Top 5 UFC Lightweight Fights of 2013 So Far

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Top 5 UFC lightweight fights so far in 2013

Benson Henderson
Joe Nicholson USA TODAY Sports

With a highly-anticipated rematch set to headline UFC 164 this coming weekend between lightweight champion Benson Henderson and challenger Anthony Pettis, I thought this would be a prime opportunity to take a look at some of the best fights we’ve seen so far this year in the UFC’s stacked 155-pound weight class. Most seem to feel that if the Henderson-Pettis rematch in Milwaukee is anything like their epic first encounter at WEC 53 in 2010, then it could immediately find its way onto this list for year-end honors.

In their first meeting, Pettis brought out his amazing “Showtime” kick in the fifth and final round to earn the thrilling decision victory. It was an instant classic, and the footage of Pettis running up and springboarding off the cage to land a devastating head kick on Henderson in the fight’s final moments was the talk of the MMA world. That clash was a great springboard into the UFC ranks and not surprisingly, both competitors have excelled because of their tremendous talent levels.

Fans are hoping for another terrific encounter between the two this Saturday night. Pettis had been slated to fight featherweight champ Jose Aldo at UFC 163 in Brazil, but withdrew due to an injury. The opportunity for the Henderson rematch arose when T.J. Grant was forced to withdraw due a concussion suffered in training. In examining our top five list, there are blood and guts displays, strong breakout performances and a battle of the division’s elite.

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5. Rafael dos Anjos and Evan Dunham exchange at UFC on FX 8

Rafael dos Anjos
Jason da Silva USA TODAY Sports

This was a hard-fought, extremely close battle that saw the Brazilian fighter dos Anjos earn a unanimous decision win on home soil at UFC on FX 8. Both men had their moments in the 15-minute back-and-forth affair. It was definitely a bout that could have gone either way, and featured a number of spirited and fierce exchanges. While Dunham was on the short end of the scorecards, there were many who felt he deserved a better fate. Dos Anjos cracked the top-10 rankings thanks to his fourth straight win. He faces Donald Cerrone this Wednesday night at UFC Fight Night 27 in what should be another exciting affair.

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4. Josh Thomson celebrates knockout of Nate Diaz at UFC ON FOX 7

Josh Thomson

This was a tremendous performance by Thomson, who’s never looked better than what he did at UFC on Fox 7. Thomson prevented Diaz from getting in a rhythm in the striking department and utilized a devastating head kick and a flurry of punches to seal the deal in round two. It marked the first time that Diaz had ever been stopped via knockout. Thomson showed with the Knockout of the Night performance that he’s a legitimate title threat. He’s been in there with the best dating back to his Strikeforce days, where he was involved in an exciting trilogy against Gilbert Melendez.

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3. T.J. Grant Hammers Gray Maynard at UFC 160

T.J Grant
Gary A. Vasquez USA TODAY Sports

This was a terrific matchup at UFC 160 where the winner was promised a title shot, and it delivered big time in the fireworks department. Maynard, a multiple title challenger, started the fight strong, only to fall prey to Grant’s devastating attack. Maynard was left crumpled in a heap after just two minutes and seven seconds after a barrage of punches and knees from Grant. It was the brutal decisiveness of the finish and the importance of this fight that has it so high on my list. The impressive Knockout of the Night performance earned Grant a title shot at Henderson, but an injury derailed that chance. Hopefully, he will get the winner of this weekend’s title fight at UFC 164 because Grant deserves it.

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2. Pat Healy celebrates UFC 159 victory over Jim Miller

Pat Healy
Brad Penner USA TODAY Sports

This matchup at UFC 159 was an absolute grind fest, with both veterans showing tremendous tenacity. Miller had a very strong opening round and had Healy bloodied. However, the veteran Healy made the most of his return to the UFC after a seven-year absence, finishing Miller in the third round via a rear naked choke. Unfortunately, Healy failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana use and had his hard-earned post-fight bonuses taken away as punishment. The bout was declared a no contest and Healy was also suspended. He will look to make amends for the transgression when he faces surging newcomer Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 165.

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1. Benson Henderson battles Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7

Benson Henderson
Kyle Terada USA TODAY Sports

This was a terrific matchup between two elite fighters at UFC on Fox 7. Both fighters had their moments in this hard-fought five-round affair. It was a showcase of the tremendous skill sets of both fighters, and was a testament to the champion hearts that both possess. In the end, it was Henderson emerging with a razor-thin split decision verdict. He cemented the night by proposing to his girlfriend in the post-fight interview. It was his third successful title defense. Despite the loss for Melendez, it certainly didn’t damage his stock one bit. He has a showdown at UFC 166 against Diego Sanchez.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports