Lightweight champion BJ Penn announced today that his next title defense is expected to be in April at UFC 112. Though his opponent has yet to be decided, one of the divisions top contenders, Gray Maynard will have to do something special in his next fight if he wants to be the man standing across the octagon from Penn at the event.

Maynard headlines the Ultimate Fight Night 20 card on Monday night, facing off against fellow TUF season five competitor Nate Diaz hoping to do just that. The two fought on the show, with Diaz emerging the victor on that occasion, but Maynard has improved considerably since that time.

He is currently riding an impressive six fight win streak, but with five of those coming by way of decision, the wrestler has failed to generate the kind of interest from fans and the UFC’s top brass that would guarantee him the title shot.

Meanwhile his rival for the No.1 contender spot in the lightweight division,

Frankie Edgar may have edged himself into pole position in his last fight at The Ultimate Fighter season 10 finale. Like Maynard, Edgar has had a knack for leaving the results of his fights in the hands of the judges, but against Matt Veach he claimed a second round submission victory, and walked away with the ‘Fight Of The Night’ award into the bargain.

While the win hasn’t left people believing that Edgar is the man to break Penn’s vice-like grip on the lightweight belt, his well rounded performance left the impression that he could put on an entertaining fight with the champion.

Since then rumors have began to circulate that Edgar is indeed being lined up to fight Penn, as Franklin McNeil reported on ESPN’s MMA Live show.

“We have been hearing a lot about Frankie Edgar, where does he fit in the lightweight title picture and from what I’m hearing a source close to the situation said that Frankie Edgar has a better then 50% chance of fighting BJ Penn for the title.”

McNeil also stated that it may not matter what Maynard does in the fight with Diaz. Things can change quickly in the right business however, and if Maynard can do something spectacular against Diaz, most likely a KO, or at the very least a win inside the distance, he may still have a chance to stake his claim.

Ironically Maynard already holds a win over his fellow title contender Edgar in April of 2008. Despite that it seems the UFC may instead prefer to put on the fight which they feel will generate the most interest among fans.

Maynard is a humble, hard-working fighter, and you are unlikely to hear him talk his way into a title shot as others such as Dan Hardy and, to an extent, Frank Mir have in recent times.

He must surely be concerned about when his next opportunity to face the champion may arise though if he misses out this time round.

LW Champion BJ Penn

There is some feeling that Kenny Florian may yet get another shot at the title, new signing Akihiro Gomi could be fast-tracked to the No.1 contender spot if he impresses in the octagon, and other fighters like Tyson Griffin are making waves in the upper reaches of the division.

At the same time BJ Penn has began to hint that he wants to move up to welterweight soon in his quest to get a third fight with GSP. Perhaps Maynard’s chances of a title shot would be enhanced if that were the case, but right now he is within touching distance of the champion, and who knows when that opportunity will come again.

On Monday night Maynard should be aiming for nothing less than the fight of his career so far.

Article By RossC