With Frankie Edgar proving beyond all doubt that he is the lightweight champion of the world by defeating BJ Penn for a second time and Gray Maynard seeing off the challenge of Kenny Florian, the man many people thought was the second best fighter in the weight class, it’s become a brave new world at 155lbs in the space of just 24 hours.
While the results of UFC 118 help to freshen up the division, they also bring a few headaches for the UFC at the same time.
For many years the lightweight division has had a genuine star in BJ Penn who produced highlight reel finishes inside the octagon, and a list of memorable quotes and antics outside of it.
So far neither Edgar or Maynard look like filling those shoes. Seven of Edgar’s nine fights in the UFC have ended in decision, mirrored identically by Maynard’s own seven visits to the judges scorecards in his nine fights in the octagon.
To his credit Edgar’s frenetic style and well rounded game is easy on the eye and a stoppage or two is perhaps all he needs to take him to the next level in the fans eyes.
On the other hand Maynard’s pedestrian boxing and stifling wrestling has ensured that he’s become anything but a fan favorite, and mean that he’s had to beat practically everybody worth mentioning at 155lbs in order to leave the UFC with no option but to give him the title shot.
Adding to the UFC’s marketing department’s woes is that neither fighter has captured people’s imaginations outside the cage either, with Edgar fitting into the quiet, nice guy mould that attracts few headlines, while Maynard also prefers to do his talking in the cage.
What that amounts to is one of the least marketable title fights the UFC has had in recent years, though that’s not something Dana White was denying last night at the post-fight press conference, stating that, “people are going to want to see it.”
It’s possible that some people will be curious to see if Edgar can overcome Maynard’s spoiling tactics and avenge his previous loss to ‘The Bully’, but the immediate reaction on the major MMA message-boards suggests otherwise and it’s hard to imagine many people shelling out close to $50 for the chance to see it.
The solution would appear to be putting together a stacked card to surround this fight, or perhaps even putting it on as a co-main event along with another title fight, much as they did for the original Penn Vs Edgar fight at UFC 112 which Silva Vs Maia headlined.
They can’t continue to do that in the longer term though, and with previous fan favorites like Penn and Florian no longer the dominant forces at lightweight it’s clear that the UFC needs other fighters to step up to the plate and capture the fans imaginations.
Ideally the division needs a Chael Sonnen like character who is able to spring out of nowhere and become a star, but that may be wishful thinking.
If the current crop can’t do it then the promotion may be forced to look further afield, with current WEC 145lb champion and rising star Jose Aldo being the most obvious choice to spice up the weight class at some stage in the future.