The UFC’s lightweight division is currently undergoing something of a seismic shift, and tonight’s UFC Fight Night 22 event only helped to aid the transition.
With Frankie Edgar now the champion, BJ Penn moving up to welterweight to face Matt Hughes and Kenny Florian defeated by Gray Maynard there’s definitely room for new faces in the upper reaches of the 155lb weight class.
That’s good news for Jim Miller who’s victory over Gleison Tibau tonight takes him to five fights unbeaten.
Surely the 27 year-old Miller must at least be on course for a battle for No.1 contendership. Perhaps the only potential snag is that two black marks on his 20 fight pro-career ironically came against current champion Edgar and No.1 contender Maynard, but his current form suggests he’s worthy of a second chance.
Earlier Cole Miller had pulled off a big win over highly regarded TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson.
This week the 26 year-old has been making noise about wanting to finish fights, echoing similar sentiments from Ken-Flo a few years ago when he was on a roll, and to be fair Miller’s record certainly backs up what he’s saying.
He’s now 6-2 in the UFC, has won five of those inside the distance, and has picked up two ‘Submission Of The Night’ and one ‘Knockout Of The Night’ award along the way. While he’s not in title contention just yet, everyone knows that exciting fighters are rewarded in the UFC, and similar results in his next couple of fights could catapult him into contention.
Meanwhile 20 year-old Charles Oliveira’s hugely impressive performance against Efrain Escudero suggests that he could be one of the future stars of the division.
Perhaps better known for his jiu-jitsu skills, what impressed most this time round was the Brazilian’s dynamic and technical striking, demonstrating a fluid mix of punches, kicks and knees.
It’ll be interesting to see what comes next for him. Ideally the UFC would have been looking to gradually bring him up through the ranks as they did with Jon Jones in his early days, but now that he’s performed admirably under the spotlight of a co-main event against a solid opponent they may want to rethink that strategy.
All three fighters are helping to reshape the landscape at 155lbs in 2010, along with the likes George Sotiropoulos, who is expected to face the winner of Edgar Vs Maynard 2 if he can get past a resurgent Joe Lauzon in November.
The return of former champion Sean Sherk at UFC 119 in just a couple of weeks time against another emerging force at lightweight in Evan Dunham who is looking to go six fights unbeaten also has major implications for the division.
Don’t forget others like former lightweight kingpin Takanori Gomi who claimed his first win in the UFC last month by KO, and Nate Diaz who’s eager to return to 155lbs after regaining momentum with impressive wins at welterweight recently.
Oh, and finally bear in mind that veteran Antonio Mckee has just signed after going on a fifteen fight winning streak in promotions like the IFL and more recently Canadian promotion MFC over the past seven years.
The upcoming Frankie Edgar Vs Gray Maynard 2 title fight may not be something that’s capturing many people’s imagination, but overall these are exciting and unpredictable times in the UFC’s rapidly transforming lightweight division.