How many lightweights can the UFC keep on the roster? After a couple of TUF seasons and the Strikeforce merger, expect a Darwinian struggle for survival. And then if you don’t win in Bellator, there’s no way you’re sticking around with all the former UFC talent floating around. No wonder so many people want to cut to lower weight classes.
Updated March 13
Benson Henderson (6-0 UFC, 11-1 Zuffa, 18-2 overall): Established his rep as one of the most exciting fighters in MMA with a beautiful run through WEC. Nominated for Fight of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Wins over former champ Frankie Edgar were close, but he demolished Nate Diaz. Next: Gilbert Melendez, April 20
Gilbert Melendez (0-0 UFC, 3-0 Zuffa, 21-2 overall): Ready to fold in from Strikeforce, where he was last seen settling his epic trilogy with Josh Thomson. Has wins over Guida and Aoki. Next: Benson Henderson, April 20
Gray Maynard (9-1-1 UFC, 11-1-1 overall): Unbeaten but dull until two classic bouts against Edgar, dominating the first round each time but fading for a draw and a KO loss. Back to snoozers against Clay Guida. Next: T.J. Grant, May 25
Jim Miller (11-3 UFC, 22-4 overall): Won seven straight before running into Henderson. Close to title shot before loss to Diaz. Next: Pat Healy, April 27
Donald Cerrone (6-2 UFC, 12-5 Zuffa, 19-5 overall): Lost two epic title bouts in WEC (Varner, Henderson) and a Hendo rematch, then plowed through many in the UFC excepting Nate Diaz and now Pettis (KO L Jan. 26). Next: K.J. Noons, May 25
Nate Diaz (11-6 UFC, 16-8 overall): Probably better than some of the Top Contenders, but he has to get back in line after losing to Henderson. Beat Gomi, Cerrone and Miller to get that shot. Next: Josh Thomson, April 20
Rafael dos Anjos (7-4 UFC, 18-6 overall): After a quiet start, the Pancrase/Shooto vet has won his last three. Next: Evan Dunham, May 18
Evan Dunham (7-3 UFC, 14-3 overall): Won first four fights, then was robbed against Sean Sherk. Then KOd by Guillard. Working way back up despite wild loss to Grant and close win over Tibau (Feb. 2). Next: Rafael dos Anjos, May 18
T.J. Grant (7-3 UFC, 19-5 overall): Four-fight streak, the last two over Dunham and Wiman (Jan. 26). Next: Gray Maynard, May 25
Melvin Guillard (11-8 UFC, 30-12-2 overall): Won five in a row, then lost four of last five. UFC site says he’s 47-13-3 overall.
Takanori Gomi (3-4 UFC, 34-9 overall): Former PRIDE lightweight champion lost three of first four in the Octagon. Won two before getting robbed against Sanchez (March 3).
Joe Lauzon (9-5 UFC, 22-8 overall): Debuted with win over Jens Pulver (TKO-1), then faced Pulver’s team in TUF 5. Has some great wins and Fight of the Night bonuses, but brutal loss to Jim Miller (UD) that led him to question his future.
Diego Sanchez (13-5 UFC, 24-5 overall): TUF 1 middleweight champ! Then welterweight! Then lightweight, getting title shot against Penn! Then welterweight! Now lightweight again! And winning a dubious decision over Gomi (March 3).
Sean Sherk (8-4 UFC, 36-4-1 overall): Former lightweight champion hasn’t fought since winning a ridiculous decision over Dunham in 2010.
Jamie Varner (3-2 UFC, 7-5-1 Zuffa, 21-7-1 overall): Former WEC champion has come back strong from being cut, going 2-1 in 2012.
Mark Bocek (7-5 UFC, 11-5 overall): 3-3 in last six, dropping decisions to Jim Miller, Henderson and dos Anjos.
Mac Danzig (5-6 UFC, 21-10-1 overall): Lost three in a row soon after his TUF victory. Alternated wins and losses since then, losing last fight to Gomi (SD).
