TUF 14 and TUF Brazil have nearly doubled this weight class. That’s good — the UFC can’t drag many more lightweight contenders down a weight class to fight for this belt against Jose “How Does He Make This Weight Cut?” Aldo.
And yet, they’re doing so anyway, bringing Anthony Pettis down to fight Aldo. Maybe if Aldo beats Pettis, then Aldo can go to lightweight while Pettis fights Frankie Edgar? Oh – but maybe Aldo doesn’t want to fight Pettis? What then?
Updated March 13
Jose Aldo (4-0 UFC, 12-0 Zuffa, 22-1 overall): One of the last breakout stars of WEC. Possibly the most dominant UFC fighter of the last three years. At least Edgar gave him a fight (Feb. 2). Next: Anthony Pettis, Aug. 3. Maybe.
Anthony Pettis (3-1 UFC, 8-2 Zuffa, 16-2 overall): The last WEC lightweight champion (beating Henderson in a classic) stumbled in his UFC debut against Guida, then capped a three-fight win streak by shutting up Cerrone (Jan. 26). Then he decided he wanted a piece of Aldo, so he’s dropping a class. Next: Jose Aldo, Aug. 3. We think.
Ricardo Lamas (4-0 UFC, 8-2 Zuffa, 13-2 overall): 4-2 as a WEC lightweight, 4-0 as a UFC featherweight. So after beating Koch (Jan. 26), he would be next in line to … what? Pettis sent Dana a text?
Frankie Edgar (9-4-1 UFC, 14-4 overall): Former lightweight champion may be the best fourth- and fifth-round fighters in UFC history. Plenty of practice. What next after Aldo loss (Feb. 2)? Rematch wouldn’t be ridiculous.
Chad Mendes (4-1 UFC, 8-1 Zuffa, 13-1 overall): Rolled through WEC at 4-0. Sole loss was 2012 title shot against Aldo (TKO-1). Next: Clay Guida, April 20
Darrin Elkins (5-1 UFC, 15-2 overall): On a four-fight streak but could use a matchup against another contender. Next: Antonio Carvalho, March 16
Pablo Garza (3-2 UFC, 3-3 Zuffa, 12-3 overall): “The Scarecrow” is another fighter to lose his TUF prelim (and his lone WEC fight) before coming back for the finale. Beat one-time title contender Hominick (UD). Next: Diego Brandao, April 6
Clay Guida (10-7 UFC, 30-13 overall): One-time Strikeforce lightweight champion has some terrific wins on his UFC record (Diaz, dos Anjos, Pettis UD) and qualify losses. But his reputation for excitement was dented in a puzzlingly passive loss to Maynard. Eked past Hioku in 145 debut (Jan. 26). Next: Chad Mendes, April 20
Hatsu Hioki (2-2 UFC, 26-6-2 overall): Beat Jeff Curran in PRIDE back in 2006 and beat Hominick twice. Now on two-fight skid, though the second (to Guida, Jan. 26) was close.
Chan Sung Jung (3-0 UFC, 3-2 Zuffa, 13-3 overall): Some guys won in WEC and lost in the UFC. The Korean Zombie did the opposite, avenging a dubious loss to Garcia, KOing Hominick in seven seconds, then wearing down Poirier.
Erik Koch (2-1 UFC, 5-2 Zuffa, 13-2 overall): Lost WEC debut to Mendes (UD) in 2010, then started a steady climb. Lost title shot through injury, then lost to Lamas (Jan. 26).
Dustin Poirier (5-2 UFC, 6-3 Zuffa, 13-3 overall): Won first four in the UFC, lost terrific main event against Jung, plowed through Brookins, lost to Swanson (Feb. 16).
Dennis Siver (10-5 UFC, 21-8 overall): Yes, he has really had 15 UFC fights. Won four in a row at lightweight, lost to Cerrone, dropped to 145 and won first two. Bout with Swanson fell through.
Cub Swanson (4-1 UFC, 19-5 overall): Might be best remembered in WEC for spectacular eight-second KO loss to then-prospect Jose Aldo, but he was a solid 5-3 there before moving into the UFC. On four-fight streak, with impressive win over Poirier (Feb. 16), to bump back into contention.
Mike Brown (2-3 UFC, 8-5 Zuffa, 26-8 overall): Former WEC champion, beating Faber twice before Aldo era started. Hit a low point but won last two.
Manny Gamburyan (3-5 UFC, 6-6 Zuffa, 12-7 overall): TUF 5 lightweight dropped to featherweight in WEC and earned title shot against Aldo. Lost first two after UFC-WEC merger, then won his next one.
