The UFC is by far the leading mixed martial arts organization in the world. With over 200 fighters contracted to parent company Zuffa, LLC, no other organization can rival the UFC in terms of depth.
In order to take a deeper look at just how much depth currently resides on the UFC roster, FiveOuncesOfPain.com will be taking a division-by-division look at each weight class in the UFC from top-to-bottom.
The primary purpose of these organizational rankings is to present UFC rosters broken down by division. Instead of just listing fighters in alphabetical order, I decided to create a highly subjective listing using a very unscientific formula that took into account the following:
- Overall won/loss record
- Won/loss record in the UFC
- Quality of wins
- Head-to-head victories against opponents ranked similarly
- Total finishes (submission, KO, or TKO wins)
- Amount of headlining appearances followed by televised appearances
- Marketability (taking into account things such as TUF championships and “Fight Night” bonuses)
My goal was to try and create a list that might look something like what a matchmaker would use as a guide for putting together fights. After compiling the UFC’s lightweight division and ranking over 50 fighters under contract, I am at a loss for how UFC Vice President of Talent Relations Joe Silva keeps it all together.
Without further ado, our highly unofficial UFC Lightweight Organizational Rankings (records in parenthesis):
1. B.J. Penn (Overall: 13-5-1/UFC: 9-4-1) – Was dominated by St. Pierre at UFC 94 but that was at welterweight. Penn is still the UFC lightweight champ and possibly the greatest lightweight fighter ever.
2. Sean Sherk (Overall: 33-3-1/UFC: 7-3) – Former champion and former title challenger. The UFC lightweight division is deep but lacks marquee stars. Sherk is the closest thing they have to one next to Penn.
3. Kenny Florian (Overall: 11-3/UFC: 9-2) – Has developed a large fanbase dating back to his days on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Continues to gain exposure on ESPN’s MMA Live. As a fighter, he is 9-2 in the UFC and the former UFC lightweight title challenger has done nothing but improve since a title loss to Sherk at UFC 64.
4. Diego Sanchez (Overall: 19-2/UFC: 8-2) – Was once a rising force at welterweight and can be that fighter again at lightweight. Brings a certain star power to the 155 lbs. division that it currently lacks. If Penn retires, Sanchez could be the heir apparent.
5. Joe Stevenson (Overall: 29-9/UFC: 6-3) – Losses in two of his last three fights has hurt his stock but his turn on TUF 2 has allowed him to become one of the promotion’s most recognizable stars at 155. A former UFC lightweight title challenger, Stevenson has credibility with wins over Kurt Pellegrino, Yves Edwards, and Melvin Guillard. Still could use a win over a top tier lightweight.
6. Frankie Edgar (Overall: 9-1/UFC: 4-1) – A former standout amateur wrestler with underrated hands, Edgar made a strong debut winning “Fight of the Night” during an upset win over Tyson Griffin at UFC 67. Edgar also has wins over Jim Miller (non-UFC fight), Spencer Fisher, and former UFC lightweight title challenger Hermes Franca. If the UFC ever adopted a 145 lbs. division, Edgar would be a leading candidate to drop down.
7. Tyson Griffin (Overall: 12-2/UFC: 5-2) – Talented wrestler who has won “Fight of the Night” honors against Edgar, Clay Guida, and Thiago Tavares. Only 24, Griffin has the upside needed to become a marquee attraction and future star. Head-to-head loss to Edgar puts him one spot below.
8. Roger Huerta (Overall: 20-2-1/UFC: 6-1) – May or may not fight for the promotion again but still owes the promotion one more fight. As long as he’s on the roster, he will get rated. An exciting fighter with aggressive standup and extremely marketable. He could be a tremendous draw on PPV and his impending departure will hurt the company. If UFC contract expires and attempt at acting career does not pan out, he could garner major money from Strikeforce or the Bellator Fighting Championships.
9. Clay Guida (Overall: 25-9/UFC: 5-3) – His record is good, but not great. He has great wrestling, outstanding cardio, and a tough chin. However, he is not a polished striker and absorbs too much punishment. Highly recognizable and a tremendous asset, but will he ever be an elite fighter?
