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The Weigh-In: Who deserves the next lightweight title shot?

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TSN.ca Staff
7/30/2012 10:50:19 PM
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TSN.ca's MMA staff takes a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.

1) Who should face the winner of the UFC 150 lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar?

Justin Boone, TSN.ca - How many times can one fighter have his title shot put on hold? Anthony Pettis was forced to wait while Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard had a rematch for the UFC championship, and then earlier this year he was once again held out of a title bout due to Edgar getting another shot at Ben Henderson. Pettis has since decided to use this time to undergo surgery on a shoulder ailment, but he expects to be ready to fight by October or November.

After dropping his UFC debut by unanimous decision to Clay Guida, Pettis has ripped off two victories over Jeremy Stephens and Joe Lauzon. Pettis also made a name for himself when he won the WEC lightweight title by defeating the man who currently holds the UFC lightweight belt, Henderson. I can already see the promotional video showing the 2010 highlight of Pettis jumping off the cage to kick Henderson. Current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is the best choice, but he doesn't appear to be leaving Strikeforce just yet, so Pettis is next in line.

James Lynch, TSN.ca - Melendez should face the winner of this title fight, but unfortunately his contract with Strikeforce has him tied down to the promotion and he is now facing Pat Healy. Instead, I'll go with Nate Diaz for a variety of reasons. Ever since Rory MacDonald's UFC 129 beatdown of Diaz at welterweight, the Caesar Gracie Fight team member has been on a tear at lightweight. In his last fight, Diaz became the first man to stop Jim Miller, submitting the New Jersey native with a guillotine choke in the second round.

In fact, the last man to defeat Diaz at lightweight was Maynard, who only won that fight on controversial split decision back in January of 2010. Outside of the octagon, Diaz (much like his brother Nick) can sell a fight with his in your face, trash-talking style as shown in the buildup to his fight with Donald Cerrone. It's a no-brainer the UFC should book the Ultimate Fighter Season 5 winner for the next title shot. 

2) Is the UFC making the right move by sending Frank Mir to Strikeforce to fight Daniel Cormier?

Lynch - Yes it's a very good move. Frank Mir is a former UFC heavyweight champion and a former coach of the Ultimate Fighter. In other words, a well-known fighter that I'm sure will be a welcomed addition to the Strikeforce roster. The reality for Mir is that he has had his opportunity at the UFC heavyweight championship numerous times and failed. With that said Mir is still a talented fighter, only 33 years old and a perfect opponent for an up-and-coming fighter like Daniel Cormier.

While I think Mir is a step down from Josh Barnett (the man Cormier defeated to win the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament), all the other elite heavyweights are either signed to the UFC and have future fights booked. Should Cormier win (which I believe he will) this will make a nice transition for him to the UFC.

Boone - Athletes strive to compete at the highest possible level and the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the destination for mixed martial artists. Having talented fighters toil away under the Strikeforce promotion is a result of Strikeforce's pre-existing contract with Showtime that needs to be honoured. Having said that, the UFC should be focused on filling their fight cards with entertaining bouts, something fans in Calgary may have an issue with.

As a former UFC champion, Mir is a recognizable name that can still compete at a high level. His bout with Cormier makes all the sense in the world, if it were to happen under the UFC brand. If Cormier is stuck in Strikeforce for the time being, let him boost his record with another bout against someone from Strikeforce's roster, before bringing him over to the bigger stage. If Mir goes to Strikeforce and defeats Cormier, the UFC will have lost a future title contender.

3) With his recent comments about B.J. Penn at the UFC 152 press conference, is Rory MacDonald becoming overconfident?

Boone - With Georges St-Pierre on the shelf, Rory MacDonald has stepped into the spotlight for Canadian MMA fans. While he has yet to challenge top competition, MacDonald has been impressive in his victories and at 23 years old, he is being brought along much like Jon Jones was at light heavyweight. Both fighters were 4-1 in the UFC when they stepped up against a more well-versed opponent. For Jones it was Vladimir Matyushenko and for MacDonald it's Penn. The Prodigy is no longer the force in the octagon that he once was and he will be at a serious disadvantage giving up six inches in reach and three inches in height.

The biggest challenge MacDonald has in this bout is overconfidence. He will be fighting on Canadian soil, in front of a crowd that would love nothing more than to see him win Knockout of the Night. Based on his comments, I don't think MacDonald has fallen victim to believing his own hype yet, but the week leading up to the bout will be the true test.  

Lynch - What MacDonald said wasn't necessarily incorrect (about Penn being out of shape) but younger fighters should owe a certain amount of respect for those who have paved the way for them. I don't think MacDonald is too cocky, but he really shouldn't be getting ahead of himself. The opponents MacDonald has defeated are nowhere near the guys that Penn has fought. For example, if you look at MacDonald's wins: Mike Guymon is retired, Nate Diaz fights at lightweight and Che Mills/Mike Pyle are nowhere near UFC welterweight title shots.

Don't get me wrong, fighters need to stir the pot a bit to create a name for themselves, Chael Sonnen essentially made Anderson Silva more popular with his own trash-talking. However, there is a time and a place for everything. I think Rory MacDonald defeats B.J. Penn no matter what shape the Hawaiian fighter comes into the octagon, but why put more added pressure on yourself when this is the biggest fight of your career?

Anthony Pettis (Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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