SB Nation lightweight rankings: Benson Henderson- Josh Thomson fallout

Esther Lin

The 155-pound weight class remains one of mixed martial arts' deepest.

But the dynamics at the top have rarely been so bizarre for a division so deep, as most of the top five figures to be out of action for awhile.

First off, of course, there's Anthony Pettis, the UFC's spectacular but injury-prone champion. The unanimous pick for No. 1 in this month's SB Nation poll is expected to be out of action until the summer as he rehabs from a knee injury.

Then there's the former champion, Ben Henderson, who took five of six second-place votes. Henderson, of course, has defeated everyone in his path not named Anthony Pettis. Henderson sunk Josh Thomson's UFC title hopes with a questionable decision at UFC on FOX 10 on Jan. 25. You can't blame Henderson, who fights hard and is among the sport's most well-rounded fighters, for the fact judges always see things his way. But the way his string of bouts have panned out, he's going to be locked into the No. 2 spot for a long time to come.

In third is Melendez, the former longtime Strikeforce champion, whose UFC contract has expired, which helps explain in part why the expected UFC 170 fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov isn't going to happen. Melendez clocks at third this month after taking five third-place votes.

Thomson, the other former Strikeforce champ in the mix, actually went up a spot to No. 4 in the wake of the split decision to Henderson that many felt "The Punk" should have won. But Thomson is nursing a broken hand and, at least in the fight's immediate aftermath, was pondering his future in the spot.

And fifth-place T.J. Grant, unfortunately, continues to struggle in his return from the concussion that caused him to have to drop out from his title shot.

So that leaves us with a top five that isn't going to show much in the way of movement any time soon. On the plus side, Eddie Alvarez, who re-appeared in the rankings at No. 6 after his thrilling Bellator title rematch win over No. 10 Michael Chandler, is destined for a trilogy fight with his rival.

Other than that? Well, hey, No. 11 Donald Cerrone says he wants to fight six times this year, which at this pace could be as often as the top five fighters compete combined.

(Scoring: Fighters are given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The results are then tallied up and presented here. Official SB Nation rankings policy: Fighters under commission or company suspension are ineligible to be ranked during the duration of their suspension or if they have licensing issues. Presently, this does not affect any fighters at lightweight who are generally considered to be Top-10 caliber).


1. Anthony Pettis (17-2, 60 points): With no obvious next fight on tap, Dana White has indicated the UFC will take a wait-and-see approach before determining the next No. 1 contender.

2. Ben Henderson (20-3, 53 points): At what point does Henderson, who isn't exactly the smallest 155er out there, ponder whether a move to welterweight might make more sense in the long run?

3. Gilbert Melendez (22-3, 47 points): Assuming a new contract gets done (and where else but the UFC is he realistically going to go?), he's in an interesting spot: It's a bit too soon for another title shot. Does he angle for a fourth fight with Thomson, or does his hand get forced to face an up-and-comer like dos Rafael dos Anjos or Khabib Nurmagomedov?

4. Josh Thomson (20-6, 1 no-contest, 36 points): Here's guessing Thomson was speaking from emotion when he said he might be done with his MMA career, especially given he comes out of the Henderson fight with solid options for another big fight.

5. TJ Grant (21-5, 33 points): Nothing new to report. Best wishes to Grant as he continues to recover from his injury.

6. Eddie Alvarez (25-3, 25 points): Alvarez's absence from this list was a reflection on his inactivity, not his talent level.

7. Rafael dos Anjos (20-6, 19 points): The winner of five straight, dos Anjos has an interesting UFC 170 matchup with Rustam Khabilov, who has won six in a row and three in the UFC.

8t. Nate Diaz (17-9, 18 points): Diaz's recent Twitter rants have all but obscured the fact his pinpoint finish of Gray Maynard in December was his most impressive performance in quite some time.

8t. Khabib Nurmagomedov (20-0, 18 points): The guy no one wants to fight is still waiting for his next opponent.

10. Michael Chandler (12-1, 16 points): Locked into a long-term Bellator contract, a rubber match with Alvarez could very well go down as his biggest career fight.

Others receiving votes: Donald Cerrone 3, Gray Maynard 1, Jim Miller 1.

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