10. Gray Maynard (Overall: 6-0/UFC: 4-0) – Has such a size advantage against competition that it’s almost not far. One of the best pure wrestlers in all of MMA, Maynard has improved his overall game at Xtreme Couture. One of the brightest prospects the UFC has under contract and has championship potential.
11. Nate Diaz (Overall: 10-3/5-1) – Ground-based fighter who has exciting style of jiu-jitsu. Likes to stay active and willing to fight anyone. The Diaz Brothers “bad boy” image works well for marketing purposes and is one of the lightweight division’s most recognizable fighters.
12. Jim Miller (Overall: 13-1/UFC: 2-0) – One of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. Needs more TV time in order to gain more notoriety. Future title challenger whose ability to draw is underutilized with Philadelphia and New York markets yet to be opened up.
13. Josh Neer (Overall: 25-7-1/UFC: 4-4) – Immensely talented but has underachieved for various reasons. Upset wins over Melvin Guillard, Joe Stevenson, and Mac Danzig have meaning. Has also received a lot of TV exposure courtesy of multiple UFN appearances. Just needs to be more consistent.
14. Hermes Franca (Overall: 19-7/UFC: 6-4) – Former WEC featherweight champion and former UFC lightweight title challenger. World class black belt with heavy hands. Has been around so long that he’s a household name with hardcore fans. Injuries and legal issues have really hurt his stock.
15. Joe Lauzon (Overall: 18-4/UFC: 5-1) – Explosive fighter who has gained great popularity thanks to turn on TUF 5 as well as multiple televised fights on Spike TV. Really made a name for himself with upset (at the time) win against Jens Pulver at UFC 63.
16. Spencer Fisher (Overall: 22-4/UFC: 7-3) – Fisher may never be an elite lightweight but his aggressive style and ability to turn in great fighters during televised bouts makes him a huge asset. His wrestling is also underrated. His 3-1 record in his last four fights puts him in a position to move up with a win over a big name opponent.
17. Kurt Pellegrino (Overall: 13-4/UFC: 5-3) – Talented black belt who is not afraid to trade on the feet. Has strong wins outside of the UFC against Danzig and Sergey Golyaev. May never be an elite fighter but one of the most credible combatants in the UFC’s lightweight division.
18. Thiago Tavares (Overall: 14-3/UFC: 4-3) – A talented prospect but stock was hurt by recent two-fight losing streak. Win at UFC 94 over Manny Gamburyan helped him regain momentum. Has the upside to be ranked much higher than this but must consistently win fights.
19. Gleison Tibau (Overall: 16-6/UFC: 4-3) – Doesn’t have the best record in the UFC but he doesn’t get any easy fights. Trained by American Top Team and a giant for 155 lbs., Tibau has the ability to rise above this ranking and move into the top ten. He just needs a streak of wins.
20. Efrain Escudero (Overall: 11-0/UFC: 1-0) – The most recent of winner of TUF always comes into the UFC with a great deal of momentum. Escudero is not only undefeated but has a strong wrestling base as his foundation. In his early 20s and of Mexican-American heritage, Escudero has star potential and could develop into a major draw.
21. Mac Danzig (Overall: 18-6-1/UFC: 2-2) – The TUF 6 welterweight winner has seen his stock fall, as he is 0-2 in his last two fights and 2-4 in his last six. The 29-year old Danzig has been long enough that he may have eclipsed prospect status and could be headed to journeyman land. His next fight is a must-win situation, lest anyone thought otherwise.
22. Matt Wiman (Overall: 10-4/UFC: 4-2) – Was on a four fight win streak until running into Miller at “UFC Fight for the Troops.” Wiman has gotten good exposure courtesy of TUF 5 and several UFN appearances. A good, but not great fighter.
