On February 26 in Japan UFC champion Frankie Edgar will defend his lightweight title against Ben Henderson. Ben Henderson earned the top contender spot by defeating Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida. Most people felt that Henderson earned his title shot and he stood out as the most worthy of the UFC lightweights to challenge the champion.
The question at hand is, who’s next? There have been a host of fighters who have risen to the brink of a title shot and then lost before they could cement that opportunity. Melvin Guillard was one win away from a title shot before he lost to Joe Lauzon. Jim Miller was one win away before he lost to Ben Henderson. Clay Guida, Dennis Siver, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis and George Sotiropolous were all close to a title shot as well.
My suggestion is that Nate Diaz is the most worthy candidate to fight for the UFC lightweight title. I am not saying that Nate Diaz is the best UFC lightweight, but he is the best positioned. Diaz has a solid resume. He is the winner of the Ultimate Fighter, which from a marketing stand point helps his case. He has several good wins in the UFC. The fights Diaz lost at lightweight to highly ranked Gray Maynard and Clay Guida were razor thin decisions. Plus, Diaz has looked excellent in his last two outings.
Some would argue that a two fight winning streak is not enough to warrant a title shot, but there isn’t anyone else at the top of the division who has as good of a resume as Diaz. Some would argue that Diaz should be put in a top contenders bout. Most people would agree that Diaz is close, but how close is he to a title shot? The question really has to be, if not Diaz, who? Or perhaps does Diaz get an immediate title shot or does he need to fight for the top contender spot. Timing may dictate the answer. If Diaz were to wait for a title shot he would be on the shelf for a while.
It is plausible that the UFC would match Diaz against the winner of the Terry Etim vs. Edson Barboza fight. It is also possible that the Melvin Guillard vs. Jim Miller winner could fight Diaz for the top contender label. There really aren’t many other options out there. Perhaps the Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis winner would be well positioned. Sean Sherk is still in the discussion. However, none sits better than Nate Diaz.
My suggestion is give Nate Diaz the winner of Edgar vs. Henderson and at the same time set up another top contender match. Diaz has the skills to challenge any opponent. He is an interesting style match up for either Edgar or Henderson. He is a well know name and an interesting personality. Most importantly he has momentum.
Personally, I think the best option for a contender is Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, but that doesn’t seem likely. So give the shot to Nate Diaz.