Yves Edwards (10-7 UFC, 42-19-1 overall): Debuted in the UFC against Matt Serra (L MD) … in 2001. Lots of ups and downs since then. Last: L Vallie-Flagg (Feb. 2)
Spencer Fisher (9-8 UFC, 24-9 overall): Always exciting, which is why he’s still here after losing three in a row. He’s 1-5 in last six.
Michael Johnson (4-3 UFC, 12-7 overall): TUF finalist had three-fight win streak before loss to Jury. Next: Reza Madadi, April 6
John Makdessi (3-2 UFC, 10-2 overall): Win over Stout broke two-fight losing skid. Next: Daron Cruickshank, March 16
Jorge Masvidal (0-0 UFC, 2-1 Zuffa, 23-7 overall): Sengoku, Bellator and Strikeforce veteran getting first call to UFC. Next: Tim Means, April 20
Anthony Njokuani (2-3 UFC, 6-6 Zuffa, 15-7 overall): WEC veteran’s UFC record: Loss, win, loss, win, loss. Next: Roger Bowling, April 20
K.J. Noons (0-0 UFC, 1-3 Zuffa, 11-6 overall): Fought for Strikeforce title and lost to Nick Diaz, who avenged a 2007 loss. Then lost three of next four. Next: Donald Cerrone, May 25
Rafaello Oliveira (2-4 UFC, 16-5 overall): Went 1-2 in first UFC stint, departed to win four outside UFC, returned to lose two more before winning in July 2012.
Ross Pearson (6-3 UFC, 14-6 overall): TUF champ and winner of TUF coaches’ matchup with Sotiropoulos. Next: Ryan Couture, April 6
Aaron Riley (3-5 UFC, 30-13-1 overall): Hasn’t fought since losing to Tony Ferguson in September 2011.
George Sotiropoulos (7-3 UFC, 14-5 overall): Talked a good game against Pearson on TUF Smashes. Didn’t win the fight. Lost three in a row.
Sam Stout (8-7 UFC, 19-8-1 overall): “Hands of Stone” isn’t Roberto Duran, but he’s a frequent Fight of the Night honoree. Won four of five from 2009-11. Beat Fodor (Feb. 23). Next: Isaac Vallie-Flagg, June 15
Paul Taylor (4-5 UFC, 11-6-1 overall): Hasn’t fought since tossing aside Gabe Ruediger in February 2011.
Thiago Tavares (7-5-1 UFC, 17-5-1 overall): Split first six UFC bouts but has gone 4-1-1 since. Ran into the surging Nurmagomedov (KO Jan. 19).
Josh Thomson (2-1 UFC, 3-1 Zuffa, 19-5 overall): Fought in the UFC ages ago, then spent most of the next few years in Strikeforce. No weak losses, and he’s beaten Healy, Cavalcante and Noons. Next: Nate Diaz, April 20
Gleison Tibau (11-7 UFC, 26-9 overall): Split last four, last losing a split decision to Dunham (Feb. 2). Next: John Cholish, May 18
Matt Wiman (9-5 UFC, 15-7 overall): The immodestly nicknamed “Handsome” had a good run after TUF 5, stumbled, came back, turned the tables on submission ace Sass but was KOd by Grant (Jan. 26).
Tiequan Zhang (2-4 UFC, 15-4 overall): Chinese fighter is nicknamed The Wolf. You’re sending the Wolf? Lost last three. UFC bio says his hero is Genghis Khan.
Edson Barboza (5-1 UFC, 11-1 overall): Muay Thai veteran won first four, before Varner dropped him. Quickly back in the win column against Martins (Jan. 19).
Danny Castillo (5-2 UFC, 10-5 Zuffa, 15-5 overall): 5-3 in WEC. Won three straight in UFC before losing to Michael Johnson, then came back to beat Sass (Feb. 16).
Michael Chiesa (2-0 UFC, 9-0 overall): It would take a hard heart not to root for him after he won TUF 15 despite losing his father early in the season. He’s also unbeaten after his sub of Kuivanen (Feb. 23).
Tony Ferguson (3-1 UFC, 13-3 overall): Won the relatively weak TUF 13, then took two more wins before loss to Michael Johnson.
