This weekend’s headlining fight at UFC 144 between lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and top challenger Benson Henderson is both a blessing and a curse for the Zuffa brass. While the bout is unquestionably ripe with potential in terms of entertainment value it will also leave the UFC without a clear-cut contender to the title meaning the man who emerges victorious in Saitama Super Arena will have at least six months to wait before seeing action again.

The truth is, save for the possibility of the powers that be changing course and bringing Strikeforce title-holder Gilbert Melendez over, there are currently no challengers for the UFC’s belt who make sense as far as actual in-ring success and availability go.

Joe Lauzon has expressed his belief he could be in line for a title-shot if he beats Anthony Pettis in convincing fashion on Saturday night but let’s be realistic. Lauzon, while incredibly talented and potentially on a nice run with wins over Pettis/Melvin Guillard, would still be 4-2 in his last six fights with the other two victories involving Gabe Ruediger/Curt Warburton. Not exactly the resume of a legitimate threat to the champion or PPV draw, though one that could certainly be “easily” improved with two more instances of success against savvy adversaries.

Nate Diaz and Jim Miller are set to scrap but not until May meaning August/September would mark the earliest month the winner could compete in. Diaz, the more marketable of the two, would be the better suited option but seeing his hand raised on FOX is far from a guarantee given Miller’s arsenal on the ground and underrated stand-up. Meanwhile, Miller would only be two fights removed from a loss to Henderson so he could make things extremely messy if he beats Diaz because he wouldn’t be a believable contender based on the minimal nature of his winning streak.

After those three it’s a crapshoot with Pettis being a single fight removed from a loss to Clay Guida, Guida coming off a stumble against Henderson, Gray Maynard not having fought since being beaten by Edgar, and so on. There are other lesser-known fighters like Edson Barboza or even Tony Ferguson out there too but they already have fights on the horizon and need a few more wins to be considered for a marquee match-up as a title-fight is.

All that being said, make sure to watch the main event at UFC 144 very closely, even recording it if you have the means, because it will be the last time the lightweight strap is on display until the final quarter of 2012.

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