Jose Aldo successfully defended his UFC featherweight championship against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169, and talk at the post-fight press conference immediately shifted to a potential lightweight title fight against Anthony Pettis.
|Champion||Jose Aldo||24-1||Win vs. Ricardo Lamas (Decision)|
|1||Chad Mendes||16-1||Win vs. Nik Lentz (Decision)|
|2||Frankie Edgar||16-4-1||Win vs. Charles Oliveira (Decision)|
|3||Ricardo Lamas||13-3||Loss vs. Jose Aldo (Decision)|
|4||Cub Swanson||20-5||Win vs. Dennis Siver (TKO, Third Round)|
|5||Chan Sung Jung||13-4||Loss vs. Jose Aldo (TKO Fourth Round|
Chad Mendes is the No. 1 ranked contender in the division, and he is next in line regardless of if Aldo moves up or not. That makes his appearance in the hypothetical fight for the vacant belt a no brainer. Mendes has done everything to earn another shot at the gold.
Frankie Edgar is scheduled to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter alongside BJ Penn. That takes him out of the running due to scheduling conflicts, but it could make their featherweight encounter a potential title eliminator.
That leaves Ricardo Lamas, Swanson and Chan Sung Jung as the likely candidates for the second slot.
Lamas and The Korean Zombie are both coming off losses in title bouts.
Lamas has never been able to excite the MMA fans enough for him to leapfrog anyone, and after his loss at UFC 169, he will need a few wins before getting another shot at the featherweight title. The Korean Zombie, on the other hand, has shown the ability to get the crowd behind him.
However, with his time away from the cage—and coming off a loss—it is not the best for business for the UFC to select him to go opposite Mendes.
Swanson is the right choice.
The Jackson's MMA featherweight is on a five-fight win streak with four TKO/KO finishes in that run. Moreover, Swanson is a charismatic personality that can connect with the fans better than his competition for this spot.
Also, Mendes and Swanson are the only two contenders ranked in the top five on winning streaks.
A Mendes vs. Swanson fight would be a rematch of a meeting between the two in 2010 during their WEC tenure. Mendes took that fight by unanimous decision, but that fight is in the distant past now.
The two featherweight title contenders are vastly improved since that time. They have continued to develop their MMA skills, and they have shown a propensity to finish fights in recent times. It makes the rematch an exciting matchup.
This is the best fight the UFC could promote for a vacant title with Edgar tied up with other duties.
Of the top-five ranked fighters, these are the only two who make sense in the current landscape of the UFC. Mendes vs. Swanson is the right choice, and should Aldo make the move to lightweight, the UFC should jump to finalize this title bout.