Breaking Down the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

The Champion: Forrest Griffin

The Top Contender: Rashad Evans

The Next Tier:

·         Wanderlei Silva

·         Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

·         Lyoto Machida

·         Thiago Silva

·         Rich Franklin

·         Dan Henderson

·         Keith Jardine

·         Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

·         Chuck Liddell

·         Luis Arthur Cane

·         Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

 

On the Rise: 

·         Luis Arthur Cane

 

Other Notables:

·         Brandon Vera

·         Mat Hamill

·         Stephan Bonnar

·         Jon Jones

·         Tim Boetsch

·         Steve Cantwell

·         Brian Stann

·         James Irvin

·         Eric Schafer

 

Scheduled Fights:

·         Steve Cantwell vs. Razak Al-Hussan at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans @ UFC 92 on December 28 (For Title)

·         Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva @ UFC 92 on December 28

·         Matt Hamill vs. Reese Andy @ UFC 92 on December 28

·         Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson @ UFC 93 on January

·         Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Mark Coleman @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Andre Gusmao vs. Antonio Mendes @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Ivan Serati vs. Tomasz Drwal @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Jon Jones vs. Stephan Bonnar @ UFC 93 on January 17

·         Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva @ UFC 94 on January 31

 

Match Ups I’d Like to See:

·         Luis Cane vs. Keith Jardine

·         Brandon Vera vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

 

Other Thoughts:

·         There are rumors of a Anderson Silva vs. Chuck Liddell match up at UFC 95

·         There are a lot of light heavyweight contenders and the match ups are being set.  The winner of Wanderlei vs. Rampage should get the next title shot, although the winner of Lyoto Machida and Thiago Silva should be considered as well. 

·         We are waiting for the debut of rumored UFC signee Glover Teixeira who has been having visa troubles in Brazil. 

·         The UFC could sign former EliteXC light heavyweight Rafael Feijao, which would be a big time contender.

·         The UFC has a clear monopoly on the light heavyweight division.  There are only a few fighters worth a  dime in this division not in the UFC (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Vladimir Matyushenko, Ricardo Arona, Tito Ortiz, and Renato “Babalu” Sobral)

·         I looks like two solid light heavyweights have dropped to middleweight in Goran Reljic and Wilson Gouveia

·         The Ultimate Fighter 8 which featured light heavyweights is sure to place a few good fighters in the divison, but it will take time for them to climb the ladder.  Watch out for guys like Ryan Bader, Vinny Magalhes, Kryztof Soszynski, and Eliot Marshall.

·         It is somewhat possible to see Randy Couture take a few fights at light heavyweight and also to see Anderson Silva fight at 205 more often in 2009

 

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MMABlog’s Light Heavyweight MMA Rankings

 

Here are my 205’ers.  The UFC clearly has the deepest and best pool of 205 lb fighters.  I only see a couple of non-UFC fighters being top 25 material. 

Rank

Name

Organization

Next Fight

1

Forrest Griffin

UFC

Evans (#6), 12/27

2

Quinton Jackson

UFC

W. Silva (#4) 12/27

3

Lyoto Machida

UFC

T. Silva (#10) 1/31

4

Wanderlei Silva

UFC

Jackson (#2) 12/27

5

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

UFC

Coleman (NR), 1/17

6

Rashad Evans

UFC

Griffin (#1), 12/27

7

Dan Henderson

UFC

Franklin (#12), 1/17

8

Keith Jardine

UFC

 

9

Chuck Liddell

UFC

 

10

Thiago Silva

UFC

Machida (#3), 1/31

11

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Affliction

Moisa (NR), 11/3

12

Rich Franklin

UFC

Henderson (#7), 1/17

13

Brandon Vera

UFC

 

14

Vladimir Matyushenko

Affliction

 

15

Luiz Cane

UFC

 

16

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

UFC

 

17

Ricardo Arona

 

 

18

Renato “Babalu” Sobral

Affliction

Southworth (NR), 11/21

19

Matt Hamill

UFC

Andy (NR), 12/27

20

Tito Ortiz

 

 

21

Rafael Feijao

EliteXC?

