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Lightweight Rankings: Ben Henderson's Unprecedented Run

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson has won 15 of his past 16 bouts.

No other fighter who has held the UFC lightweight title can claim such a run against 155-pound competition: Not Jens Pulver, not B.J. Penn, not Frankie Edgar. Sean Sherk only lost one of his first 32 career fights (30-1-1), but that was mainly done at welterweight. The only lightweight (161-pound) champ in PRIDE history, Takanori Gomi, won his first 14 career bouts en route to the Shooto 154-pound title before dropping his next two fights. He went on another 14-1 (1 no-contest) run in his prime, but never quite matched Henderson's run.

So while Henderson's split-decision in a razor-close fight with Frankie Edgar remains a subject of debate, there's no denying what Henderson has accomplished in mixed martial arts' deepest division. The champ is 10-1 since entering Zuffa, 6-1 against fighters currently ranked in the divisional top 10. Even BenHen's biggest detractors have to tip their hat to what the current UFC and former WEC champ has achieved.

As the man who got the wrong end of the decision on Saturday, for all the respect Frank Edgar has rightly earned, the fact is, wins, losses and draws matter when you're compiling rankings.

If a college football team played four games against top-ranked teams and only won once, would that team be ranked in the top three simply because they came really, really close in all their games? Highly unlikely, even if said team was on the wrong end of a bad call by the officials.

Likewise, Edgar has stepped into the Octagon four times in the past two years and has emerged the victor once. Most other fighters would be dropped out of their division's top 10 with such a record. In Edgar's case, you acknowledge his elite level of competition and the razor-thin margins as mitigating factors and keep him in the top five. But whether you get the W at the end of the night is the bottom line, and while Edgar's loss was debatable, it wasn't a Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley-type robbery. At some point, the won/loss/draw record in recent fights begin to outweigh the "what ifs."

Official policy: Fighters under commission suspension are ineligible to be ranked for the duration of their suspensions.

Fighter's ranking last time out is noted in parentheses.

1. Ben Henderson (1): No rest for the weary with Nate Diaz up next.

2. Gilbert Melendez (2): If Zuffa can step up and get Frank Mir to fight Daniel Cormier, then they need to find a way to get Melendez a top-notch opponent.

3. Nate Diaz (4): He's 3-0 in the past 10 months since dropping down to lightweight, including a masterful finish of the previously unfinishable Jim Miller.

4. Frankie Edgar (3): The big question: Will he stay at 155 or drop to 145?

5. Gray Maynard (5): Doubled down and found a way to take a decision from an opponent who was looking to avoid contact in Clay Guida.

6. Donald Cerrone (NR) Two convincing wins since the last time the lightweight rankings were compiled give him eight victories in his past nine fights.

7. Anthony Pettis (7): Has a chance to make a high-profile statement when he meets Cerrone.

8. Clay Guida (6): Let's hope the real Clay Guida buried Impostor Guida somewhere in the desert.

9. Jim Miller (8) No fight set, still healing ankle after May loss to Nate Diaz.

10. Michael Chandler (9) Bout with tourney winner Rick Hawn is next for unbeaten Bellator champ.

Honorable mention: Joe Lauzon, Eddie Alvarez, Shinya Aoki, Pat Healy, Jamie Varner.

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