Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
In submitting Stanislav Nedkov at UFC on Fuel TV 6, Thiago Silva showed fans that Alexander Gustafsson's win over him was not something to be shrugged off, and that sets the stage nicely for the Swedish fighter's upcoming bout with Mauricio Rua.
A fight with Rua gives Gustafsson a chance to prove he is one of the best fighters in the light heavyweight division. With many hoping to see Gustafsson put his reach to use against the long-limbed Jon Jones, a victory over Rua could potentially set the 25-year-old up for a title fight.
Whether he wins or loses against the Brazilian, the fact that Gustafsson is already competing against a fighter like Rua at his young age shows that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the 205-pound division for quite some time.
Recent Light Heavyweight Fights
While it wasn't pretty, Silva's win over the Bulgarian gave him his first official win since knocking out Keith Jardine in August 2009.
When healthy and active, Silva has the potential to contend in the light heavyweight division, but back problems took away some of the Brazilian's best years. Silva was getting injured so frequently that it eventually got to the point where he decided to use prohibited substances to help him recover prior to a January 2011 bout with Brandon Vera.
That poor decision led to a failed drug test, which took another year away from Silva's career due to suspension.
Silva has now begun training with the Blackzilians. Perhaps the new surroundings will cause a rebirth in Silva's career, as he is still only 30 years old and capable of becoming a Top 10 light heavyweight with the right mindset and preparation.
Upcoming Light Heavyweight Fights
After losing to Travis Browne in his UFC debut, former Strikeforce heavyweight Chad Griggs has decided to move to the light heavyweight division, where he hoped to gain a size advantage over more slender opponents like Cyrille Diabate.
Another former heavyweight, Joey Beltran, will also be looking to avoid back-to-back UFC losses. Beltran was expected to fight Anthony Perosh, but a nasty toe injury forced the Australian out of that bout and allowed Igor Pokrajac to step in as a replacement.
Light Heavyweight Rankings
Rising: Thiago Silva—When picking up your first win in more than three years, it's hard for a fighter to not raise their standing to some degree. Silva is still on the outside of the Top 10, but his knockout power and underrated ground game put him one punch away from becoming a serious contender.
Falling: Mauricio Rua—Despite his lofty ranking, Mauricio Rua has not won back-to-back fights since knocking out Chuck Liddell in April 2009. The Brazilian remains very close to a rematch with Jon Jones, but his most recent showing against Brandon Vera did nothing to move him forward. If he can stifle the rising Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 5, it will get the ball rolling in the right direction once again.
Non-Ranked Light Heavyweights
Though he hasn't competed at light heavyweight during his current run with the UFC, Chael Sonnen has talked his way into a 205-pound title fight with Jon Jones. Sonnen will oppose Jones as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 17 and is expected to receive his shot at the belt in April.