8 MMA Fights That Showcase Recent Instability of the Light Heavyweight Division
Can Shogun Rua defend his belt at least once, or is it the "Jon Jones" era?
MMA has seen some dominant title runs in its still young, 18-year history.
The most dominant of all is the active streak currently held by Anderson Silva, which now sits at eight consecutive; a run that the spider started back in 2007, when he successfully defended his belt for the first time against Nate Marquardt at UFC 73.
Champions from a previous generation, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes both effectively defended their respective belts five times; and just recently Georges St. Pierre joined them when he defended his hardware against Josh Koscheck at 123. St. Pierre can put the two aforementioned legends in his rear view mirror if he cleans out Jake Shields—and the welterweight division—at UFC 129, April 30.
Three other champions of note: Pat Miletich, Frank Shamrock and Chuck Liddell kept UFC gold tightly wrapped around their respective midsections for four uninterrupted defenses.
Speaking of Liddell, the “Iceman” era was the last epoch in which the Light Heavyweight Division had an ambassador hold onto their strap for longer then one defense. Since “Rampage” Jackson red-bulled his way through Liddell at UFC 67, everyone has been dropping trou; powerless to fully grasp the concept of the Midas touch.
But the UFC is not the only organization that has seen such volatility within the friendly confines of their 205 pound division. While Strikeforce is always accused of playing second fiddle to its more battle-tested "counterpart," when it comes to “parity, their Light Heavyweight Division just might outclass.
Let’s take a look at eight fights where the reigning champ was unable to protect what was theirs for either the initial or subsequent time.
1. "Rampage" Jackson Vs. Forrest Griffin: UFC 86
Who did you have winning this five round war of attrition?
At UFC 67, "Rampage" Jackson beat Chuck Liddell for the second time and in the process, ripped away the belt Liddell had successfully defended four times.
At UFC 75, Jackson did enough to beat Dan Henderson and in doing so, became the only man in the three years since to effectively hold on to his belt through at least one fight—without controversy that is.
But much to the dismay of "Rampage" fans, he slipped on a banana peel against Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. It was a fight that many pundits—and fans alike—felt Jackson should have emerged victorious in...but no one can take away from the gutsy performance that Griffin registered on that night.
Check out the Forrest Griffin figurine, complete with black eye, during the post fight interview.
2. Forrest Griffin Vs. Rashad Evans: UFC 92
Forrest got hot first, but Rashad burned him in the end
Forrest Griffin was certainly a likable enough champ, if only for a brief moment in time.
At UFC 92, the season 1 and 2 TUF winners faced off. Griffin established himself early in the fight and was winning on points, until "Suga" soured on the idea of letting things go to the judges—he chopped Forrest down, finishing him off with some not so friendly ground-and-pound (which oddly enough, left Forrest smiling).
But Evans would not get to be "suga" for very long as the "emperor's new clothes" didn't fit so well on his second outing. Enter: The Machida Era.
3. Rashad Evans Vs. Lyoto Machida: UFC 96
Machida was a "bad boy" that night and Rashd simply woudnt stand for it
Rashad "Suga" Evans certainly has some sonic boom in his stand up, but, at UFC 96, Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida was Ryu from Street fighter and throwing fireballs. Rashad: be-guiled.
Evans couldn't find his rhyme and Machida had no reason to let things go past the second round. If there is a picture that best portrays getting put on queer street: see the adjacent color commentary.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan proclaimed that the Machida Era had begun: Enter Shogun Rua.
4. Lyoto Machida Vs. Shogun Rua: UFC 104/113
Machida is not used to getting beat to the punch, Shogun didnt get the memo
While Machida technically defended his belt at UFC 104, not everyone was convinced—including Dana White. "We declare Shenanigans!" was the rallying cry by those that thought Shogun won 4 rounds to 1, or 3 rounds to 2, but those that thought Machida definitely won 3 rounds to 2 countered with "rabble, rabble, rabble."
Despite who you thought won the first affair, there was justice in the MMA world...and the automatic rematch finally took place at UFC 113. Essentially, a continuation of the first fight, Shogun decided to take matters into his own hands, ending things with an emphatic thud of the Machida Era.