 

22

Steve Cantwell

UFC

Al-Hussan (NR), 12/10

23

Stephan Bonnar

UFC

Jones (NR), 1/31

24

James Irvin

UFC

 

25

Brian Stann

UFC

 

Also considered: Jon Jones, Tim Boetsch, Bobby Southworth, Mark Coleman (Didn’t include him because he hasn’t fought again.  He probably is top 25 material)

UFC News: Stephan Bonnar vs. Jon Jones at UFC 94

It looks like Stephan Bonnar is set to return to action at UFC 94 according to MMABay I do not know how reliable the source is, so I will just say that the fight is possible.  Bonnar is coming off of an injury that has kept him out of the fight game for a year, but he is expected to be back and the mentioned opponent is talented newcomer Jon Jones who looked impressive in his debut against a top prospect in Andre Gusmao.  UFC 94 will take place Super Bowl weekend, January 31st and will feature a highly anticpated main event of B.J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre.

The Title Picture in the UFC Light Heavweight Divison

In my previous post about the title picture in the UFC heavyweight divison I mentioned how the UFC’s match making has caused problems in the title picture.  The same is true of the light heavyweight divison.  Okay, Forrest Griffin is now the light heavyweight champion.  The question should be who gets the next title shot and what is the order of contenders.  The UFC made clear that if Chuck Liddell beat Rashad Evans at UFC 88 then he would fight Forrest Griffin in December for the title.  However, Rashad Evans played spolier and ruined the potential blockbuster fight.  Very quickly, the UFC gave Rashad the title shot for December.  Kudos to rashad for a big win, but most people would agree that even with the win over Liddell he was not the number one contender.  I believe that distinction has to go to Lyoto Machida who has notable UFC victories over Sokoudjou and Tito Ortiz.  I have no problem with saying Machida needs one more win, but he better not be ignored.  I have heard that he isn’t getting the shot first because guys don’t want to fight him and secondly because he has limited marketability.  So, what other options are there?  Here are my rankings in order of who I feel the contenders are right now.  I see 4 guys right now at the top of the heap that could get a title shot without much complaint from me.  Some like Rich Franklin may need one more win…

1. Lyoto Machida

2. Quinton Jackson

3. Wanderlei Silva

4. Rich Franklin

Needs one more win…

4. Rashad Evans

5. Thiago Silva

6. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

7. Chuck Liddell

Guys who could earn their way into contention soon…

8. Brandon Vera

9. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

10. Keith Jardine

The problem is booking.  Several of these guys are booked for fights.  It seems Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva will square off November 15th, surely the winner of that fight will get a title shot.  Lyoto Machida was to face Thiago Silva, with the winner surely getting a title shot soon, however Silva pulled out leaving Machida opponent-less.  Shogun is waiting for a December opponent…possibly Chuck Liddell.  Keith Jardine is fighting Brandon Vera and Sokoudjou is fighting Luiz Cane at UFC 89.  That leaves Rich Franklin, Lyoto Machida, and Rashad Evans available for the title shot in December.  The UFC chose Evans, the weakest of the possible opponents for Griffin.  The heap is big and growing.  Contenders need to keep winning.  It looked like 2009 will see Machida get his title shot, but he may need two more wins.  Wanderlei or Jackson may get the next shot in the spring of ’09.  Rich Franklin could work his way in the mix too.  The picture won’t clear up either with a lot of solid guys in the top 15.

When Will They Fight Again?

Pretty much the UFC has booked out all the way through UFC 90.  That means that they will have to find fighters to fill in the gaps on November’s UFC 91, December’s UFC 92, and the Ultimate Fighter Finale.  Unless the UFC adds another card somewhere along the way, that means there are about 25 fights to book before year end.  There are slightly more than 30 fighters who are not scheduled for a fight as we speak.  I say that because I assume that some of the guys that fight in UFC 88 will be ready and will in fact fight again before year’s end.  For example, it may not be out of the question to see Chuck Liddell fight again in December if he wins against Rashad Evans and does not get hurt.  With that said, let’s evaluate the guys in queue.

