Why the winner of Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida may not determine a #1 contender

Ever since it was announced that Clay Guida would face former WEC Lightweight champion Ben Henderson on the undercard of the first UFC on Fox event (Saturday, November 12th), speculations and assumptions have built towards an inevitable conclusion: the winner would be #1 contender to the UFC Lightweight title.

Not so fast. From Mike Chiapetta at MMAFighting.com:

“I don’t know. I have no idea,” he said. “We’re going to have to see what happens. I haven’t even thought about it. You have to understand, the only thing I’m thinking about now is FOX. I’ve just got to get past this event. Everything else is taking a back seat. All the other s— will work itself out.”

Even without the Fox event, there can’t be a clear-cut distinction of the next title contender stemming from this one fight. Don’t get me wrong; it’s very possible that the winner will be a future opponent for Frankie Edgar. But a few things have to fall into place first.

Gilbert Melendez, the current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, will have to successfully defend his belt against Jorge Masdival at the December 17th event on Showtime. Based on his performances and his shattering of the myths of fighters like Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri, the general consensus is that Melendez is the best Lightweight outside of the UFC and, perhaps, the #2 Lightweight in the world. He’s definitely Top 5. The problem is that challengers in Strikeforce were few and far between due to their paltry Lightweight division (hardly the only weight where there the promotion had little to no depth). With the UFC’s absorption of Strikeforce, it’d be foolish to keep Melendez out of the UFC and walking all over lesser fighters. A champion versus champion fight seems like a foregone conclusion, but Masdival also has more punching power than Melendez is used to seeing. Him as #2 in the world is a very strong theory, but one that’s been ultimately untested in the last calendar year.

Then there’s Dennis Siver. Admittedly, I’m a bit biased; I’m a fan of Siver’s and my first pitch to UFC.com was a profile of the fighter (conducted via a translation from the kind and knowledgeable Oliver Copp, to whom I’ll always be grateful). Siver has been on a tear his last four fights and looked impressive in every outing, including a dominating performance against George Sotiropoulos, who myself and many others thought was on a trajectory towards title contention himself. His next opponent is another potential contender, former WEC Lightweight champion Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who since dropping his title to Ben Henderson a year and a half ago has gone on a five-fight tear. Depending on how that fight and other circumstances play out, that fight as well could realistically determine a #1 contender.

Talk about a logjam.

Regardless of how the division plays out, the fight between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida is sure to be a barn-burner. You can watch it for free prior to the network broadcast on the UFC’s Facebook page or by visiting FOX.com.

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