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Fun With Rankings: Lightweights

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Lightweight

411 Mania Sherdog MMA Weekly Irish Whip
Takanori Gomi Takanori Gomi Takanori Gomi Takanori Gomi
Hayato "Mach" Sakurai Gilbert Melendez Hayato "Mach" Sakurai Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto
BJ Penn Tatsuya Kawajiri Gilbert Melendez Hayato "Mach" Sakurai
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro Tatsuya Kawajiri Joachim Hansen
Gilbert Melendez Sean Sherk Shinya Aoki Sean Sherk
Tatsuya Kawajiri Mitsuhiro Ishida Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro
Shinya Aoki Joachim Hansen Joachim Hansen Jens Pulver
Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro Marcus Aurelio Mitsuhiro Ishida Hermes Franca
Joachim Hansen Gesias "JZ" Calvancanti Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto Gilbert Melendez
Sean Sherk B.J. Penn Joe Stevenson Mitsuhiro Ishida

As I've said before, this division is the most jacked up of all. UFC putting it on hiatus from 2003 to 2006 is the biggest culprit. It's also the division where the Japanese fighters are the strongest.

Everyone agrees about Gomi being #1. But I have to strongly disagree for three reasons: 1) Gomi insists on fighting at 160lbs instead of cutting down to 155. 2) He's notorious for non-title fights, like his 2006 loss to Marcus Aurelio and his 2007 NC to Nick Diaz. 3) The aforementioned Nick Diaz.

Everyone agrees that Sakurai is top 3, except Sherdog which ranks him at welterweight. I really think Sakurai would have a hard time making 155. He, Nick Diaz, Shinya Aoki and Gomi are a pretty good argument for carving out a 160lb class. But does that entail making the 155 division 150 and 145 down to 140? Regardless, I expect Mach to fight in the UFC at welterweight. We'll see how he does. It definitely hurt Diaz in the UFC.

Most everyone has Diaz' Cesar Gracie colleague Gilbert Melendez near the top, but IW has him all the way down at 9. I guess their argument is that Tatsuya Kawajiri is the only top fighter he's beaten and that was a split decision AND they don't even rank "Crusher" Kawajiri in their top 10. Crusher ranks no lower than 6 on any other list. Honestly, Ribeiro is his only really impressive win, if you don't count a DQ over Hansen.

Of the UFC talent pool -- Sherk and B.J. are only ranked by 411 and Sherdog. MMA Weekly must be accounting for Sherk's suspension because they've got Joe "Daddy" Stevenson at 10 and IW inexplicably has Pulver at 7 and Franca at 8.

"Hellboy" Hansen is on everybody's list but only top 5 for IW. Ribeiro makes everyone's list with most having him in the 4 to 6 range. Mitsuhiro Ishida makes the bottom half of 3/4 of the lists but Shinya Aoki only makes 411 and MMA Weekly, the others have him at Welterweight.

Kid Yamamoto makes everyone's list but Sherdog's. I think they've got him in limbo while he tries other sports. Hard to believe that Aurelio only makes one list. Same for "JZ" Calvancanti.

Geez this division is a mess! I'm breathing heavy just from doing all this typing.

Of the 16(!) fighters listed, Zuffa has only a pathetic 5 signed -- and that includes two (Sherk & Franca) looking at 12 months suspension and one (Sakurai) who will likely fight at 170. Marcus Aurelio is the only PRIDE lightweight they've added since buying PRIDE.

Kawajiri has said he'd love to fight stateside in the cage, as has Hansen but they're both in limbo. Gomi is likely to sign with K-1. He'll be joining a stacked roster that includes Ribeiro and Calvancanti ( who will be fighting in the next round of the K-1 Heros 154lb tournament ) as well as former Olympic wrestler Kazuyuki Miyata, UFC veteran Caol Uno, and Alexandre Franca Nogueira. Melendez is going to be fighting for Strikeforce, but I'll be interested to see where he goes long term.

Honestly I think the UFC's best fighters at 155 -- Penn, Sherk -- could beat any 155 (or 160) pounder in the world. And the UFC 155 division is so stacked with up and coming talent -- Griffin, Edgar, Stevenson, Huerta, Aurelio, Guida -- that I can see why they've been slow to sign up the PRIDE guys.

Nevertheless, I'll be very happy if they ever do the right thing and bring in Crusher and Hellboy to fight in the Octagon. I've put a couple of fight videos from Japan in the extended entry. Check it out if you're not hip to the scene.

Gomi vs Crusher Kawajiri, classic sprawl and brawl slugfest.

Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro vs Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen from 2003, a little long and pretty technical, but I enjoyed it. Good lazy summer afternoon fight to watch. Get some ice tea and enjoy some skillz.