For many fans, the idea that the upper echelon of the UFC's lightweight division would be in disarray following Saturday's UFC 112 main event title showdown was unfathomable. After all, B.J. Penn was going to repel and destroy any and all comers to his belt, and most fans, including myself, didn't give Edgar much of a chance against Penn.
Surprisingly enough, Edgar was able to be competitive, quickly move in and out, and work at a pace that gave him a positive outcome to the fight. Sure, I'm not in the group of fans who agree with the scoring of the bout nor do I actually believe Frankie Edgar won the fight, but I can rationally say that Edgar was so close to achieving that goal that I can't fault a judge for scoring it slightly in his favor. Crosby's scoring of the fight is a different argument for another time.
The focus following the change in the titleholder at UFC 112 now turns to matchmaker Joe Silva. Who will Frankie Edgar battle in his first title defense, and what's the plan for B.J. Penn in returning to the top spot in the division?
The most obvious answer is that the consensus #2 lightweight in the UFC, Kenny Florian, gains the contention spot while Gray Maynard battles B.J. Penn. Some would probably argue that Maynard's dominant victory over Frankie Edgar back at UFC Fight Night 13 should give some credence to the potential for Maynard to move up from his current place in the division, but I'm going to believe that Dana White is probably a bit perturbed from the style and past performances from Maynard.
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard is always a possibility as it would give Maynard a chance to prove he belongs the shot against a fighter he's defeated in the past, and it would solidify Kenny, without any question, that he is the next challenger. Of course, the UFC could simply say Kenny is in the position already, and I fully expect that to happen.
Penn is probably going to be the more interesting topic however. Edgar was viewed by many fans as having the footwork and boxing to be a threat against Penn, but almost nobody feels that anybody below the top three lightweights in the division stand a chance against Penn. With improvement, I think fans would feel Florian could potentially give Penn some problems, but is there anyone left in the division to challenge him at this point?
If the UFC pushes Florian into a challenger role immediately, Penn will probably draw Maynard. If the UFC feels a contention showdown is valid between Maynard and Florian, Penn will probably battle someone like Jim Miller, Tyson Griffin down the road, or if the UFC is feeling really generous -- Takanori Gomi.
While most of those names offer the always dangerous wrestling pedigree that puts Penn on the defensive, none of those fighters can compete with Penn's power and striking. The UFC could benefit from these blowout battles, and it wouldn't surprise me if that's the route they take while Kenny and Edgar battle at the top.
Is anyone in the boat that Penn fights for contention immediately? Florian vs. Penn II sound good? A lot of fans didn't like the outcome of Edgar vs. Penn, but these types of upsets certainly bring a lot of discussion and intrigue to future match-ups. Going from what we expected to a completely unexpected scenario does have its appeal for fight fans.