  • Gabriel Gonzaga –  The biggest named heavyweight not scheduled yet.  I say that assuming Lesnar vs. Kongo will take place at UFC 91.  Gonzaga ought to be in action sooner than later, but against who?  Perhaps Heath Herring would be a good match or even Jake O’Brien.
  • Cain Velasquez –  I put him here, but I hear a solid rumor that he will fight Antoni Hardonk at UFC 90.  I have also heard that the UFC is having a hard time finding a willing opponent.
  • Heath Herring –  Honestly, I think he will sit out the rest of the year, but may get on a January or February card.  He took a beating from Lesnar and needs time to heal. 
  • Mark Coleman –  He has been hurt, but has been rumored to be coming back.  For a while there were rumors of him fighting at 205 against Shogun.  He could be back on the December card for his return to the octagon.
  • Forrest Griffin –  I am gonna jump all over Griffin and the UFC until the schedule a title defense.  This belt has been defended scarcely.  I think title holder have an obligation to defend their belt.  Griffin fought in July, he ought to be ready by year’s end.  We could see him fight Liddell if he wins.  We could see him fight Machida if Machida finishes Thiago Silva quickly at UFC 89.  Some have even speculated that he could fight Wanderlei, but I doubt that yet.  I think Machida is the number one cotnender today.  I expect to see Forrest fight in December.
  • Quinton “Rampage” Jackson –  There have been two rumors floating around about Jackson.  Some have recently spoke of a Jackson vs. Wanderlei III fight to take place in November.  I think that is likely.  The fight is in Portland, not far from where Jackson trains.  The fans want it.  The other fight has been a speculated Shogun re-match in December.  I guess Jackson’s next fight will depend on his legal status.
  • Wanderlei Silva –  He has been told to prepare for a December return, but don’t count out the November fight with Jackson.  I expect to see Wanderlei before year’s end, or at least I hope to. 
  • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua –  He is recovering from an injury and says he will be ready by December.  He says he is fighting Rampage, but that doesn’t seem too credible.  I am most certain he will be on the December card though.
  • Stephan Bonnar –  I also think he will be on the December card as he recovers from an injury.  Against who?  I have no idea.   I have a prediction though: Steve Cantwell or Brian Stann from the WEC.  The UFC has talked about the heavier weight classes coming over to the UFC.  Bonnar would make a good match for either of those guys.  Or even a guy like UFC newcomer Jon Jones.
  • Demian Maia –  We could see him as early as November.  I think that he could match up with about anybody, but top middleweight contenders are booked up right now.
  • Nate Quarry –  He broke his orbital bone recently and will be out for a bit. 
  • Kendall Grove –  He just opened a gym and is enjoying fatehrhood, he may be off for a while too, but I’d like to see him fight soon.
  • Amir Sadollah –  Amir will be in the ring before year’s end.  He could possible fight on the TUF finale card.
  • C.B. Dolloway –  I haven’t heard whether he will fight again in 2008, but I don’t see why he couldn’t. 
  • Matthew Riddle –  I would expect to see him back soon as well.  He looked good against Dante at the TUF 7 finale. 
  • Jon Fitch –  He will be back soon against a top contender, but I don’t know who that will be. He could fight on the December card.  He gained tons of respect from the GSP fight.
  • Josh Koscheck –  He should be back in November.  The options are numerous for him.  He is just a win or two away from a title shot, which he could have before the end of 2009.  He must get in line though behind B.J. Penn and then the winner of the Sanchez vs. Alves fight will get the next title shot probably in the summer of 2009. 
  • Mike Swick –  He says he will be ready in December following elbow surgery.
  • Chris Wilson – He looked good at UFC 87.  He could return before year’s end on an undercard.
  • Chris Lytle –  I don’t know how he is doing following his blood bath loss to Koscheck, but I presume he could fight this year.
  • Dustin Hazelett – He has looked good lately.  I suspect he too will fight this year.
  • Luigi Fiorvanti – I hadn’t heard anything on the Luigi front, but he could be back soon too.
  • Anthony Johnson –  He says he will be ready to go by October following the eye poke.
  • Rory Markham – I am really shocked that he won’t be on the UFC 90 card in his hometown of Chicago.  He lobbied for that event, but apparently won’t get it, but I guess he could still be added. 
  • Kevin Burns –  How about Burns vs. Markham at UFC 90?
  • Brad Blackburn – He has a broken hand, so he won’t be ready I don’t think.
  • Roger Huerta – Grease monkey may be back, I’d like to see him get beat by Edgar. 
  • Frank Edgar –  I am pretty sure we will see him by year’s end and probably against one of the guys on this list.
  • Matt Wiman – I am looking forward to seeing him return.  How about Wiman vs. Stephens?
  • Cole Miller –  He looked good against Gurgel and should be back soon.
  • Jeremy Stephens –  See above.
  • Manny Gamburyan – He could drop to 145 in the WEC.
  • Rob Emerson – He had a nice KO over Manny.  He could fight again, but if he fights any better competition and he will get beat

