When the judges’ scorecards were read after the main event of UFC 125 between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, there were a bunch of questions to be answered.  Will there be an immediate rematch?  What does this mean for Anthony Pettis?  And most importantly, where do we go from here?

Well, fast forward to August and a lot of these questions have been answered.  We were supposed to have the rematch between Edgar and Maynard at UFC 130, but both fighters had to withdraw from the fight with an injury.  While all of this was going on, the next person in line for a shot at the title was the final WEC lightweight champion, Pettis.  Rather than wait around, “Showtime” decided to take a fight against Clay Guida and it is probably a move that he will regret, as he lost that fight by unanimous decision and lost his No. 1 contender status in the process.

Another new surge in the lightweight division came from the WEC merger into the UFC just before the turn of the new year.  The addition of the WEC roster brought up some big names that are now in the title hunt.  Some people were doubtful about the ability of the WEC lightweights to hang with the UFC fighters, but with Ben Henderson winning two straight UFC fights along with Donald Cerrone victorious in three, those doubts have been silenced.  The UFC announced that the rematch between Maynard and Edgar will take place at UFC 136, and UFC Live 5 shook the division up.  Because of this, now is a better time than ever to break down the promotions lightweight division.

Here is a look at the No. 1 contender for the title, as well as fighters that are eager to fight the winner:

Gray Maynard (10-0-1(1), fought to a draw in last fight)

Current UFC champion Frankie Edgar has lost to only one fighter in his career: Maynard.  This fight took place back in April 2008 and Maynard won by unanimous decision.  The fighters squared off in a rematch on New Year’s Day of 2011, a fight that ended up as a split draw.  “The Bully” flat-out dominated Edgar in the first round, but made the mistake of spending a lot of his energy in that round.  As the bell rang to start round two, it was an uphill climb for Edgar as eventually he won rounds and scored points of his own.  Even though Edgar kept his title with the result of the fight, he still can not say that he has defeated the No. 1 contender.  Due to an immediate rematch, Maynard will get another shot at Edgar’s title in October.

Clay Guida (29-11, four-fight winning streak)

After losing two consecutive fights to round out 2009, Guida has bounced back wonderfully, winning four straight fights.  Most recently, he squared off with Anthony Pettis at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale and took him down in dominating fashion, winning the unanimous decision by a score of 30-27 on all three judges’ cards.  With Pettis, as the guy who was next in line at the title, suffering the loss, it closed the door on his immediate title shot and opened the door for “The Carpenter’s” chance.  The 29-year-old is known for putting on exciting fights, winning Fight of the Night honors four times in his UFC career, which makes it appealing for the UFC to give him a title shot.

For Guida, it appears simple: a fight against Ben Henderson for the No. 1 contender spot.

Ben Henderson (14-2, two-fight winning streak)

Casual fans of MMA finally saw the Ben Henderson that diehard fans have been talking about.  While fighting on the UFC Live 5 card, he manhandled Jim Miller, the man who was likely next in line at the title.  Because of this, “Smooth” has moved up multiple rungs of the lightweight ladder.  Before the fight, people knew him as the guy on the wrong end of the “showtime kick.”  Now, people know him as a dangerous fighter who needs to be recognized.

Henderson should square off against Guida for the No. 1 contender spot.  Both “Smooth” and “The Carpenter” are so close to the title that this fight would be foolish not to make.

Donald Cerrone (16-3, five-fight winning streak)

Albuquerque, N.M., is home to the Jackson’s Submission Fighting camp.  Multiple top mixed martial artists prepare for their battles there and Cerrone is one of the fighters who calls it their home.  The Colorado native has made one of the biggest splashes of any of the former WEC lightweights who were brought over in the merger.  Winning in the WEC was something that was scoffed at by a lot of hardcore UFC fans who claimed that the WEC was an inferior product.  Cerrone shut up those critics by winning three consecutive fights in the UFC and putting his name in the title picture.  Most recently, “The Cowboy” used his fists and earned the first knockout of his career by defeating Charles Oliveria in the first round of their fight.

