MMA Top 10 Lightweights: Melvin Guillard Makes a Statement

Guillard punches Roller at UFC 132.Three years ago, the UFC decided to give Melvin Guillard a second chance. To say he's made the most of it would be an understatement.

Guillard returned to the UFC in July of 2008 after having been released by the promotion after an 0-2 record in 2007. Guillard won his UFC return by knocking out Dennis Siver in just 36 seconds (an impressive win that looks even more impressive in hindsight, given how well Siver has fought since then), and he's gone on a great run since then, winning seven of his last eight UFC fights, including a first-round knockout victory over Shane Roller at UFC 132.

The UFC's lightweight division is a shark tank, and there are several good fighters in line for a title shot. But Guillard has at least shown in the last three years that he deserves a place in that line. Find out exactly where his place is below.

Top 10 Lightweights in MMA

(Editor's Note: The fighter's rankings the last time we ranked the lightweights are in parentheses.)

1. Frank Edgar (1): Edgar has now been at the top of the lightweight division for more than a year, but there's a bottleneck at the top because of rematches and injuries: Edgar beat B.J. Penn, then won a rematch, then drew with Gray Maynard and is now awaiting a rematch. There's still no word on when Edgar and Maynard will settle things, which means there's still no word on when we'll get to see some fresh title fights in the lightweight division.

2. Gray Maynard (2): The third fight of the Maynard-Edgar trilogy is one of the most anticipated fights in all of MMA right now, but it's hard not to worry that the long layoff for both fighters since their New Year's Day meeting could make them both rusty when they finally step into the Octagon again.

3. Gilbert Melendez (3): The Strikeforce champion would love to follow Nick Diaz into the UFC. Melendez would make a lot of sense as the next opponent for the Edgar-Maynard winner, but we might have to settle for seeing Melendez defend the Strikeforce belt against Jorge Masvidal.

4. Shinya Aoki (5): Aoki has now won five straight MMA fights since losing to Melendez last year in Strikeforce, but there aren't many high-level opponents remaining for him in Japan. It would be great to see Aoki in the UFC, but that doesn't look likely.

5. Jim Miller (6): If Miller beats Ben Henderson in August, he's supposed to get the next title shot. But given the slow pace of news on the Edgar-Maynard 3 front, Miller might be waiting a long time.

6. Clay Guida (9): His impressive win over Pettis has firmly established Guida as one of the top lightweights in the world. The best-case scenario for both the fans and the fighters would be a deal to put Guida in the cage with Melendez, with the Strikeforce title on the line. Few fans remember this anymore, but Guida was the Strikeforce lightweight champion in 2006, and he lost the belt by split decision to Melendez. That rematch would be a lot of fun.

7. Eddie Alvarez (7): Alvarez continues to win in Bellator and look good doing it, but until he faces better competition it's going to be tough for him to move up in the rankings. Alvarez will next defend his Bellator lightweight title against Michael Chandler, who's a solid young fighter but nowhere near the kind of opponent that the top lightweights in the UFC are facing.

8. Melvin Guillard (NR): Guillard has been around so long and had so many pro fights that people forget he's only 28 years old. Guillard was 19 when he started fighting professionally and 22 when he got his big break with an invitation to appear in The Ultimate Fighter. At that time, Guillard wasn't ready mentally to be a professional fighter. But he's doing great things now.

9. Anthony Pettis (8): Pettis's loss to Guida exposed some flaws, and he undoubtedly needs to work on his wrestling, but this is still a young man with a big future. At age 24, Pettis is the youngest fighter on this list, and he'll have plenty of time to improve.

10. Tatsuya Kawajiri (10): At the moment, Kawajiri holds onto his spot in the lightweight Top 10 based on the high quality of the competition he's faced: His losses have all come against Top 10 opponents. But Kawajiri is going to have to start beating Top 10 opponents soon, and it's going to be hard to get any Top 10 fights outside the UFC. Up next for Kawajiri is a fight with Drew Fickett at Dream 17.

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