Who would have thought that after an exciting 2013, the lightweight division in the UFC would be in a state of influx only two and a half months into the new year.
Current UFC lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, who stepped in for an injured TJ Grant last August at UFC 164 is still sidelined recovering from knee surgery. Best case scenario; “Showtime” will make his return sometime late in the summer but he will not be facing any of the lightweight division’s top prospects. Recent talks have begun on the super-fight between Pettis and current featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Aldo would relinquish his current title in hopes of becoming the lightweight champion.
Number one contender and former champion, Benson Henderson pulled off a controversial win in late January at UFC on Fox 10 over # 4 ranked, Josh Thomson. Many thought Thomson decisively won that fight, including UFC President Dana White. Not waiting to see if he would still get a title shot later in the year, Thomson immediately started talking about retirement at the post-fight press conference. If Thomson hangs up his gloves, #5 ranked lightweight, Nate Diaz’s plan would have worked out perfectly of siting on the sidelines waiting for division leaders to drop out on their own so he can step in.
And let’s not forget about the #2 ranked lightweight Gilbert Melendez and the #3 ranked, TJ Grant. In a shocking turn of events last week, Melendez signed with Bellator MMA, the number two organization under the UFC. Melendez was a free agent and was able to go where he wanted too. The UFC has twenty-one days to counter the deal but has yet to do so at this point. Grant on the other hand is still employed with the UFC, but has seemingly fallen off the radar since he suffered his concussion back in July of 2013. That led to him pulling out of his title fight with Benson Henderson and eight months later there is still no sign of him fighting anytime soon.
So with all that being said, where does the lightweight division go from here and who will be the new face to make some moves up the ladder later this year? I’ve said it before and I will continue my verbal quest to prove that lightweight Abel Trujillo will be one to watch out for in 2014. Winning both Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night awards over grizzled veteran Jamie Varner at UFC 169 just a few weeks ago, Trujillo brings a ferocious killer’s instinct to the lightweight division and the timing for a fast rise to the top could be just what the division needs right now. UFC lightweight champion, Abel Trujillo? Not yet, but soon I say.