The last day and a half have been some of the most tumultuous in the modern era of the UFC. Since Zuffa took control of the Ultimate Fighting Championship the organization has steadily grown surpassing all competitors and forcing the young sport of mixed martial arts into the mainstream. Yesterday, the UFC took a step back and is surely one of the worst days in Zuffa company history. The debacle that has become UFC 151 highlights many structural problems Zuffa needs to face, primarily the decreasing amount of bankable stars and the excessive amount of events they promote. But instead of harping on the many bad things that came from the past 30 hours, as countless others will do, I wanted to highlight the silver lining in this otherwise colossal snafu: the title picture just got interesting again.
The Light Heavyweight division has long been the flagship division for the UFC and really for mma in general. Chuck LiddellÂ andÂ Randy Couture‘s trilogy did more to broaden mainstream appeal than any fight/s other than Griffin–Bonnar. For a long time Light Heavyweight was the premier division in the world in talent and star power, but int he last few years the division has fallen off considerably. There is very little depth at 205. There is Jon Jones,Â 4-5 guys who many would consider “top contenders” and then the rest of the division is paltry. This problem is exacerbated by a young champion who is thoroughly dominant and who also interested in staying active. Since becoming, and on his way to the Â title, Jones beat almost everyone of note in the division. This fight with HendersonÂ wasn’t so much a fight as it was ritualized slaughter and the UFC was billing it as such. In the commercials for the event Joe Rogan says “Here’s the big question, what now?” and he is absolutely right. Jones has been so active that Henderson really presented the last credible challenger to him that he hasn’t already beat the breaks off. His next fight was to beat Lyoto Machida and though I agree Machida is a top-4 guy in the division we already saw that fight and I have no reason to believe Machida has improved since then. After beating Hendo, Jones would have been left in the unenviable position of an endless selection of re-runs, which are less interesting for him and less profitable to promote. In the last 2 days though, the light heavyweight division has suddenly had new life injected into it. Admittedly, the BelfortÂ fight is a squash match but after Vitor, look at the horizon for 205.Â Hendo will be back by the end of the year so it is not unreasonable to think that that fight could happen sometime in December or early January. After Henderson Lyoto still has the “next in line” title not to mention one Chael P. SonnenÂ who after his offer to step in and fight on short notice coupled with his extreme trash talk puts him in the mix as well. So with Jones tied up with those 3 for the next 10 months that leaves plenty of time for Alexander GustafssonÂ and Phil DavisÂ to hone their games a little more and grow into real credible threats to Bones. What looked bland and uninteresting a week ago has suddenly become a vibrant hive of possibilities for the UFC’s premier weight division and premier young star. So even though yesterday was one of the bigger blows to land against Zuffa in years, things still are looking up for them.
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