Leonard Garcia (2-6 UFC, 6-9-1 Zuffa, 15-10-1 overall): Always exciting, often wins controversial decision. A novelty last time: He lost a controversial decision to Max Holloway. Next: Cody McKenzie, April 27
Nam Phan (2-4 UFC, 18-11 overall): Great pre-TUF resume, served justice in rematch with Garcia. Battered badly in last three fights, losing two.
Jonathan Brookins (2-3 UFC, 13-6 overall): TUF 12 lightweight winner has a ton of talent but is openly struggling with motivation.
Rodrigo Damm (1-1 UFC, 1-2 Zuffa, 10-6 overall): Already 0-2 in Strikeforce, with a title loss to Melendez, before working his way into the UFC through TUF Brazil. Last: Lost to Carvalho.
Matt Grice (2-5 UFC, 15-5 overall): Another guy who struggled as a UFC lightweight (1-3), went elsewhere and came back as a featherweight. Not a great record, but he won’t be cut after losing a Fight of the Year candidate to Bermudez (Feb. 23).
Nik Lentz (7-2-1 UFC, 23-5-2 overall): Finally lost two at lightweight after lenghty unbeaten run, then won first two at featherweight, last over Nunes (Jan. 19).
Cody McKenzie (2-3 UFC, 13-3 overall): Great interview, one of TUF 12′s better personalities, somehow wins all his fights by guillotine. Next: Leonard Garcia, April 27
Cole Miller (7-5 UFC, 18-7 overall): Not bad at all as a lightweight, going 7-3 with some bonuses. Dropped first two at 145. Next: Bart Palaszewski, April 13
Charles Oliviera (4-3 UFC, 16-3 overall): Young guy with solid record but hasn’t made the past first round against top guys.
Bart Palaszewski (1-2 UFC, 5-5 Zuffa, 36-16 overall): Had 50 fights before age 30. He was 8-4 in the IFL, then 4-3 in WEC with a win over Pettis. At featherweight: KOd Griffin, lost to Hioki and Nunes. Next: Cole Miller, April 13
Jeremy Stephens (7-8 UFC, 20-9 overall): Always brings the action, which is why he’s getting another shot in a new weight class despite a three-fight losing streak. Next: Estevan Payan, May 25
Rani Yahya (3-1 UFC, 7-4 Zuffa, 18-7 overall): 4-3 in WEC, losing a title shot against Chase Beebe. Beat Brown, lost to Mendes, beat Grispi and UFC debutant Hirota (March 2).
Yuri Alcantara (2-1 UFC, 28-4 overall): Won his sole WEC fight, won first two UFC fights. Took a step backward against Dias. Had a weird no-contest against Pedro Nobre.
Dennis Bermudez (3-1 UFC, 10-3 overall): Lost TUF 14 final to the imposing Brandao, then started ascent with three wins, the last a classic over Grice (Feb. 23).
Diego Brandao (2-1 UFC, 15-8 overall): Dominant TUF 14 winner surprisingly lost next bout to Darren Elkins (UD). Came back to beat Joey Gambino. Next: Pablo Garza, April 6
Marcus Brimage (3-0 UFC, 6-1 overall): Looked like his mouth was bigger than his skillset on TUF 14, but he won at the finale, won his next one and upset highly touted Hettes. Next: Conor McGregor, April 6
Jimy Hettes (2-1 UFC, 10-1 overall): Accomplished grappler won his debut and looked downright frightening against Phan before dropping bout with Brimage (UD). Next: Steven Siler: April 27
Max Holloway (3-1 UFC, 7-1 overall): In 2012, he lost his UFC debut to Poirier, came back to win twice. Then he turned 21. Then he beat Garcia.
Rony Jason (2-0 UFC, 12-3 overall): The man with the hockey mask was the class of TUF Brazil, beating Pepey in the finale and following up with a convincing win over Sicilia.
Robbie Peralta (2-0 UFC, 16-3-1 overall): Won in Strikeforce and won UFC debut. Had a no contest, then took out frustration against Jason Young. Next: Akira Corassani, April 6
Daniel Pineda (2-2 UFC, 17-9 overall): Started with two first-round wins, lost next two. Next: Justin Lawrence, April 13
Steven Siler (3-1 UFC, 21-10 overall): Seemed like an afterthought on TUF 14 after upsetting Micah Miller in prelims, but he won next three, including one over Micah’s brother Cole. Finally ran into Elkins. Next: Jimy Hettes, April 27
Felipe Arantes (1-1-1 UFC, 14-4-1 overall): Some solid pre-UFC fights. Lost UFC debut, won next fight and drew with Milton Vieira. All UFC bouts so far have been in Brazil, though he has fought in the USA for other promotions.
Stephen Bass (0-1 UFC, 10-1 overall): TUF 14 alum lost debut to Marcus Brimage and didn’t fight in 2012.