Reza Madadi (1-1 UFC, 12-3 overall): From Iran via Sweden, dominated debut and dropped split decision to Marcello. Next: Michael Johnson, April 6
Ramsey Nijem (3-1 UFC, 7-2 overall): TUF finalist has won three straight. Next: Myles Jury, April 20
Khabib Nurmagomedov (3-0 UFC, 19-0 overall): Sambo star from Dagestan debuted in 2012 and won his first three, last over Tavares (KO Jan. 19). Next: Abel Trujillo, May 25
Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo (2-1 UFC, 12-2 overall): Won in TUF Brazil finale, lost to Tibau despite outstriking him, stopped C.J. Keith (Jan. 19). Next: Mike Rio, May 18
Roger Bowling (0-0 UFC, 2-2 Zuffa, 11-3 overall): Lost twice to Voelker after beating him once. Came back with two wins before losing to Saffiedine. Next: Anthony Njokuani, April 20
Fabricio Camoes (1-2-1 UFC, 14-7-1 overall): Good jiu-jitsu cred. Lone win is a quick submission over Tommy Hayden.
John Cholish (1-1 UFC, 8-2 overall): Won debut, lost to Danny Castillo in May 2012. Next: Gleison Tibau, May 18
Mitch Clarke (0-2 UFC, 9-2 overall): Don’t kick him out of the UFC for his two losses. Kick him out because his nickname is “Danger Zone.”
Ryan Couture (0-0 UFC, 4-1 Zuffa, 6-1 overall): Dana White is feuding with his dad. Beat Noons in last Strikeforce bout. Next: Ross Pearson, April 6
Daron Cruickshank (2-0 UFC, 12-2 overall): TUF 15 cast member beat Chris Tickle at finale, then beat Henry Martinez. Next: John Makdessi, March 16
Colin Fletcher (0-1 UFC, 8-2 overall): Lost TUF Smashes finale. Next: Mike Ricci, March 16
Caros Fodor (0-1 UFC, 3-2 Zuffa, 7-3 overall): 5-1 in Strikeforce, losing final bout to Pat Healy. Dropped debut to Stout (Feb. 23).
Renee Forte (1-1 UFC, 8-2 overall): TUF Brazil competitor lost full-fledged debut to Sergio Moraes then beat Etim (Feb. 16).
Bobby Green (1-0 UFC, 5-1 Zuffa, 20-5 overall): 4-2 in Strikeforce but was best known for making “Evermont” quit in the cage in Bully Beatdown before submitting Volkmann in UFC debut (Feb. 2).
Pat Healy (0-1 UFC, 5-1 Zuffa, 29-16 overall): Took a lot of lumps early in his career but won his last six in Strikeforce. Next: Jim Miller, April 27
Al Iaquinta (0-1 UFC, 5-2-1 overall): Lost TUF finale to Chiesa. Next: Joe Proctor, April 27
Myles Jury (2-0 UFC, 11-0 overall): The first two-time TUFster lost to Iaquinta on the show but won first two UFC bouts convincingly and is officially unbeaten. Next: Ramsey Nijem, April 20
Rustam Khabilov (1-0 UFC, 15-1 overall): Sambo star from Dagestan demolished Pichel in UFC debut. Next: Yancy Medeiros, April 27
Jeremy Larsen (0-1 UFC, 8-3 overall): TUF alum lost debut to Proctor. Still listed on UFC site.
Brendan Loughnane (0-1 UFC, 5-1 overall): Injury replacement on TUF Smashes lost debut to Wilkinson.
Cristiano Marcello (1-2 UFC, 13-5 overall): One-time PRIDE fighter and longtime jiu-jitsu coach lost early on TUF 15, then lost to Sicilia at the finale. Beat Reza Madadi, lost to Tokudome (March 3).
Adriano Martins (0-0 UFC, 1-0 Zuffa, 24-6 overall): Beat Jorge Gurgel in Strikeforce finale.
Lucas Martins (0-1 UFC, 12-1 overall): Brazilian wins most fights by KO, but Barboza was a tough matchup for his debut (Jan. 19).
