After the dust settled on UFC 144 in Japan, Ben Henderson had taken the Lightweight title from Frankie Edgar in a five-round war. Henderson showed a well-rounded game and has reached the top of the division, but his work is far from over. This year promises to be a time of great action for the ultra-stacked UFC Lightweight division. Several fighters could make their own case for a title fight against Henderson. Let’s take a look at the most deserving:
Frankie Edgar: Some, including UFC President Dana White, thought his loss to Benson Henderson was a controversial decision that could have gone in Edgar’s favor. There is no doubt that Edgar has the heart of a lion. He fought until the end against a bigger, stronger opponent. He was faced with immediate rematches after he originally took the belt from B.J. Penn and again after his draw with Gray Maynard. While this is no set formula, it would be very interesting to see how a rematch with Henderson would unfold. Edgar still only holds two losses on his record.
Anthony Pettis: Pettis has shown some great skills after coming to the UFC as the last WEC Lightweight champion. His emphatic head-kick knockout of Joe Lauzon in Japan shows just how far his abilities have come. The hype that would precede this bout would simply be electric, thanks to the unforgettable “Showtime” kick that propelled Pettis to be the last man to defeat Henderson. He was in line for a title shot early last year, perhaps his time has come again. Pettis is extremely motivated, and deserves to test his mettle on the UFC’s biggest stage.
Jim Miller: Miller has been quite flawless in his recent bouts, save for a decision loss to Henderson. He supposedly had an illness that hindered him in that bout. Miller truly believes that he is the most dangerous Lightweight fighter on the planet today, evident by his claim following his first-round submission over Melvin Guillard. His ground game is very effective, but can he best Henderson with a submission? It remains to be seen if any fighter at 155 lbs. can achieve that. Miller may soon find himself in the spot for a rematch if he gets by Nate Diaz on May 5.
Nate Diaz: The aforementioned Diaz looked phenomenal in his decision victory over Donald Cerrone at UFC 141. Many thought Cerrone would beat Diaz rather handily. The Stockton native has been utilizing his quick hands and boxing skills to great effect as of late. Since his loss to Rory MacDonald at Welterweight, Diaz has had a chip on his shoulder. His return to the Lightweight fold has seen him gain both Submission and Fight of the Night bonuses in back-to-back victories. A win over Miller at UFC on Fox 3 would solidify his position as a true top contender for Henderson’s belt.
Edson Barboza: Fresh off the amazing Spinning Wheel Kick victory over Terry Etim, there’s no doubt about Edson Barboza (10-0) being a force to be reckoned with. In addition to his incredible striking skills and a well-rounded grappling skills, Barboza is one of the biggest Lightweights in the UFC, alongside Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone. The Brazilian is currently on a four-fighting winning streak inside the Octagon, with sights on proving his worth as a Top 10 Lightweight. “Junior” could be just two fights away from getting his shot at the title, and three fights if Frankie Edgar gets an immediate rematch against Ben Henderson.