The Lineal Champion is an idea first coined in boxing. It simply means, the true champion is the man who beat the last champion. In professional fight sports a champion can “lose” his belt because the promoter or sanctioning body strips him of the belt. In these instances the champ was never defeated in the ring, so the Lineal title follows his wins or losses. Sometimes this leads to some interesting Lineal Champions.
The original UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver won the belt by defeating Caol Uno at UFC 30 on February 23, 2001. He defended the title two times defeating Dennis Hallman and B.J. Penn. Jens then had a contract dispute with the UFC and left the promotion. Pulver was stripped of the title but he is still the Lineal Lightweight Champion. Pulver defends the Lineal title two more times until he meets Duane “Bang” Ludwig on January 25, 2003.
Ludwig defeats Pulver by KO and becomes the Lineal Champion. Ludwig’s next fight was a win over Genki Sudo. Here is where the Lineal Title takes a strange turn. Ludwig loses to B.J. Penn, but this fight is at welterweight. So, if we follow the Lineal Champion idea that, the champ is the man who beats the champ, then Penn is now the Lightweight Lineal Champion. Let’s follow this line for a bit.
Penn is now the Lineal Champion. His next fight is a middleweight fight against Rodrigo Gracie, which he wins. B.J. then tangles with “The Dragon” Lyoto Machida. This fight was an open weight match, that Machida won by decision. The Dragon is now the Lineal Lightweight Champion even though he weighed 225lbs.
Machida has been the most successful lineal champ with ten defenses. Lyoto lost the Lineal title, and his actual Light heavyweight title, to Mauricio Rua at UFC 113 on May 8, 2010. Rua was unable to successfully defend his titles and lost his next fight to Jon Jones. Jon Jones is the Lineal Lightweight Champion. However, if you believe the Lineal Championship can only pass in Lightweight fights, the title takes a different road.
Duane Ludwig was the Lineal Champ and moved to welterweight when he lost to Penn. He fought at welterweight three times before returning to lightweight. So, if the Lightweight Title can only pass in LW fights, it was Tyson Griffen who became the new Lineal Champ on June 9, 2006. Griffen had one win in defense of the title. He lost it to Frankie Edgar on February 3, 2007 at UFC 67.
Edgar defended the Lineal Title twice but lost it to Gray Maynard on April 2, 2008 at UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Lauzon. The Bully would defend the “Title” six times (one being a draw). Maynard lost the Lineal Championship to Frankie Edgar at UFC 136 on October 8, 2011. This fight would also finally unify the Lineal Lightweight Title with the actual UFC Lightweight Title. Frankie Edgar was now the “undisputed” UFC Lightweight Champion. Edgar then lost the belt to Benson Henderson at UFC 144. Benson Henderson is now the Undisputed Lightweight Champion.
Who is the true Lineal Champion?
Jon Jones (82 votes)
Benson Henderson (167 votes)
249 total votes