MMA Power Rankings: The Light weightsPosted on February 21, 2011, 04:18 PM by Evan Holober
In 2009, BJ Penn was the end-all be-all of the LW division. At the beginning of 2011 he's back fighting at WW. The LW divisions calling cards (Speed, wrestling and cardio) have become synonymous with the exciting fights that have been happening in the division lately. This is the list of the most talented men in that division:
1. Frankie Edgar: Let's take a quick poll. Who predicted Frankie out striking BJ, and out wrestling Gray Maynard when they were to fight? If your hand is up, you're lying. Frankie's skills have improved so greatly in the past two years in that you could call him the best striker or best grappler in the LW division, and you wouldn't exactly be wrong. His speed outclassed Penn. His wrestling subdued the much larger Maynard. I thought he lost the Maynard fight by one point in their last meaning, but I will not be betting against Frankie in the rematch.
2. Gray Maynard: A dominating wrestler with big power in his hands. Gray Maynard is undefeated in MMA. He lost on TUF to Nate Diaz by guillotine choke, but those fights are exhibitions for a reason (they are extreme circumstances, where you live in a house with your future opponents). In the Edgar fight he had Frankie wobbling around the cage for the entire first round. However, this caused Gray to run on fumes for rounds 2 and 3 which gave Frankie precious points on the score cards. In their second rematch he will need to be wary of trying to finish "The answer" if he gets him in trouble.
3. Eddie Alvarez: Did you know that Eddie Alvarez was an All-state wrestler in high school? If one just watches his fighting career they would never know. An extremely exciting fighter (Out of 23 fights only 2 have gone to decision), Eddie mixes wonderful boxing, good takedown defense, and has an underrated submission game (5 out of his last 6 wins come by sub). The only real problem Eddie has right now is that he's signed with an organization that doesn't have an abundance of top tier challengers. For now he will just have to beat whoever Bjorn Rebney puts in front of him. Hopefully, if he wants to be considered the best at LW, he will leave Bellator at some point for either Strikeforce or The UFC. I would prefer The UFC.
4. Gilbert Melendez: Gilbert Melendez has been destined for greatness ever since he came onto the scene. He blasted through 7 of his first 8 opponents by TKO, and everyone knew they were watching a future champ. Fast forward to today, Gilbert is ranked either #1, 2, or 3 on virtually every website on the web. He avenged both of his career defeats (to Josh Thompson and Mitsuhiro Ishida respectively), and blitzed one of the best grapplers in the world in Shinya Aoki in his last fight. Along his career he has improved his striking immensely, and also (more importantly) became more patient. Although Gilbert is at #4 on this list I would not count him out of a fight with any of the top 3.
5. George Sotiropoulos: George is one bad dude. He has wins over the well respected Kurt Pellegrino, Joe Stevenson, and has subbed Joe Lauzon and Jason Dent. What get him so high on this list is his all around game. With his wrestling and Striking already being serviceable (and continuing to improve), he has one of the best guard games in the world (regardless of weight class). He's kind of like a more well rounded version of Shinya Aoki (except he doesn't start running away if he gets punched). Him and Aoki have faced each other before where an unfortunate groin strike left Aoki unable to continue.
6. Anthony Pettis:"Showtime". If you've ever seen him fight, you know the name fits to a T. He combines excellent speed with good timing, and a great since of range. He is definitely classified as a striker, but he is no Tank Abbott on the ground. He has three wins by triangle choke, and more than held his own on the ground with the very game Ben Henderson in their last fight. While not having the wins to back up a serious mention in the top 5 yet, Pettis will next be on stage against Clay Guida at TUF 13 finale.
7. Melvin Guillard: If talent and potential were the only things that mattered in fighting Melvin would be the best mixed martial artist in the world. Blessed with supernatural reflexes, power in every appendage, wrestling that can either keep you from taking him down or toss you on your head, and speed in all aspects of the game, Melvin is the perfect specimen. However, a weak mindset and stupid choices have derailed this train before. In January he got what was in my opinion the best win of his career. We will see how Melvin handles success this time around.
8. Shinya Aoki: Possibly the best submission grappler competing in the LW division today. Aoki's skill-set is not exactly well rounded. Hell, it's not even rounded. He is has one thing that he is extremely good at, and that is bringing you to the ground and submitting you. He holds notable victories over Eddie Alvarez, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gesias Cavalcante, Joachim Hansen and Marcus Aurelio among others. In his last fight, he was in a "freak show" match up with Nagashima under a hybrid K1/MMA set of rules. After running around like a chicken with his head cut off in the kickboxing round, karma intervened and he was subsequently knocked into unconsciousness 4 seconds into the MMA frame. His future is unclear for the moment.
9. Evan Dunham: Oh how the world can change in 6 months. In August of last year Dunham was undefeated, and working his way to a title shot. The legendary "Muscle Shark" was in his path, and was a great challenge. Fast forward to now, and Dunham has lost two straight (by controversial split decision, and tko in the first). Evan still holds a great skill set for MMA. He uses his wrestling extremely well, has great submissions, and decent striking. His problem has stemmed from an inability to "get going fast" in his last two fights. He was grounded by Sherk early in their fight, and Melvin jumped all over him in January. Time will tell if Evan can learn from his recent mistakes.
10. Benson Henderson:I had a hard time putting this particular spot together, so I ended up using the fighter I believed had most upside (4 of the names in the honorable mention section were thought of with Ben's for this spot). Until I see it, I believe Henderson is unsubmittable (yes I know, not a word). He has been in deep chokes and armbars against, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis, and seemed no worse for wear after escaping them. With his submission defense he brings good size, great wrestling/scrambling, good striking, and insane cardio to the table. Next up is opponent Mark Bocek at UFC 129, and it's sure to be a grappling fan's wet dream.
This will also be the beginning of posting my personal top 15 to show the contrast of the promise of talent and potential stacking up, as opposed to results related ranking (IMO how rankings should be made):
2. Gray Maynard
4. Shinya Aoki
8. Sean Sherk
9. Evan Dunham
11. Anthony Pettis
12. Tatsuya Kawajiri
13. Clay Guida
14. Jim Miller
15. Josh Thomson