Jon Jones and His Light Heavyweight Kingdom
The UFC’s light heavyweight division is comparable to a prime of hungry, man-eating lions.
From top to bottom, the 205 lbs. roster is filled with world-class talent and ferocious competitors unparallelled to any other weight class.
But as talented as they are, one lion makes them all look like a herd of vulnerable antelope.
At the young age of 23, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones stands atop the division as king. He has decisively destroyed every fighter in his path to the championship, and it doesn’t look like he is slowing down anytime soon.
For Jones, this is just the beginning of his reign of terror over the light heavyweight division. This is now his kingdom, but there are many warriors looking to knock him off his throne.
UFC 130 features a main event between two fighters looking to do just that, and there are plenty others in the division who are on the brink of a title shot as well.
Jones may give the impression of invincibility, but make no mistake about it, he certainly has his work cut out for him.
Let’s take a look at what could be in store for the UFC light heavyweight champion in the foreseeable future.
UFC 130: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Matt Hamill
Depending how Saturday’s main event unfolds, Jackson or Hamill could position themselves next in line for a shot at Jones’ belt with an impressive victory.
In his last four fights, Jackson has gone 3-1 with the lone blemish coming against arch rival Rashad Evans. Recently, "Rampage" handed Lyoto Machida his second career loss in what many considered to be a controversial decision at UFC 123.
With a win over Hamill, Jackson is practically guaranteed the next title shot.
Not only does it make sense from a professional standpoint, but it also would be an excellent business decision. "Rampage" and Jones are two of the UFC’s hottest commodities. Fans will pay to see them fight any opponent, so imagine what the PPV buy rate would be if they headlined a card against each other.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a win for Hamill would not necessarily have the same effect as a win for Jackson would. Hamill has already fought Jones before and was declared the winner due to a disqualification.
The image of Jones throwing Hamill around like a rag doll and brutalizing him with vicious ground and pound still remains fresh in fans' brains.
Unless Hamill absolutely annihilates "Rampage," the UFC will more than likely go a different route should the wrestling powerhouse pull off the upset.
UFC 132: Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader
This fight doesn’t have much of an implication in the title picture, but it does have some divisional significance.
Ortiz, who still holds the record as the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history, is fighting for his job. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" has gone 0-4-1 in his last five bouts and is in desperate need of a win in order to remain in the UFC.
Bader is part of the new generation of light heavyweight studs. He’s where Ortiz was 14 years ago, only he’s more explosive and well-rounded than the former champion was in his prime.
If it wasn’t for Bader’s last fight—a second-round submission loss to Jones—The Ultimate Fighter 8 winner would certainly be in title contention.
Bader can climb into No. 1 contender status with two or three more wins.
Although as long as Jones has the title, it isn’t likely Bader will get his shot.
If Ortiz could somehow work his way back up the light heavyweight ladder, a title bout against Jones would have a tremendous amount of drawing power.
The fight itself would be completely one-sided, but the revenue would be huge.
UFC 133: Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis
Once friends turned bitter enemies, Evans was expected to be the first to challenge Jones for the championship at UFC 133. A hand injury took him out of action until late 2011 though, and Evans will now meet rising star Phil Davis.
The animosity between Evans and Jones continues to reach new boiling points every week.
From their confrontation at a local night club to their back-and-forth text message and Twitter arguments, it’s quite obvious these two want to settle their differences in the Octagon.
More importantly, fans desperately want to see these two former allies beat the tar out of each other.
Unfortunately, that fight might not even happen—at least not yet.
Evans hasn’t fought in more than a year; this will be his first fight since injuring his knee prior to a scheduled bout with then-champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Davis is not the type of competitor you want to fight after being on the shelf for a full year. Not only is he undefeated and extremely athletic, but "Mr. Wonderful" also has a better wrestling pedigree than Evans.
Usually it’s the other way around, but now Evans has to deal with an opponent who possesses the ability to not only stuff his takedowns, but also put him on his back as well.
The winner of this bout will absolutely fight for the light heavyweight title in their next appearance. Both fighters also present unique threats to "Bones" Jones.
UFC 133: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Rich Franklin
Also on the UFC 133 card, two MMA legends will slug it out in a bout that has very little relevance to the title picture.
Franklin and Nogueira are essentially the gatekeepers of the light heavyweight division. They still have the skills to remain in the top 10 of the division, but neither of them are likely candidates to fight for the gold anytime soon.
That’s not meant to discredit either of them. They both have earned the right to be called icons of the sport (Franklin especially), but they are merely the testing experiments for the new breed of light heavyweights at this point.
UFC 134: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Forrest Griffin II
After destroying Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 to earn the light heavyweight championship, many predicted a lengthy reign for "Shogun" Rua.
Unfortunately, Rua’s title run was ended violently at the hands of Jones at UFC 128 in New Jersey.
Hungry for a rematch and a shot at redemption, Rua will now meet Griffin at UFC 134 in his homeland of Brazil.
The two former champions are certainly familiar with each other. After all, it was only three years ago when Griffin pulled off a miraculous upset over Rua in the Brazilian’s Octagon debut at UFC 74.
If the original Ultimate Fighter winner can defeat "Shogun" for a second time, a title shot would be right around the corner. Griffin’s size and heart would make for an intriguing matchup against Jones, but an upset wouldn’t be very likely.
Rua would need to win a few more fights before stepping into the Octagon across from Jones again. It would be too soon for a rematch, especially considering how one-sided the first fight was.
Following an unbelievable crane kick knockout of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 129, Machida is now a likely candidate to fight Jones for the title.
Consecutive losses to Rua and Jackson were only temporary setbacks, and now "The Dragon" is back where he belongs—at the top of the division.
If Hamill defeats Jackson, Machida will get the call from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to fight Jones for the coveted light heavyweight championship toward the end of 2011.
If that were to be the case, expect an incredibly intriguing clash of styles, and don’t be surprised if the Shotokan karate specialist comes away with the win.
On the other hand, Jones’ unorthodox Muay Thai, dominant Greco-Roman wrestling and vicious ground and pound should be more than enough to slay "The Dragon."