Cerrone is unfortunately in a tough spot.  A fifth straight victory under the Zuffa banner should be enough to give him the nod at the next crack at the title, but he has Ben Henderson and Clay Guida ahead of him.  Cerrone lost two title fights to Henderson in the WEC, which leaves “The Cowboy” out of the immediate mix.  If he wins his next fight, he will be in fantastic shape for the following title shot.

Dennis Siver (19-7, four-fight winning streak)

Ever since Siver made his return to the Octagon at UFC 93, he has been virtually unstoppable.  In that time, he has gone 7-1 with the lone defeat coming against Ross Pearson.  At UFC 127, George Sotiropoulos was right in the mix for the title, as he was riding an eight-fight winning streak of his own. However, the German derailed the Australian, and propelled himself into the mix.  In his most recent fight, he won a controversial decision against Matt Wiman for his fourth straight victory.  Now he is set to face Sam Stout at UFC 137, which will be as tough of a test as ever.

Siver needs to come out and win against Stout because he has the stench of controversy on him after his last fight.  A victory will make people forget about the loss and realize that Siver is right at the top of the food chain.

Melvin Guillard (29-8-2(1), five-fight winning streak)

A winner of eight of his last nine fights, Guillard is constantly climbing the lightweight ladder.  In his last two fights, Guillard has knocked out his opponent in the first round.  Nineteen of the New Orleans native’s fights have ended by knockout, something that any promotion loves to see.  “The Young Assassin” is scheduled to take on Joe Lauzon at UFC 136, and a victory would propell him into the limelight.

Guillard needs to defeat Lauzon to be right there in the mix. However, that victory won’t be enough for a shot at the title.  He needs to win two straight fights to make a bid at gold.

Jim Miller (20-3, lost last fight)

Up until UFC Live 5, Miller was in great shape to fight for the lightweight strap.  He had been on a seven-fight winning streak and was dominating everyone the promotion put in his way — up until Ben Henderson dominated the New Jersey native en route to a unanimous decision.  With the loss, Miller will drop down the ladder, but because of what he has done since his prior loss at UFC 96, he is still in the top tier.  He will look to re-climb the ladder by returning to his winning ways in his next fight.

Miller lost a lot of ground in the crowded lightweight division, but a victory should put him back on track.  He just needs to concentrate on defeating his next opponent.

Anthony Pettis (13-2, lost last fight)

When Rashad Evans became the No. 1 contender for the UFC light heavyweight division, he waited a long time for the opportunity to fight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.  We all know what happened with that, and Anthony Pettis did not want to go down that path.  The final WEC lightweight champion was guaranteed the next shot at the UFC gold after UFC 125, but as we all know the draw completely threw things awry.  “Showtime” took a fight against Clay Guida in which he lost not only the fight, but the next shot at the belt.  The way he was out-wrestled by Guida in that fight showed that he might not have done well against either Maynard or Edgar, but then again, Pettis came close to several submissions while he was on his back against “The Carpenter.”

Pettis is still in the conversation for the title, but he is two wins away from a true shot.

Sam Stout (17-6-1, two-fight winning streak)

While “Hands of Stone” earned an insane knockout victory over Yves Edwards while fighting on the Spike TV prelims at UFC 131,  the fact that he has only won two straight hurts a little when compared to a lot of these guys who have bigger winning streaks.  However, this does not keep Stout out of the top contenders because he has won four of his last five while taking home three Fight of the Night honors, including in his loss to Jeremy Stephens.  As it was mentioned for Guida, the UFC likes guys who give it their all even in defeat.

Stout is scheduled to take on Dennis Siver at UFC 137 in late October.  A victory here will not give him a title shot, but if the Canadian can beat the German, then he could be one fight away from the title.

Kenny Florian (15-5, won last fight)

You might find it surprising to hear that Florian is in the picture for the lightweight title, as he has recently dropped the additional ten pounds to fight at featherweight.  Florian is currently the No. 1 contender for Jose Aldo’s 145-pound title, but I would not be shocked to see Florian return to lightweight if he cannot defeat Aldo.

If Florian wants to come back to 155 pounds, he would be a couple of fights away from a shot at gold, but he would definitely be considered a contender.

