With Chad "Money" Mendes and Dustin Poirier's electrifying wins this past saturday night at UFC 164, the UFC Featherweight division is more convoluted and exciting than ever. Mix in the possibility of the new lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, fighting Jose Aldo, and you have got yourself a mess! Today, I attempt to clear up the division and see what is next for the top tier.
Chad Mendes- Chad has beaten the who's who of the Featherweight division. Having won his last 4 fights by KO, including stopping Clay Guida and Darren Elkins, Chad would seem to be the logical contender for the title. The problem is that Chad is a little over a year and a half away from being kneed in the face by Aldo in stunning and brilliant fashion and the UFC seems reluctant to putting him back into the title shot. Also, beating the likes of Yaotzin Meza and Cody McKenzie are no doubt stifling Chad's opportunities to get back in a title fight. Although I believe he is no doubt the second best fighter in the division, I see him fighting Ricardo Lamas for the #1 contender shot.
Ricardo Lamas- Lamas may be in the strangest position of all the fighters on this list. Lamas has been plagued by injuries and just plain bad luck. After defeating Cub Swanson(in a fight he was arguably losing before getting the sub), he decisioned Hatsu Hioki, and then TKO'd Erik Koch on FOX in January. He was then pulled from his fight with the Korean Zombie after TKZ was slated to replace the injured Anthony Pettis to fight Aldo. Lamas has been inactive for too long to allow the UFC to market him properly for a title fight against Aldo. I say he fights as a co-main or main event on a free show against Chad Mendes. If Lamas wins, then his title shot should be waiting.
Frankie Edgar- Edgar is seemingly always one fight away from being in a title fight. I hope the UFC does not rush him back into a rematch with Aldo so soon. His fight with Oliveira was an exciting scrap, but the finish was really needed as a statement. He didn't get it, and therefore I believe he fights Cub Swanson next. I still believe that if Edgar were to beat Cub, he would need another marquee victory before getting another shot at Aldo.
Cub Swanson- Cub has been on an absolute tear in the Featherweight division racking off 5 straight wins against formidable opponents and looking better each and every time. Cub's issue is that he has fought, and lost, to the two best Featherweights in the division in Aldo and Mendes. Albeit, those two losses came in the WEC. His report card is also hindered by the Lamas loss and it would be almost inexcusable to put him into a title fight before Lamas. Although, that has not stopped the UFC before. The most logical fight for Cub would be Chan Sung Jung, but his injuries may make this fight improbable. I see Frankie Edgar being called up to see if Cub can handle a great wrestler.
Dustin Poirier- Poirier looked fantastic in his fight this past weekend against Koch. He showed true warrior's spirit and heart in that fight and it is easy to see why he is a fan favorite. He is in a strange position since his loss to Cub has him looking from the outside in. Although a rematch with Chan Sung Jung would be incredible, I think he fights Darren Elkins next.
Erik Koch- Simply put, Koch needs to get back in the win column after losing two straight. I see him fighting a top guy coming off a loss, and that person will likely be Denis Siver or Clay Guida.
The Featherweight division is full of exciting prospects, contenders, and marquee fights. The top of the heap is quite crowded and fights need to happen to clear the air. I honestly do not think it would be so terrible for Pettis and Aldo to scrap while the rest of the division figures itself out. As for the Lightweights, well that's for my next article!