23. Rich Clementi (Overall: 32-14-1/UFC: 5-5) – Prior to losing his second straight this past Saturday at UFN 17, Clementi had won four straight UFC fights against Melvin Guillard, Anthony Johnson, Sam Stout and Terry Etim. The 31-year old Clementi is a solid veteran for depth purposes.
24. Jeremy Stephens (Overall: 14-4/UFC: 3-3) – Good wrestler from the Midwest who has above average athletic skills. Has put on entertaining fights in televised spots and is coming off a solid effort vs. Lauzon in a UFN headlining fight. Only 22, there is still room for growth.
25. Mark Bocek (Overall: 6-2/UFC: 2-2) – Has improved a great deal since his UFC debut in 2007. Hasn’t really had any easy fights and continues to show that he’s more than just a jiu-jitsu black belt. Not going to challenge for a title anytime soon, but could surprise some people if he keeps improving.
26. Phillipe Nover (Overall: 5-1-1/UFC: 0-1) – Was extremely impressive during TUF 8 until the finals. The question has to be asked: is he the lightweight Anderson Silva or overrated? Showed vs. Escudero at TUF 8 that he must develop wrestling skills in order to have any chance to live up to the hype. Regardless, his flashy striking skills and Filipino heritage make him a tremendous asset to the UFC. Age is also on his side and he comes off very likable to fans.
27. Sam Stout (Overall: 13-5-1/UFC: 2-4) – Stout’s greatest value to the UFC is that his kickboxing skills translate well to TV and that he’s also very familiar to Canadian fans. Some may think this ranking might be a little high but we’re entering a different tier of UFC fighters at this stage.
28. Aaron Riley (Overall: 27-10-1/UFC: 1-2) – Now on his third tour of duty with the UFC, Riley looked impressive at UFC 91 in beating Jorge Gurgel. Despite having won his last three fights, Riley has little job security and must keep winning.
29. Junie Browning (Overall: 3-0/UFC: 1-0) – Will he be the next Chris Leben or the next Jesse Taylor? Didn’t seem like he really wanted to be a fighter at times during TUF but looked really strong vs. Dave Kaplan during TUF 8 finale. If he continues to improve under Shawn Tompkins then he will easily be another Leben and emerge as one of the lightweight division’s biggest stars.
30. Cole Miller (Overall: 14-3/UFC: 3-1) – Great height for the lightweight division and tremendous jiu-jitsu skills. Is working hard to improve with American Top Team and takes fighting seriously. Still, there are questions whether he’s long for the UFC. That question could get answered at UFN 18 vs. Browning.
31. Matt Veach (Overall: 11-0/UFC: 1-0) – Took a fight on short notice; turned into a “Fight of the Night” candidate at UFN 17 vs. Matt Grice; upset Grice; trains under Matt Hughes; and is undefeated. What’s not to like?
32. Melvin Guillard (Overall: 21-7-2/UFC: 4-3) – Legal issues and inconsistency have overshadowed his potential. As great as his upside is, potential only means you haven’t done it yet.
33. David Baron (Overall: 16-3/UFC: 0-1) – The French fighter has some big wins on the International level against Dan Hardy and Hayato Sakurai but is 0-1 in the UFC and will miss his next scheduled fight due to injury. In the UFC, if you’re out of sight then you’re out of mind.
34. Matt Grice (Overall: 9-2/UFC: 1-2) – Spent a lot of time away from fighting in order to graduate from the Police Academy after his stock was on the rise following impressive showing vs. Jason Black at UFC 77. Returned at UFN 17 with an upset loss to Matt Veach but his strong wrestling base makes him a threat.
35. Rob Emerson (Overall: 8-7/UFC: 2-1-1) – Doesn’t have the best record in the world but has been competitive in the UFC. Stock was high coming off 12 second KO against Manny Gamburyan at UFC 87 but came back down after second round submission loss to Pellegrino at UFN 17.
36. Terry Etim (Overall: 11-2/UFC: 2-2) – There’s a huge gap between International competition outside of Japan and competition in the UFC. Questions remain whether he will he able to hang long-term in the UFC.
