Wading The Waters: Who Is Next in Line For a UFC Light Heavyweight Title Shot
On March 29 of this year, Shogun Rua will defend his Light Heavyweight title for the first time against former champ Rashad Evans. Rua, as many UFC fans know is the sixth person to hold the belt in a span of four years, starting with Rampage Jackson who knocked out Chuck Liddell who was attempting to defend the title for a fifth time. After Liddell, no Light Heavyweight champ has been able to get even two successful title defenses, and when the champ has lost, all but one (Rampage), has lost the title due to (T)KO.
The Iceman Curse as it has been called has been called has been a double edged sword, on one side it hasn't allowed for a fighter to make themselves a real dominant Light Heavyweight champion. One the more positive side, the curse has made the Light Heavyweight division one of, if not, the deepest division in all of the UFC. So no matter who wins, Rua or Evans will have a bevvy of fighters wanting a crack at them for the title.
So with all of that, I decided to break down the contenders along with their possible chances to be the the next guy in line for the title. Also, look at some of the pictures and see if you notice a trend with all of these contenders.
MMA Record: (15-8-1, 14-8-1 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision loss vs. Matt Hammil @ UFC 121
Next Fight: vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira @ UFC Fight Night 24
Now before your eyes pop out of your head for even seeing Tito's name on this list, I put his name on this only out of name recognition. Tito is in a career changing situation right now, having not won a fight since 2006. Tito is no longer the fighter he used to be and is fighting just to be still signed by the UFC. What's worse, is the Light Heavyweight division is probably the deepest it has ever been, meaning that there is almost zero chance he gets a shot at the title, that is unless he literally knocks Lil Nog's head of his shoulders, that or every other contender dies in a plane crash.
Chance at getting next shot at title: 0%
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
MMA Record: (19-4, 2-1 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision loss vs. Ryan Bader @ UFC 119
Next Fight: vs. Tito Ortiz @ UFC Fight Night 24
Lil' Nog has a huge opportunity in his coming fight with Tito Ortiz after his loss to Ryan Bader. If he wins, it pushes him up the ladder back to upper level competition, a couple fights away from a title. If he loses to Ortiz, he will most likely find himself relegated to gatekeeper status for the rest of his career. Again like with Tito, Lil' Nog has the difficulty of being in a stacked division. So if he wins against Tito, he will still have to win probably two more big fights in a row in order to get a title shot, as a win against Tito isn't as big of a deal as it used to be.
Chance of getting next title shot: 0%
MMA Record: (10-2, 9-2 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision win vs. Tito Ortiz @ UFC 121
Next Fight: vs. Phil Davis @ UFC 129
Matt Hamill is building a strong resume of wins against Tito Ortiz, Keith Jardine, and even a controversial DQ win over Jon Jones. His next test comes in the form of fellow contender Phil Davis. A win over Davis, especially if it is a dominant win or finish, propels Hamil up a level where he would fight guys like Thiago Silva, Forrest Griffen, and the like. Yet Hamill could get lucky if there are a few injuries to the top contenders in the division, so a strong win could shoot him to the top of the list, though that it is very unlikely.
Chance of getting next title shot: 5-10%
MMA Record: (8-0, 4-0 UFC)
Last Fight: Submission win vs. Tim Boetsch @ UFC 123
Next Fight: vs. Matt Hammil @ UFC 129
Phil Davis is a truly impressive specimen. Undefeated, most of his wins by submission or TKO against a balanced level of competition. Davis hasn't been promoted as well as an upstart like Jon Jones, but he could reach that level with a few more wins. If he is able to beat Hammil, Davis will still need a few more big wins in order to move up the ranks to get a title shot. Even if the division gets plagued with injuries, Davis will still need to get some wins to show he can dance with the best of the division.
Chance of getting next title shot: 0-5%
MMA Record: (17-6, 8-4 UFC)
Last Fight: Split Decision win vs. Tito Ortiz @ UFC 106
Next Fight: vs. Rich Franklin @ UFC 126
Ah, one of the two men credited with bringing the UFC into the mainstream success that it has today, Forrest Griffin. Unfortunately for Forrest, his UFC career has been a roller coaster of big wins and devastating losses. From beating current champ Shogun Rua and former champ Rampage Jackson to losses to Keith Jardine and Anderson Silva, Forrest is looking at one last chance at making a run at the title he once held.
His next fight against Rich Franklin will determine whether or not he makes that title run or becomes relegated to being a gatekeeper. If Forrest can finish Franklin he puts himself probably one fight away from another title shot while a decision would require he win probably two more fights.
Chance of getting next title shot: 15-20%
MMA Record: (28-5 1 NC, 12-3 UFC)
Last Fight: KO victory over Chuck Liddell @ UFC 115
Next Fight: vs. Forrest Griffin @ UFC 126
Rich Franklin finds himself in a similar predicament like Forrest Griffin. Since losing the Middleweight title to Anderson Silva, Franklin hasn't been able to string together more than two wins. Those wins though have been against some strong competition, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, and Matt Hamill. Yet his losses have been just as devastating including a second loss to Anderson Silva and a first round TKO loss to Vitor Belfort. A win, especially a finish, over Forrest would put Rich one or two wins away from a title shot.
