The lightweight division arguably has the greatest amount of depth and parity among UFC weight classes. It is also a weight class that has been stuck in log jam mode dating back to the first Penn-Edgar in April 2010 and continuing in a rematch following by 2 sets between Edgar and Gray Maynard, and Edgar and current champion Ben Henderson. During this period many worthy contenders have risen up through the ranks, but it is difficult to decide who is the most worthy contender for a title shot after Henderson and Nate Diaz battle in Seattle on December 8th. The plot thickens even more with the impending arrival of former Bellator Champion Eddie Alvarez into the mix. What better way to welcome Alvarez to the UFC and determine who is the clear cut number one contender than to have an 8-man tournament. There will be plenty of time for it since I am assuming the Henderson-Diaz fight will end in a close decision necessitating a rematch in May 2013, and then a fight a Champion vs. Tournament winner fight in November 2013. Another assumption is that Strikeforce will be folding soon and Gilbert Melendez will be available to fight Ben Henderson if he is stil champ and there is not need for Henderson-Diaz 2, since I don't see a Melendez vs. Diaz fight happening if Diaz is the champion.
First, the participants and seeds for the tournament, including alternate bouts.The tournament would kick off in late December and early January
#1 Gray Maynard vs. #8 Joe Lauzon - This match up is already set for December 29th and pits the former TUF 5 alums against each other. Maynard earned the top seed in this tournament based off his trilogy against Edgar and overall consistency in the lightweight division. If this fight wasn't already scheduled, Lauzon would likely have warranted a higher seed, coming off his win against Jamie Varner.
#2 Anthony Pettis vs. #7 TJ Grant - Anthony Pettis has already beaten Ben Henderson and KO'd Joe Lauzon in his last outing. TJ Grant is 3-0 since dropping to lightweight and is coming off a solid victory over Evan Dunham.
#3 Donald Cerrone vs. #6 Jim Miller- Cowboy is 6-1 in the UFC since moving over from the WEC and always puts on a great show. Jim Miller has hit a rough patch, but that is only because he has fought the current champ and the number one contender in 2 of his last 3 bouts. He is still tough, durable, and has a sick submission and wrestling game.
#4 Eddie Alvarez vs #5 Matt Wiman- Could be the best fight of the first round. We all know about Eddie Alvarez, but I always view Matt Wiman as the under-valued, under-appreciated guy that always puts on a show. Wiman is 5-1 in his last 6 bouts, out grappling the scary sick submission artist Paul Sass and tapping him out in his last outing.
Alternate Bout #1 Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson- KB is 2-0 in the UFC and 18-0 overall. He has a sick sambo and striking game and could be the Daniel Cormier of the field, if somebody falls out due to injury. Michael Johnson has a 3-fight winning streak and has been very impressive in his last 2 wins over TUF winner Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo.
Alternate Bout #2 Mark Bocek vs. Rafael Dos Anjos- This fight is already scheduled for November 17th and features 2 tough, durable fighters, that are both on 2-fight winning streaks.
First Round would take place in December and January, kicking off with Maynard vs. Lauzon. Semi-finals will take place in April/May. If there are any injuries, then an alternate will step in for the semi-finals. The finals will then take place in August/September. The winner of the tournament will then get a title shot in November/December 2013. In the event a challenger to the current champion gets hurt in Spring 2013, Joe Silva can pull a semi-finalist out of the tournament and replace the fighter with an alternate to save a card. Thoughts on tournaments in the UFC?