds quite a bit of potential as we move forward into an uncharted frontier.  The coming months provide opportunities to see who might be the next fighter to hold the belt after Edgar’s reign.

Next up for Edgar is undefeated number one contender Gray Maynard, who defeated Kenny Florian at UFC 118 to earn the next shot at the Lightweight championship.  Edgar might not have to deal with the rest of the division, as Maynard holds notable wins over not only KenFlo, but also Nate Diaz, Jim Miller, Roger Huerta and Frankie Edgar himself.

Coming up on September 15th at the next UFC Fight Night, the Lightweight division landscape will become a lot clearer, with three fights featuring some of the top names in the division.

Jim Miller returns to the octagon after six months with his record of 17 wins and 2 losses to face fellow BJJ black belt  Gleison Tibau.  Miller is on a 4 fight win streak, but two of those victories were by decision – his most recent victory a highly criticized decision albeit unanimous amongst the official judges.

Potentially closer to the main event of the Fight Night is the fight between The Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero and the undefeated Charles Oliveira.  Two fights ago, Efrain Escudero suffered the first loss of his career as Evan Dunham trapped him into an inescapable armbar which many predicted had permanently damaged Efrain’s arm.  Escudero rebounded from that loss and defeated Dan Lauzon by decision back in late May of this year.  On August 1st, not six weeks prior to this upcoming Fight Night, Charles Oliveira made his successful UFC debut, forcing a submission out of Darren Elkins with an armbar in the first 45 seconds of the fight.

Escudero isn’t the only Lightweight division winner of The Ultimate Fighter on the card for the Fight Night, as Ross Pearson (winner of the Team USA vs Team UK season of TUF) is scheduled to face tough UFC veteran Cole Miller.  Pearson is on a three-fight win streak since appearing in the Finale of The Ultimate Fighter, but two of those fights went to decision and one was by doctor stoppage.  If he’s going to prove he’s a top fighter in the division, he’ll have to win this fight handily.  That won’t be easy, as Cole Miller of American Top Team brings his BJJ brown belt and a couple of Submission Of The Night victories in UFC to the cage along with his record of 16 wins and 4 losses.  Cole’s last two victories have come impressively by first round submission, so Ross Pearson won’t be able to count on a decision to end this match.  Cole Miller has only gone to decision ONCE in 7 fights in UFC, a fight which he won.

Cole Miller

Coming up at UFC 119 in two weeks, Evan Dunham looks to place himself in a prominent position to be considered for a title shot in early 2011, but in order to improve to a record of 12 wins and 0 losses, the black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner will have to get past former Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk.  The last time Sherk stepped into the octagon, he lost to Frankie Edgar nearly a year and a half ago.  The only other loss Sherk has suffered in the past three years aside from Edgar was in the fight where B.J. Penn won the Lightweight title from Sherk.

Evan Dunham

Also on UFC 119, Lightweights Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens square off in a fight which could have implications on the future of the division.  Guillard has won four of his five fights since returning to UFC, two by decision and two by first round knockout.  Stephens has put together two straight victories after losing two, but those victories (and his previous victory prior to that) earned UFC superlatives (two Knockout Of The Night honors and a Fight Of The Night award).

After defeating TUF Finalist Andre Winner recently at UFC 118, Nik Lentz improved to 19 wins and only 3 losses, and he will face highly touted veteran Tyson Griffin near Thanksgiving at UFC 123 to test his mettle.  The past four fights for Lentz have all gone to decision, failing to finish in any of his UFC octagon appearances.  Also competing at UFC 123 is Darren Elkins (12-2), as he faces the debuting Edson Barboza, undefeated with 6 wins.

With two Submission Of The Night victories in the past 15 months, Terry Etim is certainly climbing the division despite a loss back in April, dropping him to 14 and 3.

Although neither fighter has a winning record in their previous five fights, both Sam Stout and Paul Taylor (who fight mid October at UFC 121) bring exciting fights to the Lightweight division.  Stout has acquired Fight Of The Night honors in EACH of his last three consecutive fights, and Taylor has gained the superlative in three of his last six contests.

Obviously Kenny Florian will factor into the future of the division, though his next opponent has not yet been determined by UFC match makers.  Former top competitor Diego Sanchez has decided to move up to Welterweight since having lost to B.J. Penn for the Lightweight Championship.  While there is no definitive word about whom his next fight might be against or what division he will fight in, prior to his attempt to regain the Lightweight belt from Frankie Edgar, Penn had mentioned a desire to fight Georges St Pierre again as well as others outside the Lightweight division.

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