Maximo Blanco (0-1 UFC, 8-4-1 overall): Lost in Strikeforce to Healy, then made things difficult for Brimage before losing UFC debut. Venezuelan by way of Japan. Next: Sam Sicilia, April 13
Antonio Carvalho (2-1 UFC, 15-5 overall): Lost debut to Arantes, rebounded to beat Pineda and Damm. Next: Darren Elkins, March 16
Godofredo “Pepey” Castro (1-1 UFC, 9-1 overall): Lost TUF Brazil final to Rony Jason (UD), edged Milton Vieira (SD, Jan. 19).
Josh Clopton (0-1 UFC, 6-1-1 overall): You don’t see many guys lose a TUF prelim and get a call to fight on the finale. You don’t see many more lose that fight and remain in the UFC.
Akira Corassani (1-0 UFC, 10-3 overall): The house agitator from TUF 14 barely beat TUF 15′s Ogle in both fighters’ injury-delayed debut. Next: Robbie Peralta, April 6
Hacran Dias (1-0 UFC, 21-1-1 overall): Decorated Brazilian won June 2012 UFC debut over Alcantara.
Mizuto Hirota (0-1 UFC, 0-2 Zuffa, 14-6-1 overall): Former DEEP champion lost to Healy in Strikeforce, dropped UFC debut to Yahya (March 2).
Kurt Holobaugh (0-0 UFC, 0-1 Zuffa, 8-1 overall): Lost to Pat Healy in Strikeforce.
Justin Lawrence (1-1 UFC, 4-1 overall): Won pro debut in Strikeforce at age 20. Impressed on TUF 15, took rare Fight/Knockout of the Night double in finale. Dropped to featherweight and lost to Holloway. Next: Daniel Pineda, April 13
Conor McGregor (0-0 UFC, 12-2 overall): Irish fighter has Cage Warriors lightweight and featherweight belts. Next: Marcus Brimage, April 6
Yaotzin Meza (0-1 UFC, 19-8 overall): Thrown into the fire in debut against Mendes.
Andy Ogle (1-1 UFC, 9-2 overall): Likable Englishman from TUF 15 barely lost debut to Corassani, then beat Grispi (Feb. 16).
Estevan Payan (0-0 UFC, 2-0 Zuffa, 14-3 overall): Seven-fight win streak, including two in Strikeforce, since brief Bellator and Shark Fights stints. Next: Jeremy Stephens, May 25
Sam Sicilia (1-1 UFC, 11-2 overall): Impressed before TUF draft but struggled on the show. Won at finale, then lost to TUF Brazil champ Rony Jason. Next: Maximo Blanco, April 13
Marcos “Vina” Vinicius (1-1 UFC, 20-4-1 overall): TUF Brazil alum won at finale but showed little in loss to Bedford.
Eddie Yagin (1-1 UFC, 16-5-1 overall): Well-traveled “Filipino Phenom” lost debut to Assuncao but came back to beat Hominick.
Jason Young (1-3 UFC, 9-6 overall): Tough debut against Poirier. Lost second fight, got first win, lost again.
RECENT RELEASES (from UFC)
Josh Grispi (0-4 UFC, 4-4 Zuffa, 14-5 overall): Four first-round wins in WEC. Lost first four after the merger, last to Ogle (Feb. 16).
Diego Nunes (3-3 UFC, 7-4 Zuffa, 18-4 overall): Solid 4-1 mark in WEC, then alternated wins and losses in the UFC. Last: Lost to Lentz (Jan. 19).
Milton Vieira (0-1-1 UFC, 13-8-2 overall): “The Godfather of the anaconda choke” has fought in PRIDE, Strikeforce, DEEP and Shooto. UFC debut was inconclusive, and he may have deserved better against Pepey (Jan. 19).
Pat Curran (18-4 overall): Holds the title and kept it with win over Patricio “Pitbull” Friere. Next: Shabulat, Shamhalaev, April 4
Shahbulat Shamhalaev (12-1-1 overall): Won the delayed Season 7 final Feb. 21 with a KO over Rad Martinez, now stepping in for Straus. Next: Pat Curran, April 4
Daniel Straus (21-4 overall): Won the Season 6 tournament and was supposed to fight Curran until he suffered an injury. THEN he got arrested.
Season 8 final: Mike Richman (def. Alexandre Bezerra) vs. Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (def. Marlon Sandro).
BEST OUTSIDE UFC AND BELLATOR
Tatsuya Kawajiri (32-7-2 overall): Beat Michihiro Omigawa on New Year’s Eve to extend his win streak to five since losing to Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce. Melendez accounts for two of his last four losses — the others are Shinya Aoki and Eddie Alvarez.