The fighters listed above are right in the mix when talking about the 155-pound title.  The fighters below are just on the fringe of the conversation and still have some work to do before their name can enter the picture.

Nik Lentz (21-3-2(1), no-contest in last fight)

Officially, Lentz has not lost a fight since March 2007.  Officially, the biggest win that Lentz has while fighting for the UFC is a split decision victory over Tyson Griffin.  Griffin has been lackluster and even dropped out of the division.  Lentz needs some quality wins to gain relevancy.
Jeremy Stephens (20-6, two-fight winning streak)

Since joining the UFC, Stephens has not been able to string more than two victories together.  Not only that, but he really does not have any high-profile victories in the process.  He is scheduled to take on Anthony Pettis in his next fight and a victory would greatly help “Lil’ Heathen.”
Gleison Tibau (23-7, two-fight winning streak)

The Brazilian has won the fights he should have and lost to opponents where he was expected to while fighting with the UFC.  At some point, Tibau needs to score an upset.  Winning a fight like that propels you to the next level. Unfortunately, his next opponent, Rafael dos Anjos, is not the guy to fit the bill.  A loss would be devastating, while a victory would only help a little.
Joe Lauzon (20-6, won last fight)

The Boston native has flip-flopped wins and losses in his last four fights, and is looking to break the trend and win his second straight.  Like a lot of the fighters on this level, Lauzon has struggled when faced with solid competition, losing his last two fights to George Sotiropoulos and Sam Stout.  He has showed that he has the necessary skills to win, but they only come out occasionally.  He will need to be on his “A-game” when he squares off against his next opponent, Melvin Guillard.

Ross Pearson (12-4, won last fight)

Winning The Ultimate Fighter 9 slung Pearson into the limelight, but winning three straight promotional fights put his name on the map.  Despite a hiccup against Cole Miller two fights ago, Pearson is back to his winning ways after defeating Spencer Fisher at UFC 127.  If Pearson can win his fight against Edson Barboza at UFC 134, it will make his UFC record a strong 5-1, and it would move him towards the top of the ladder.
John Makdessi (9-0, nine-fight winning streak)

While he isn’t exactly a household name, Makdessi has won every one of his fights including two with the UFC.  Sure, Pat Audinwood and Kyle Watson are not exactly names to brag about beating, but a victory is a victory.  If the 26-year-old wins another fight, then it is time to throw him a high-profile match-up.
Edson Barboza (8-0, eight-fight winning streak)

Just like Makdessi, Barboza has won all of his fights, including his two appearances in the Octagon.  He is scheduled to take on Ross Pearson at UFC 134, and if he wins, then he too deserves a shot at a bigger name in order to prove himself.
Cole Miller (18-5, won last fight)

Although he has been unable to win more than two consecutive fights in the UFC, Miller holds a record of 7-3 while fighting for the promotion.  “Magrinho” has very strong jiu-jitsu and is capable of ending fights with his fists as well.  If Miller is able to finally string some wins together, he could be on his way towards the conversation for the belt.
Jacob Volkmann (13-2, four-fight winning streak)

Ever since he shed the additional 15 pounds to become a lightweight, Volkmann has not lost.  His last fight was against Danny Castillo at UFC Live 5 and he dominated all aspects of the bout.  The only thing that “Christmas” lacks is a big-name opponent on his list of victories.  That last fight qualified him to square off with someone in the top tier, but right now he shouldn’t be considered a top tier fighter.
Takanori Gomi (32-7(1), lost last fight)

Many Japanese fighters have struggled while fighting in American-based promotions.  Whether it is the different rule sets, fighting in a cage rather than a ring, or the different round timings, Gomi has not been successful in the UFC.  “The Fireball Kid” was the only fighter to ever wear the Pride lightweight title, but has gone 1-2 while fighting inside the Octagon.  Gomi is not really fighting for title relevancy when he takes on Nate Diaz at UFC 135, but rather to keep his contract with the promotion.

Photo: Frankie Edgar (l) and Gray Maynard await the judge’s decision at UFC 125: Resolution (Credit: UFC.com)