UFC News: Wanderlei Silva to Return in December

According to MMA Junkie, Wanderlei Silva has been told by UFC officials to prepare for a December return.  It appears he will be on the December 27 card which will feature a heavyweight title match between Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as well as a possible match between B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre.  This is what Wandy had to say:

“I’m talking with (UFC co-owner) Lorenzo (Fertitta), they’re talking about December because it is the best event of the year. (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira is going to fight (Frank) Mir for the belt for the heavyweights. This is the best event. It’s much more promotion. They told me to be ready to fight in December. They gave me 10 (possible) names. My division is the best division in the world. They have so many names. I think they’re going to give a good opponent to me. I wanted to fight [Jackson] again and I think it’s a very good match. For me, I have time to fight for the belt in the future, no problem, I’m going to wait for my opportunity. I’m going to give my best on every fight. After I win my fights, I’m going to have an opportunity to fight for the belt. For me, no problem, I’ll fight with everybody.”

So, the question is who will he fight in December.  Process of elimination may help.  We would figure he would get a top 10-15 opponent seeing as how he just beat a top guy in Jardine.

  • Lyoto Machida is booked for a fight with Thiago Silva
  • Rameau Theirry Sokoudjou is booked for a fight with Luis Cane
  • Brandon Vera is booked for a fight with Keith Jardine
  • Chuck Liddell is booked for a fight with Rashad Evans
  • Shogun should return in December, but Wanderlei won’t fight him
  • Dan Henderson is booked for a fight at UFC 88
  • Rich Franklin is booked to fight Matt Hamill at UFC 88

That leaves Forrest Griffin, Quinton Jackson, Stephan Bonnar and Goran Reljic

  • I wouldn’t object to Wanderlei getting the title shot, but it isn’t likely yet.  They train together also, but I am sure they would fight if the price is right, but I doubt they can push aside Machida for Silva.
  • Stephan Bonnar may be a good option as he should return by that date, but I don’t know if he is the calibur that Silva wants to fight.  He wants someone to get him into contention
  • Goran Reljic os good and also possible, but not likely because he isn’t ranked high enough
  • Quinton Jackson has to be the most likely but seeing as how he has all sorts of legal problems, I don’t know if it will happen.
  • The other option is a quick turn around for someone fighting in Semptember like Chuck Liddell, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin or Matt Hamill, or even Andre Gusmao.  Any of those would be interesting and UFC 88 may dictate Silva’s opponent. 
  • The final option is some new to the UFC guy.  A new signing could be possible, but it is unlikely it would be someone that could jump right in and be cosndiered Silva level.  Someone like Vladimir Matyushenko is possible, but not likely.

 

Jackson vs. Griffin Press Conference

Some clips from Rampage Jackson and Forrest Griffin from the UFC 86 press conference. There are some good moments in this, including Jackson saying he thought Stephan Bonnar should have gotten the decision victory over Forrest Griffin at the Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale. Good watch…

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