With the Machida Era firmly behind us, Shogun seemed poised to start his own era, but one more knee injury greatly delayed a title fight with Rashad Evans. The fight was finally booked for UFC 128, only to see Rashad suffer his own albeit more minor injury.
This opened the door for one more potential era to meme its way into our collective MMA consciousness. Enter Jon "Bones" Jones. And, according to Joe Rogan, "He's really that good."
Shogun Rua Vs. Jon Jones: UFC 128
Which era will UFC 128 give birth to: Shogun or Jones?
So it all comes down to this: At UFC 128 can the old lion defend his territory or will the young lion successfully challenge and replace him as head of the pride.
Back in 2005, Shogun Rua was full of PRIDE; the best Light Heavyweight on the planet. If his hand is raised on March 19th, he will once again sit atop his light heavyweight throne. But if Jon Jones has his way, the 23-year-old phenom will crown himself king of the castle, and rule with an iron fist.
Can anyone in the foreseeable future challenge the authority of the one who emerges victor?
5. Renato “Babalu” Sobral Vs. Gegard Mousasi: Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg
It just just over 1 minute for Mousasi and Sobral to assume this position
Renato Sobral was awarded the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight belt at Strikeforce: Destruction when outgoing champ Bobby Southworth was declared the loser due to the size and depth of a cut that Sobral opened above Southworth's left eye with ten seconds to go in the opening round.
In his first defense, Sobral would step into the cage with Mousasi, where the then 24-year-old Dutch-Armenian—with 28 fights to his name—would make his debut on U.S. soil.
Mousasi came into the fight with a hype-train that refused to be derailed. Mousasi smiled for the cameras as the Big John McCarthy told both men to "protect themselves at all times." Apparently Sobral did not take either man seriously as evidenced by the ensuing violence.
The Mousasi reign of terror would not last long though as the young prince would soon be taken down, repeatedly, by an incoming King.
6. Gegard Mousasi Vs. Muhammed Lawal: Strikeforce: Nashville
King Mo wrestled away the title from Mousasi over the course of five rounds
Strikeforce: Nashville did not go off without its hitches but it did introduce a very temporary CBS audience to the newest nobility in town. King Mo, also known as Muhammed Lawal, would be the All-American wrestler to detail that Mousasi hype-train. Mo talked trash before the fight, and backed it up in the cage.
Mousasi made it Shakespearean, but failing to keep the fight upright was the tragic flaw which lead to his ultimate downfall. The new sheriff clung to his badge just long enough to get run out of town by a Brazilian bomber.
7. King Mo Lawal Vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante: Strikeforce: Houston
King Mo could only avoid the Muay Thai of Feijao for so long
Houston, we have a problem.
King Mo would put up a valiant effort, but the knees & elbows of Mauy Thai wrecking machine "Feijao" Cavalcante would be his undoing. The King's speech post-fight: "I just need to make some adjustments," Lawal said afterward. "He fought a hell of a fight, but I'll come back stronger. This is how true champions get better."
Unfortunately for Mo, he is still working on the coming back stronger part. Lawal is expected to be out of action until mid 2011 after undergoing surgery to repair a knee injury.
8. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante Vs. Dan Henderson: Strikeforce: Feijao Vs. Hendo
Hendo may be 40, but Feijao was the one punch drunk
Not re-signed by UFC and beaten by the smaller Jake Shields in his Strikeforce debut, Dan Henderson seemed left for dead on the side of the MMA road. But, he got the opportunity to beat up a former foe in Renato Sobral, earning himself a title shot against the man who upended King Mo, who upended Gegard Mousasi, who upended Renato Sobral.
Against "Feifao," at the age of 40, Hendo would be up to his old tricks, as his cocked and loaded right hand found its home in the third round, and Henderson was one again able to call himself a champion.
Dan Henderson Vs. Gegard Mousasi-Mike Kyle Winener: Strikeforce: TBA
Can Dan "Hollywood" Henderson defend his new Strikeforce Belt?
Dan Henderson will return to action this summer and most likely defend his new belt against the Mousasi-Kyle winner; that fight is set to take place April 9 on the main card of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley.
Will Hendo be able to break the curse of the light heavyweight crown and become the first Strikeforce 205-pound champion to successfully defend his belt since Bobby Southworth back in 2008 agaisnt Anthony Ruiz?