Chris Cox: What is Next?

Ben Henderson took a tight decision over Gilbert Melendez this past Saturday to defend his lightweight title (Photo by Dave Mandel, Sherdog.com).

Written by Chris Cox (@CoxFight), Contributing Writer

April has been a fantastic month for the UFC. We just closed out what was an amazing UFC on FOX card this past Saturday, and we now head into the final week of the month where we will see the light heavyweight title defended. Of course, there will be a breakdown for that coming up, but that is not what this article right here is about. My concern right now is regarding some of the lower divisions and what we could see next for them. I feel a lot of the divisions felt a bit of a shake-up this month, and we need a blueprint for where they are going.

The first division I want to take a look at is the lightweight division. Already? Yes. We had an amazing title fight between Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez this past Saturday night. It was one that I wouldn’t mind seeing again because of how razor close it was. Some feel that Melendez won that fight, but, when you look at the total strikes and compare them, statistics say Henderson deserved to come out on top. So what can we see next for this division? Rounds 6-10 would be awesome for Melendez, but the UFC is going to take it another way. The winner of Gray Maynard vs. TJ Grant will get the next crack at the reigning champ. While I agree that Maynard is up there in the division, I don’t feel he has done enough since his past two title shots, one where he drew with then-champion Frankie Edgar and another where he was knocked out by him. Grant, on the other hand, would deserve a crack at the belt for what would be his fifth win in the division if he beats Maynard. Either way, I don’t see either of them being that worthy of a matchup against Henderson until we see him take on Jose Aldo or Anthony Pettis. I feel Melendez will draw the loser of the Maynard/Grant fight, and he could easily find himself back in the title picture again very soon. Josh Thomson, a former Strikeforce champion who stopped Nate Diaz this past weekend, is another guy who could soon see himself in the title picture as well.

This next discussion is going to be a pretty quick one - the welterweight division. You may have read my rant on what I feel Georges St-Pierre should do and how his dominance is just too expected at this point. The rumor now is that he has been presented with a choice. He can either face number one ranked contender Johny Hendricks or he can take a superfight with Anderson Silva. If he decides on the superfight with Silva, I hope he leaves the belt behind and stays at middleweight. I don’t even want the Hendricks matchup to happen very much. And now if GSP chooses to leave the division, who would be facing Hendricks across the cage? If you go by the UFC rankings, it could be Carlos Condit, who Hendricks just beat to earn his shot at the belt. It was a Fight of the Night winner, so it could warrant a rematch. However, the best pairing I see for him would be Rory MacDonald, who would need to first get through Jake Ellenberger here in July. He doesn’t want it now because he trains with GSP, but, if GSP leaves, he is ready to challenge for the gold and bring an exciting shake-up to that division.

The last weight class is one where I would like to see the most happen, and that is the bantamweight division. I have been doing a lot of thinking about this division since the Faber/Jorgenson fight. Urijah Faber has defeated another highly ranked opponent in Scott Jorgenson at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, and he is pretty much sitting at the top again. My main problem in this division is its champion, though. Dominick Cruz should not be considered the top of this division. He has not defended his actual belt in what soon will be two years. Renan Barao should no longer have the term interim in front of his name. Barao is the UFC Bantamweight Champion. He is about to defend his interim belt in June for the second time, which will be more times then Cruz has defended the actual belt since he got it in 2011. I understand that Cruz is injured, but no interim champ has had to do that. Cruz should have his belt relinquished, and Barao should be declared the rightful champion that he is. Faber is obviously knocking at another title shot at the rate he is walking through everyone that is put in front of him. When Cruz gets done with his rehab and we know he is 100 percent, he can then return as a top contender, but he should no longer be considered the champion, in my opinion.

And now as we enter our final week of nonstop UFC events in April, we close out with what is going to be an exciting card headlined by Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen on Saturday. Be on the look for my next article to preview the card and my picks for the winners.

The UFC has made some big strives this year, and I hope we get many more months of non-stop action. Bellator will be returning soon, and I am loving the constant flow of MMA action. I am stoked, and you should be as well! Stay tuned to Resolution Sports because you know we got your back when it comes to covering the fight game.



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