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We've waited long enough for the UFC Lightweight Championship picture to sort itself out — the time is right for an interim title.
Regardless of what people think about Clay Guida's grinding ground game, the fact remains that he effectively shut down and pummeled the former WEC Lightweight Champion. Of course, this is familiar ground for Guida, who often glimpses a chance at title contention before falling prey to tough competition. This time, Guida's pulled off a 4-0 run against steadily increasing competition, which is his longest winning streak since joining the UFC. Everyone's debating whether Guida's ready for a title shot, and he definitely is — but so is Jim Miller.
As MMA Fighting reported, Dana White hasn't forgotten Miller's place in the lightweight division, and as far as he's concerned, the New Jersey wrecking machine is more worthy of a title shot:
Clay Guida defeated former No. 1 contender Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision at Saturday's TUF 13 Finale, but according to UFC president Dana White, the dominant win didn't help "The Carpenter" secure a lightweight title shot.
White told MMA Fighting on Saturday that Jim Miller "is still ahead of [Guida]" in the organization's lightweight rankings despite Guida's win on Saturday night.
In that case, there's an easy solution to what Matt Erickson calls the "UFC lightweight logjam," and it's a simple three-step process.
1. Have Clay Guida Fight the Winner of the Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson Match for the Interim UFC Lightweight Championship.
Even though Jim Miller shouldn't be fighting Ben Henderson (the gap in rankings between the two alone is cause enough to raise an eyebrow), the fact remains that Henderson is coming off a dominant, exciting win over Canadian submission machine Mark Bocek. If Miller wins, he continues his reassertion that he's the best fighter in the division not named Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard. If Henderson wins, it revalidates the "Top 10" status that he barely earned after narrowly ripping the Interim WEC Lightweight Championship away from Donald Cerrone, beating up Jamie Varner for the lineal strap, and defeating Cerrone again in a short rematch.
Bottom line, a win for either fighter is definitely a solid case for them as the #1 contender to the title. Provided that both of them come out the fight healthy — and lightweight fighters have a habit of quick recovery times — the winner should be fighting Guida for an interim championship. Everyone's waited for ages, and no one's getting any younger.
2. Get Edgar/Maynard III Done Before the Year’s Out.
With Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard injured, a Guida vs. Miller/Henderson fight will provide just enough time for the top two lightweights to recover and settle their trilogy.
3. Winner of Miller/Henderson vs. Clay Guida Fights the Winner of Edgar/Maynard III for the Undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship.
If all the stars align, the stage will then be set for the Interim UFC Lightweight Champion to fight the lineal UFC Lightweight Champion. In effect, the top five positions in the division will then be figured out, and the title picture should be cleared up before 2012 is halfway over. And to boot, the losers in each of these fights can match up with each other to figure out who’s getting the next shot, and who’s going back to the start of the line.
Even by Dana White’s own logic, this plan makes the most sense right now:
The only time we do an interim title is when we’re unsure how long a guy’s gonna be out and the guy that we don’t want to strip, you know, he’s got something unfortunate that happens to him. You know, we don’t just throw interim titles out there just because somebody broke their hand or something.
If that’s the case, it’s pretty clear that there’s no time like the present — unless someone else gets injured.
[McKinley Noble is a staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]