When Ben Henderson finally meets Gil Melendez on Saturday night, the UFC title will not be the only thing on the line. In lineal terms, there will be a total of 16 different Lightweight titles at stake from various past and present MMA promotions.
For those who are not as familiar with the term, a lineal title considers a championship belt as something that is not bound by promotion, but rather a title that must be won in a fight. Another way to think about it is "The Guy Who Beat the Guy." For example, when Hector Lombard recently left Bellator to sign with the UFC, he was still considered to be the Bellator Middleweight champion. In the Lineal Title world, he did not lose his belt until Tim Boetsch took it from him at UFC 149. After that, Philippou beat Boetsch. Therefore, Philippou is the Bellator MW champion in Lineal terms.
Below is a list of all the Lightweight titles that are at stake Saturday night and how they arrived at their current owners:
History: Pulver > Ludwig > Griffin > Edgar > Maynard > Edgar > Henderson
2. Pride FC
History: Gomi > Aurelio > Ishida > Gomi > Diaz > Noons > Mazvidal > Melendez
History: Melendez > Ishida > Uno > Aoki > Hansen > Aoki > Melendez
History: Guida > Melendez > Thomson > Melendez
History: Schultz > Hirota > Yokota > Kitaoka > Hirota > Aoki > Melendez
History: Noons > Masvidal > Melendez
History: Hansen > Aoki > Melendez
History: Kitaoka > Hirota > Aoki > Melendez
History: Aoki > Melendez
History: Maruyama > Yamazaki > Tokoro > Nakamura > Kotani > Masvidal > Melendez
History: Kohler > Hurley > Ribeiro > Kawajiri > Gomi > Aurelio > Gomi > Diaz > Noons > Masvidal > Melendez
12. K-1 Hero's
History: Cavalcante > Aoki > Hansen > Aoki > Melendez
History: Mishima > Edwards > Hansen > Sakurai > Gomi > Aurelio > Gomi > Diaz > Noons > Masvidal > Melendez
14. Cage Rage
History: Strebendt > Thomson > Edwards > Hansen > Sakurai > Gomi > Aurelio > Gomi > Diaz > Noons > Masvidal > Melendez
15. Ring of Combat
History: Miller > Maynard > Edgar > Henderson
16. Tachi Palace
History: Ruediger > Lauzon > Sotiropoulos > Siver > Cerrone > Diaz > Henderson
- In order to keep these titles in their original weight class, only bouts contested at Lightweight have been included.
- It can also be noted that if you accept the Diaz vs. Gomi fight as a No Contest, the rightful owner of the Pride FC, Deep and Cage Rage lineal titles is Eddie Alvarez.
- The K-1 Hero's title is the 2nd iteration of the belt. The 1st was retired when Kid Yamamoto dropped in weight without ever losing it.
- One conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that although Melendez's 13 lineal titles are impressive, they all can be linked back to 3 important wins in his career: Thomson, Aoki and Masvidal. On the other hand, Henderson has just 3 lineal titles, but they are linked to victories over the likes of Frankie Edgard and Nate Diaz. I'll leave it up to the reader to decide which is more impressive, especially given the controversial nature of Henderson's second win over Edgar and Melendez's close call in his most recent outing against Thomson.
Lineal Title Leaderboard:
1. Gilbert Melendez (13 titles)
2. Bigfoot Silva (11 titles: Includes 3 Openweight belts and the lineal UFC HW belt)
3. Anderson Silva (10 titles)
4. Jon Jones (9 titles)
5. George St. Piere (8 titles)
6. Mighty Mouse (4 titles)
6. Jose Aldo (4 titles)
7. Dominick Cruz (3 titles)
7. Cain Valasquez (3 titles: Includes the Pancrase Openweight belt)
7. Benson Henderson (3 titles)
Nine fighters are tied for eighth place with 2 lineal titles (Konrad, Mousasi, Philippou, Askren, Hendricks, Korean Zombie, Karakhanyan, Moraes, and Rousey)