|20||Jorge Masvidal||21||G-Force Fights||20|
|23||Luis Palomino||16||G-Force Fights||19|
Rankings compiled by Richard Wade.
Another month, another four weeks of #1 B.J. Penn ruling over the lightweight division like a restless prince upon whom the crown weighs heavy.
He'll test himself against #7 Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 in April. As talented as Edgar is, few expect the upset here.
But before that, it's possible that Penn's next challenger will emerge from UFN 21 in March. That is IF #13 Takanori Gomi beats #4 Kenny Florian and instantly emerges as someone the UFC thinks they can market. Honestly, I think the Gomi push has less to do with the UFC's plans in Japan as it serves as a fix for Dana White and Joe Silva's endless thirst to prove their boys are better than the PRIDE fighters. A Florian win will only prolong KenFlo's Rich Franklin-esque time in the wilderness.
The most compelling lightweight fight on the horizon is easily the Strikeforce title fight between #2 Shinya Aoki, the DREAM champ, and #8 Gilbert Melendez in his first title defense at Strikeforce Nashville on CBS in April. With wins over #3 Eddie Alvarez, #18 Joachim Hansen, and #19 Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante, Aoki has emerged as the standard bearer for the DREAM lightweights. If he gets past Melendez, only #6 Tatsuya Kawajiri, and the unranked K.J. Noons will remain for him outside the UFC.
But that's not meant to sell Melendez short. His mix of boxing and wrestling (and defensive jiu jitsu acumen) is a formidable challenge for Aoki, particularly in a cage, particularly with grappling pants banned in the States. If Melendez wins, the Strikeforce/DREAM partnership should bear fruit in a series of interesting title defenses for the Californian.
Alvarez will have to settle for a May Bellator non-title fight against UFC cast off Josh Neer. Bellator's second season LW tourny features Roger Huerta, but not, as expected, #20 Jorge Masvidal. I'm very interested to see how long Alvarez remains with Bellator. It's been lucrative and relatively high profile for him so far, but it threatens to keep him outside the mainstream of the division for some time.
Based on the premise that all MMA rankings are subjective but that it’s still useful and informative to know who the online MMA community as a whole ranks as the best fighters in MMA, we collect and average the rankings of the top MMA websites to produce our consensus rankings. We compile the top MMA rankings from each of our sources and award 25 points for a first place ranking, 16 for a 10th place ranking, 1 for a 25th place ranking. A formula is used to "normalize" the data so all fighters are awarded points from those lists that do not include a full 25 fighters. This formula ensures that each ranking site awards the same number of total points regardless of how many fighters they choose to rank. Each fighter’s total is divided by the number of possible points to determine their standing in the Consensus Rankings.USAT/SBN March MMA Consensus Rankings: Heavyweight