Is Light Heavyweight so Shallow That Middleweights Get Title Shots in UFC 152?
Jon Jones is currently set to defend the UFC middleweight championship against Vitor Belfort after refusing to face Chael Sonnen.
Wait, that can't be right. Anderson Silva is the UFC middleweight champion.
Jon Jones is currently set to defend the UFC light-heavyweight championship against top middleweight contender Vitor Belfort, after refusing a bout with middleweight contender Chael Sonnen.
Although that sentence doesn't make much more sense than the first, that is the current landscape of the UFC light-heavyweight title picture. With reports that Shogun Rua and Lyoto Machida have both turned down a crack at the reigning champion, the UFC turned to the stars who fight at 185 pounds for relief.
While it is commonplace for stars to drop down to a lower weight class, rarely do we see elite fighters decide to bulk up in order to fight bigger, stronger opponents.
Is the light-heavyweight division so shallow that middleweights are getting title shots? Let's take a look at the current roster and see why Dana White is looking past the members of the light-heavyweight division when in need of a 205-pound contender.
Once the strongest division in all of MMA, the light-heavyweight division recently had a roster that included Jon Jones, Shogun Rua, Dan Henderson, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, Rich Franklin, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hamill, Thiago Silva, Ryan Bader, Wanderlei Silva, Phil Davis, Rashad Evans, Antonio Nogueira, Alexander Gustafsson, Keith Jardine and an occasional appearance from Anderson Silva.
These days, star power is quite limited. Liddell, Couture and Ortiz are retired. Wanderlei, Franklin and Anderson Silva call middleweight their home, with Rashad reportedly to follow behind them. Rampage, Jardine, Lil Nog and Griffin are likely nearing the end of their pugilistic careers.
Who does that leave? Are Jones, Henderson, Shogun, Machida, Hamill, Bader, T. Silva, Davis and Gustafsson the only members of the division who are still relevant and have more than two or three years left in their careers?
Excluding Jones and the opponents he has previously bested, fresh contenders are available in the form of Dan Henderson, Thiago Silva, Phil Davis and Alexander Gustafsson. Unfortunately, Gustafsson is the only one of the bunch who is healthy and coming off of a win.
If Glover Teixeira gets past Rampage this Fall, he could potentially be a title contender as early as January. But is the UFC really going to give a title shot to someone with only two fights in the organization?
Top prospects Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Jimmo look promising, however, both men are unproven entities who we cannot yet bank on.
Perhaps it is time that the UFC cash in their chips and collect on their Strikeforce investment. Dangerous fighters Gegard Mousasi, Rafael Cavalcante and Roger Gracie are members who could breathe new life into the division.
Randy Couture once recognized that the division above his was weak, so he moved up to heavyweight and recaptured the UFC heavyweight championship from Tim Sylvia. Are the UFC middleweights trying to capitalize on a perceived weakness in the class above them?
In all fairness to both Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, this is hardly new territory for either man, as they both have a history competing at light heavyweight. Belfort was once the UFC light-heavyweight champion and Sonnen had recently announced his return to 205.
In the end, fans don't seem willing to believe that an elite middleweight can compete with the world's best light-heavyweight, as Jon Jones opened as a 13:1 favorite over Belfort for their UFC 152 encounter.
Can Vitor Belfort shock the world on behalf of the middleweight division? Oddsmakers don't seem to think so. What do you think?
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