Tim Means (2-0 UFC, 18-3-1 overall): Won first two. Took a four-year hiatus from MMA. Next: Jorge Masvidal, April 20
Yancy Medeiros (0-0 UFC, 9-0 overall): Two Strikeforce wins, then 2 1/2 years off. Next: Rustam Khalibov, April 27
Norman Parke (1-0 UFC, 17-2 overall): Surprising TUF Smashes winner from Northern Ireland. Next: Jon Tuck, April 20
Vinc Pichel (0-1 UFC, 7-1 overall): Looked impressive on TUF. Dropped debut to Khabilov.
Joe Proctor (1-1 UFC, 8-2 overall): TUF Live survivor won at finale then lost to Nijem. Next: Al Iaquinta, April 27
Mike Ricci (0-1 UFC, 7-3 overall): TUF alum dropping from welterweight. Next: Colin Fletcher, March 16
Mike Rio (1-0 UFC, 9-1 overall): “The Wolverine” won a terrific fight with John Cofer at the TUF Live finale. Next: Francisco Trinaldo, May 18
Justin Salas (1-1 UFC, 10-4 overall): Won debut over Kuivanen, lost to Means.
Kazuki Tokudome (1-0 UFC, 12-3-1 overall): Most previous fights in Pancrase. Solid debut against Marcello (March 3).
Abel Trujillo (1-0 UFC, 10-4 overall): From Greensboro, N.C. Awesome. Pounded Marcus LeVesseur in debut. Next: Khabib Nurmagomedov, May 25
Jon Tuck (1-0 UFC, 7-0 overall): Guam fighter broke toe in TUF Live prelim and lost to Iaquinta. Beat Zhang in debut. Next: Norman Parke, April 20
Isaac Vallie-Flagg (1-0 UFC, 3-0 Zuffa, 14-3-1 overall): Beat Gesias Cavalcante in Strikeforce. Beat Edwards in close one in UFC debut (Feb. 2). Next: Sam Stout, June 15
James Vick (0-0 UFC, 4-0 overall): TUF Live alum still waiting for debut.
Mike Wilkinson (1-0 UFC, 8-0 overall): Had to leave TUF Smashes with eye injury. Beat Loughnane in debut.
RECENT RELEASES (from UFC)
Terry Etim (6-5 UFC, 15-5 overall): Often good for a Submission of the Night. Lost last two to Barboza and Forte (Feb. 16).
C.J. Keith (0-2 UFC, 8-2 overall): Former Army soldier has lost to Nijem and Massaranduba (Jan. 19).
Anton Kuivanen (1-2 UFC, 17-6 overall): Dropped debut to Justin Salas, outstruck Mitch Clarke, lost to Chiesa (Feb. 23).
Paul Sass (3-2 UFC, 13-2 overall): Finally had a fight go beyond the first round and lost to Castillo (Feb. 16). Has 12 submission wins, mostly triangles but with the occasional heel hook.
Jacob Volkmann (6-4 UFC, 15-4 overall): Milking a self-serving comment about Obamacare for all the publicity it’s worth. Won five straight at lightweight but has lost two of last three, the last to Bobby Green (Feb. 2).
Michael Chandler (11-0 overall): Won a classic bout over Alvarez and followed up with a demolition of Akihiro Gono and a defense against Hawn.
Rick Hawn (14-2 overall): Former Olympic judoka is an intriguing talent whose only losses are to Hieron and Chandler. Next opponent also has a judo background. Next: Karo Parisyan, April 4
Eddie Alvarez (24-3 overall): Bellator’s big star has won nine of last 10, losing only an epic to Chandler and then avenging his loss to Aoki. So who’s going to win the lawsuits?
Season 8 finalists (March 28): Saad Awad (KO Will Brooks, Feb. 28), David Rickels (def. Jason Fischer, Feb. 28)
Also upcoming, the long-delayed Season 7 final (March 21): Dave Jansen vs. Marcin Held
BEST OUTSIDE UFC AND BELLATOR
Shinya Aoki (32-6 overall): Won nine of last 10, but he’s 1-2 in his last excursion to U.S. promotions — losing to Melendez, beating Lyle Beerbohm and losing to Eddie Alvarez.