Tyson Griffin’s climb to a lightweight title shot was coming along nicely following his technical knockout victory over Hermes Franca at UFC 103. The win was his second in a row, including a unanimous decision victory over Rafael dos Anjos, and his sixth in seven fights.
On the preliminary card of UFC 115, Griffin faced off against former training partner at Xtreme Couture Evan Dunham, looking to take another big step to the top of UFC lightweight contention. However, Dunham took control of the fight early and often, utilizing his sharp jiu-jitsu to counteract the wrestler. Griffin failed in his efforts to defeat Dunham and the lightweight felt the cold of another loss that derailed his run towards lightweight glory.
Following the loss, Griffin appeared eager to step back into the cage, and earned the opportunity when Takanori Gomi’s opponent for “UFC on Versus 2” was forced out of the fight. Griffin jumped at the opportunity and now he stands just one week away from yet another fight to reignite a run at the title.
Gomi, a superstar overseas, was once one of the most dominant lightweight fighters on the planet. Now, however, those days are long past, and Griffin finds himself up against an opponent searching for relevancy after falling on hard times in recent years.
Yet as important as this bout may be to the fading Gomi, it is also extremely important for Griffin.
The Xtreme Couture product has always been one of the division’s top competitors, sitting at 7-3 as a lightweight in the promotion. However, he has consistently failed to break through into the highest echelon of the division, as losses to Sean Sherk and Frankie Edgar have proven, and it is beginning to become a lingering question as to whether or not Griffin has what it takes to compete at the absolute highest level of the 155-pound weight class.
No, it is not the biggest question in the recently turned competitive division, but it is one worth asking nonetheless. Griffin has had several opportunities to build upon solid winning streaks when faced up against the division’s top guys, but, time and time again, he has failed to earn victories over the division’s best.
He does hold wins over the likes of Gleison Tibau and Clay Guida, but looking through his list of victories, it is difficult to find one that really makes you stop and think that this guy can certainly make a run in the division. Ironically enough, he is still considered by many one of the top fighters in the division.
No, I am not saying that Griffin is not one of the better fighters at 155, nor am I saying that a loss would earn him a one way ticket out of the UFC, but for a man considered one of the better lightweights in the promotion, isn’t it about time for him to pick up a win over a big name?
Unfortunately, Takanori Gomi is not exactly at the highest point in his career. I mean, let’s be honest. A win over the former PRIDE champion would not exactly be the type of victory to make me believe he could legitimately defeat divisional top dogs Kenny Florian, BJ Penn, or Frankie Edgar.
Yet, a win over Gomi this Sunday is a must for Griffin. He is still relatively young in a sport that is rather unfriendly to its aging veterans, but time doesn’t stop for anyone. And Griffin certainly does not want to follow in the footsteps of so many who break into their 30’s and look back questioning “what if”.
Griffin once again finds himself a few rungs down on the lightweight division’s ladder. Fortunately for him, he takes care of business the majority of the time and has not lost to anyone he should not have lost to. His fight with Gomi this weekend is an opportunity for the lightweight to jump back up in the division and earn a shot against another viable contender and, potentially, make a legitimate run at the title.
However, if he fails to earn a big win in the near future, the question surrounding his legitimacy as a potential contender will grow, and the climb up the 155-pound ladder is going to continue growing longer.