Chance at getting next title shot: 20-25%
MMA Record: (11-1, 5-1 UFC)
Last Fight: TKO win vs. Vladimir Matyushenko @ UFC Live Jones vs. Matyushenko
Next Fight: vs. Ryan Bader @ UFC 126
The apparent future of the Light Heavyweight division according to some people, a flash in the pan to others.
Jon Jones has a real chance to show what he can do when he faces Ryan Bader this weekend. A win over Bader will most likely put Jones third in line after Rashad Evans and the winner of the Rampage/Silva fight. Jones could push himself higher up if he is able to dominate Bader like he has with other opponents like Stephan Bonnar and Brandon Vera.
Chance of getting next title shot: 35%
MMA Record: (12-0, 5-0 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision win vs.Antônio Rogério Nogueira @ UFC 119
Next Fight: vs. Jon Jones @ UFC 126
The winner of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter has the biggest test of his career this weekend when he squares off against Jon "Bones" Jones.
A win here not only keeps Bader undefeated, but it puts him a fight or two away from a title shot. His superb wrestling skills will be his best tools against Jones as he'll have to contend with the huge reach advantage Jones will have (10 inches) along with his unorthodox style. Bader finds himself in a situation that has only a small downside, if he loses it shouldn't force him down the ladder too far as it is against a high level opponent but a win would skyrocket him up the ranks, maybe even the next shot if he finishes Jones or if injuries sideline other fighters.
Chance of getting next title shot: 35%
MMA Record: (16-2, 8-2 UFC)
Last Fight: Split Decision loss vs. Rampage Jackson @ UFC 123
Next Fight: vs. Randy Coutoure @ UFC 129
Lyoto Machida finds himself in an odd predicament, less than a year ago he was the seemingly unbeatable Light Heavyweight champion, yet after a controversial decision win against Shogun Rua, followed by his first career loss via KO to Rua in a rematch and another controversial loss, that time to Rampage Jackson. Machida is now fighting to even keep his job if Dana White is to be believed, no one knows why Dana would give this kind of ultimatum except for maybe to pump Machida up, or maybe Lyoto accidentally kicked Dana's dog or told him Santa wasn't real.
Machida faces stiff competition in his next fight as he takes on Randy Couture. Unfortunately, a win against Couture, even a devastating finish, at this point in Machida's career wouldn't give him an immediate title shot, but it would definitely put him back on the right track to getting there.
Chance of getting next title shot: 0-15%
MMA Record: (19-10, 16-7 UFC)
Last Fight: Submission win vs. James Toney @ UFC 118
Next Fight: vs. Lyoto Machida @ UFC 129
The dark horse of the Light Heavyweight division, Randy Couture, has stated that he wants one more run at a UFC title, and he's in a good position to do so.
With three consecutive wins, although questionable how impacting two of them are, a win against Machida may give Randy the ammunition he needs to jump to the front of the line for a title shot. A decision win would put him in contention while a finish over "The Dragon" may give him that last title shot that he so wants.
Chance of getting next title shot: 40% if won by close decision, 60% if won by finish or dominant decision
MMA Record: (15-2, 6-2 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision vs. Brandon Vera @ UFC 125
Next Fight: vs. Rampage Jackson @ UFC 130
After a total slaughter of Brandon Vera, Thiago Silva has a huge opportunity here to get a title shot. If he finishes the former champ, the title shot should be all but his. But Thiago can't get too aggressive as he has before against Rampage as he could leave himself to being knocked out. He also cannot let this fight go to the judges as even a decision win may not guarantee him the title shot.
Chance of getting next title shot: 60 if won by decision, 75% if won by finish
MMA Record: (31-8, 6-2 UFC)
Last Fight: Split Decision win vs. Lyoto Machida @ UFC 123
Next Fight: vs. Thiago Silva @ UFC 130
According to Dana White, Rampage Jackson is next in line for a title match, but as we have seen in the UFC, contenders change at the drop of a hat. Rampage has a big challenge in his next fight going up against Thiago Silva. Rampage will need to come into the octagon with a winner's mindset if he hopes to beat Silva.
He can't take this fight lightly because a loss here would end any chance of a title shot, so hopefully Rampage doesn't come into this fight like he did against Rashad Evans. A win of any kind should guarantee a title shot, though a finish would definitely seal the deal.
Chance of getting next title shot: 75% if won by decision of any kind, 80% if won by finish
Shogun Rua Or Rashad Evans
Rashad's MMA Record: (15-1-1, 10-1-1 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision vs. Rampage Jackson @ UFC 114
Next Fight: vs. Shogun Rua @ UFC 128
Shogun's MMA Record: (19-4, 3-2 UFC)
Last Fight: KO win vs. Lyoto Machida @ UFC 113
Next Fight: vs. Rashad Evans @ UFC 128
The other dark horse in the Light Heavyweight division is a rematch between the two men fighting for the title already. With the recent number of title matches going the distance, there is a strong chance that there could be a rematch.
Now this will only happen if it is a close fight, otherwise there won't be a rematch. This match may not go the distance as Rua prefers to end his fights by knock out and Rashad may try to grind a victory out in order to get that second title reign. Expect both men to go all out in this fight in order to prevent a rematch from happening any time soon.
Chance of getting next title shot: 0% if ends in finish or blowout decision, 100% if close fight or draw
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