Now that International Fight Week is over, we have a lot to talk about. UFC 200 became the largest event in MMA history, three new champions were crowned, Brock Lesnar won in his return and the UFC was sold for $4 billion. With all the excitement that has taken place over the last week, it is important to take stock and see where the sport stands. Here is the state of the UFC's light heavyweight division.
The weight class was shocked with the removal of Jon Jones from the main event of UFC 200. Facing up to a two-year suspension and a possible ban from the UFC for being a multi-time offender, we may have seen the last of the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world for some time.
This leaves Daniel Cormier sitting pretty at the top of the 205 division. At the moment, all of his biggest threats to take his belt are in the top 5. Having already faced both Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira and Ryan Bader would make interesting match ups for the champ. However, Bader is coming off a loss to Johnson in January and is next set to face Ilir Latifi in September. Also, Teixeira is facing Johnson at UFC 202 and a loss there would be a major setback for the Brazilian.
Johnson and Gustafsson also should not be automatically passed on because DC has beaten them. Johnson has improved a lot since he last fought Cormier for the belt. If he beats Teixeira, it will be his third straight win and second straight against a fighter currently in the top 5, a not-so-easy feat to accomplish. Gustafsson was in an a war against Cormier when they last fought in October. A split decision loss was a tough pill for the Swede to swallow, but he is next fighting Jan Blachowicz and a dominant performance of the unranked fighter could see him back on track for a title shot.
Outside of the top 5, there are still some contenders that could make a run through the division. Ovince Saint Preux last fought Jones for the Interim title. Though he lost, he took the fight short notice against arguably the greatest fighter of all-time and had a respectable showing. If he can secure himself a top 5 matchup and win, he could propel himself into the conversation of who deserves a title shot.
Mauricio Rua could also have a resurrection to his career. The former champion has won two straight fights and is likely to fight a top 10 opponent in his next bout. If he can string two or three more wins together, a fighter with his legacy would definitely earn a shot at the belt.
A dark horse contender in the division is Jimi Manuwa, currently the No. 9 ranked light heavyweight in the world. Though he is 4-2 in the UFC, those two losses were against Johnson and Gustafsson. His main issue is the time he takes between fights. Currently recovering from a ruptured bicep tendon, Manuwa has fought only six times in four years and has not fought since last September. However, if he was to get healthy and finally pick up a win against a top 5 fighter, he could likely get a title shot down the road.
The light heavyweight division is defined by "What ifs?" and hypotheticals. What if Jones never returns to the UFC? What if Johnson beats Teixeira? What if Rua can revive his career? Can OSP beat the division's elite? What if the division can stay healthy? All of these questions lead to uncertainty moving forward with the 205-pound division.
Cormier has been one of the most dominant fighters in the sport, only losing to Jones in his eight fights in the UFC in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight division. However, he is 37 years old and time will eventually catch up to him. And with hungry challengers like Johnson and Gustafsson who want to avenge their losses, he will have to stay on his game to retain the belt.
The weight class is full of fighters who are arguably one or two fights away from a title shot. It all depends on who the UFC wants to throw a bone to first.
(Image via MMAWeekly.com)