In the wake of The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale that aired on Saturday night, the UFC’s lightweight division went through a small shuffling of the talent into its different echelons. We saw the addition of a new fighter to the UFC in Mac Danzig, a solid veteran MMA fighter. In addition to Danzig, Clay Guida and Roger Huerta both battled it out in arguably a candidate for the best fight of the year. Where do these guys stand in the lightweight division after the fight? Although the division seems to be set in stone near the top, Huerta’s potential opponents seems to be many and Guida’s stance in the division is in question. Let’s take a good look at all the possibilities.
Huerta’s miraculous comeback from a devastating beatdown in the first two rounds of his battle with Clay Guida on Saturday night proved that the lightweight can hang in the cage with some of the best. Although Guida has had some battles in which his standup proved to be lacking, he is the ultimate litmus test in cardio and endurance. If you can actually endure the onslaught of Clay Guida, your potential in the lightweight division is very high.
What’s next for Roger Huerta? With Frankie Edgar defeating Spencer Fisher, a solid veteran that Edgar put on his back at will, there is a potential for that type of fight to happen. The problem is that Edgar has less experience and his style isn’t exactly something that Huerta would have a terrible problem with. Edgar’s takedowns would likely be nullified by Huerta’s takedown defense and ability to scramble off the ground back to his feet.
More intriguing matchups I’ve heard are another solid veteran in Spencer Fisher, Kenny “I Finish Fights” Florian, Hermes Franca when he returns down the road, Joe Lauzon, a new 155’er in Diego Sanchez, and a returning Din Thomas. Spencer would probably get taken down and pounded out, Lauzon is being built up, and Florian is apparently close to in the title picture. Out of those three names, Florian seems like a decent style matchup. Florian is known for having much improved skills in nearly every fight he’s in. His standup has improved, and his ground game has always been above average. He can land nasty elbows in the guard and while on his back. Would that be a good matchup for Huerta? I think it has the potential to be a good fight, but for me, Huerta has more experience and seems to be a bit more aggressive. But hey, I paid for not betting Florian in his past fights.
Sanchez is an interesting pick, but Huerta will have some standup advantages. Diego’s wrestling and ju-jitsu is great, but Huerta has proven to be very skilled at avoiding being choked out or having a limb in danger of breakage. Without jumping into the upper echelon of the division, Huerta could see some fairly good matchups style wise in his future as the UFC builds him up for entry into the Central American market. Will we see him fighting the likes of Joe Stevenson, BJ Penn, or Sean Sherk any time soon? Highly unlikely.
Let me just say that Clay Guida is a relentless warrior who makes me smile when I see his tenacious style in the cage. He continually gets matched up with some of the toughest opponents in the UFC, and he gets paid barely above the incoming talent. He also constantly delivers great fights, and without a doubt, the UFC has made more money off of him that he has made from them.
So, where do Clay Guida go from here? In fairness, Guida was winning his fight with Huerta decisively through two rounds. Can he somehow break into the upper echelon of the Lightweight division? I think he has the endurance and relentlessness to overwhelm many fighters, but he still lacks in his striking. He definitely needs some striking training to supplement his brutal takedown style. If he can improve his striking significantly, he would be on the redemption path on his way back up the chain.
With that said, however, Guida should still consider a drop down to 145 lbs. He would be a monster in the 145 lbs. division of WEC, and could give someone like Urijah Faber a run for his money. Many columnists have looked toward this idea, and it definitely has merit.
One aspect to the move to the WEC is that Guida’s fan favorite status may be able to pull fans to watch Versus. It could be a brilliant marketing move and could set up some great fights, much like WEC 31 on Wednesday should produce. Guida’s name may be a bit more recognizable to fans than the current WEC stable of fighters. The U.S. fanbase is unfamiliar with Paulo Filho, which is unfortunate. Put Guida in with some of the best in the WEC. Add in the fact that Pulver has moved over and has slapped his name in the mix, WEC should begin to see an increase in viewership of their cards.
One of the more interesting discussions I’ve had is the idea of Mac Danzig competing in the Lightweight division. He won the TUF 6 Finale and was awarded the contract in the UFC, but fought the entire show at 170 lbs. That should tell you the weakness of the fighters that were on the show. Especially during the Finale, Speer was cutting from at least 190 lbs. to 170 lbs. while Danzig walks around at 170 pounds, and Danzig still proceeded to dominate Speer.
Danzig will move down to 155 pounds now, and should make an impact in the division to an extent. Although I believe Danzig can last against any of the top fighters in the division, I think his skill level is still below some of the top fighters in the game right now in that division. Danzig was handled by Hayato “Mach” Sakurai in his last fight, but he was obviously overmatched in the standup game and still managed to take it to the second round. He has some staying power during his fights, and as I’ve said in the past, that always increases your potential to pull off an upset and increase your chances to win.
Names, what names can we throw into the hat? The interesting concept here is the UFC’s handling of Danzig’s experience. Will they throw him in with better competition due to his vast experience or will they feed him some wins because of his TUF winner status? I think we’ll see him in the latter against past TUF fighters from the last Lightweight show. It is possible to see him against some mid-tier fighters however since there are many that could match up stylistically with him.
I won’t say whether or not Danzig will be in the title picture in a year or so, but if he is, I doubt that he can compete with some of the great talent near the top. He can probably last through the fight and have a chance at winning, but I believe his skills aren’t honed enough yet to put him over the top. With a great training camp and some improvement in his standup, it’s possible.
Huerta could make a good run in the Lightweight division, although I’m not entirely convinced he has all the tools to make someone like BJ Penn look bad. Guida could be a tremendous fighter with some good striking techniques. He could also be a promotional gold mine for the WEC, although the Versus TV deal limits their exposure. Guida to 145 would be a good move.
Danzig can be a very good upper-echelon fighter if he can get with a training camp that can improve the areas in which he lacks tremendous skill. Notably, his standup isn’t unbelievable, but it does add to his skillset in a dangerous way. Look for Danzig to either fight some TUF alumni for a couple fights or be thrown into the mid-tier range where he can actually string together some wins. It should be interesting to see what the UFC does with him.