37. Dennis Siver (Overall: 13-6/UFC: 2-3) – German wrestling standout won his UFC return against Nate Mohr at UFC 93 in January. Needs to develop striking skills in order to have a chance to stick this time. Will likely have a big role when the UFC goes to Germany in June.
38. Justin Buchholz (Overall: 8-2/UFC: 1-1) – Born in California but made a name for himself competing in Hawaii. Really impressed during EliteXC’s “Uprising” undercard against Ikaika Choy-Fu but UFC debut against Wiman at UFN 12 left a lot to be desired. Rebounded with win over Corey Hill at UFC 86. Is a fighter to watch in ’09.
39. Shannon Gugerty (Overall: 11-3/UFC: 1-1) – Has a win over Dale Hartt in the UFC but lost his second fight against Fisher at UFC 90. Has not fought since.
40. Per Eklund (Overall: 14-3-1/UFC: 1-1) – Has competed for BodogFIGHT with a strong win over Rafael Dias. Also has some other solid International wins but has yet to gain traction in the Octagon.
41. Shane Nelson (Overall: 11-3/UFC: 1-0) – Trains under B.J. Penn and has benefitted from TUF 8 exposure. Will need to keep winning in order to stick with the UFC.
42. Dale Hartt (Overall: 6-1/UFC: 1-1) – Was one of the top fighters in the New England area but has yet to hit his stride in the UFC. Lost debut at UFN 14 to Shannon Gugerty and fight vs. Hill at “UFC Fight for the Troops” was stopped short because of injury to Hill.
43. George Sotiropoulos (Overall: 9-2/UFC: 2-0) – Better than this ranking but out of sight out of mind in the UFC. Is 2-0 in the Octagon but has fought just twice since December of ’07. If the UFC promotes shows in Australia, his value will increase fivefold.
44. Evan Dunham (Overall:7-0/UFC: 0-0) – Will make debut on short notice at UFC 95. Will move up significantly if he can turn in an impressive win over Eklund.
45. Rafael dos Anjos (Overall: 11-3/UFC: 0-1) – Dos Anjos looked decent until getting caught by Stephens with an uppercut delivered from a mile away at UFC 91. His ground game is aces but will need to answer questions about standup.
46. David Bielkheden (Overall: 13-6/UFC: 1-1) – Former welterweight is an intriguing fighter to watch in ’09. Must stay healthy though in order to have a shot.
47. Manny Gamburyan (Overall: 8-4/UFC: 2-3) – Not an overly exciting fighter and is 0-2 in last two UFC fights. Is woefully short for lightweight and would really stand to gain by moving to 145.
48. Kyle Bradley (Overall: 13-6/UFC: 0-2) – Had a lot of momentum coming into the UFC as he was also being recruited by EliteXC while on the heels of a seven fight win streak. But is winless in the Octagon after two fights and bout vs. Nover at UFN 18 is likely a must-win for him.
49. Rolando Delgado (Overall: 6-3-1/UFC: 1-0) – Winning against John Polakowski isn’t going to earn a lot of points. Needs to prove himself against tougher competition inside the UFC.
50. Corey Hill (Overall: 2-2/UFC: 1-2) – Is a genetic freak being a 6’4” lightweight and has solid wrestling credentials but time is running out for the 30-year old. A 16-24 month layoff due to a serious injury was the last thing his career needed.
51. George Roop (Overall: 8-4/UFC: 0-1) – Very tough fighter but toughness doesn’t keep you in the UFC. As you can see, the UFC has a lot of lightweights under contract right now. Needs to win his next fight to stick.
52. Dave Kaplan (Overall: 2-2/UFC: 0-1) – “Diamond” Dave had a tremendous entrance at live finale for TUF 8 finale and put on a solid showing against Browning. But a loss to Roop in his next fight means he’s out of the UFC.
53. Nate Mohr (Overall: 8-6/UFC: 1-3) – Was on the sidelines for two years with a knee injury. Lost in his return against Siver at UFC 93. Earns points for having the heart to come back but records in and out of the UFC are less than stellar.