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The State of the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - APRIL 2: UFC lightweight champion Jon 'Bones' Jones interacts with media during an open training session for fans and media at the Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness on April 2, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo by Aaron Sweet/Getty Images)
Aaron Sweet/Getty Images
Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterJune 25, 2014

We've taken a look at the UFC's heavyweightlightweight and welterweight divisions. Today, we move down to what has historically been considered the UFC's marquee division: the light heavyweights. Like the heavyweight division, 205 is ruled by a title holder with an iron fist.

But there are plenty of challengers waiting in the wings and even a few interesting prospects who could make some noise over the next few years.

Let's take a look.

 

The Title Picture

Jon Jones

The UFC has nearly reached the territory where it must sell Jon Jones fights based upon the sole fact that viewers will have a chance to see Jones compete in the Octagon.

Only one man has come close to giving the world's best pound-for-pound fighter a run for his money, and he'll get his second shot at the title at some point this fall. After that, Daniel Cormier will be patiently waiting. The former Olympian is the one man capable of dethroning Jones, but it will take a perfect night.

In short, Jones is greatness personified when it comes to fighting. Within the next 12 months, he could cement his place as the absolute greatest fighter in the history of mixed martial arts.

Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones congratulates Alexander Gustafsson (left) after Jones' victory in their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

 

Alexander Gustafsson

The lanky Swede gave Jones all he could handle last year, and he'll get a chance to do it all over again this fall. The problem for Gustafsson is that Jones may not have taken him all that seriously the first time around. If that's the case, expect to see a drastically improved Bones in the second fight, and that's bad news for Gustafsson.

Still, few would be surprised if Gustafsson takes Jones to his personal limits a second time or even defeats him.

 

Daniel Cormier

Cormier hasn't exactly defeated a murderer's row since moving down to 205 from heavyweight, leading many to believe he has yet to earn a shot at Jones. But his heavyweight record must also be considered, and given his likely status as the world's second-best heavyweight, there is little doubt Cormier has already earned his crack at light heavyweight gold.

He'll get that chance after Jones and Gustafsson have their rematch. In the meantime, he'll undergo minor surgery to repair a knee injury, then rest up for a title shot that will likely come in early 2015.


On The Verge

Rashad Evans

Evans' name value will keep him near the top of the division so long as he's winning most of his fights. He's currently on the shelf due to injury, but he'll come back to the Octagon on a two-fight winning streak.

He was supposed to face Cormier earlier this year before the injury forced him out of the bout. Expect Evans to get an opponent of similar caliber when he returns later this year. Few will clamor to see Evans face Jones again, but it is always a possibility.

 

Anthony Johnson

Apr 26, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Anthony Johnson (right) strikes Phil Davis during their fight at Baltimore Arena. Johnson defeated Davis by judges decision. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Former welterweight Johnson returned to the UFC as a light heavyweight and made an immediate impact by defeating Phil Davis with ease. The win—Johnson's seventh consecutive victory—immediately catapulted him to the top five in the UFC's official rankings.

He'll need one more win before he's in the title picture, but one thing is for certain: Johnson is a force to be reckoned with at light heavyweight.

 

A Long Way to Go

Phil Davis

May 7, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; UFC fighter Phil Davis throws out a ceremonial first pitch before the Pittsburgh Pirates host the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

It is safe to say that Davis hasn't lived up to the world-beating billing surrounding him when he made his UFC debut. He's an incredible athlete with all the tools needed to be great but hasn't been able to put them together when it counts the most.

His loss to Rashad Evans sent him stumbling back into the pack, and two consecutive listless performances against Lyoto Machida and Anthony Johnson have many, UFC President Dana White included, questioning whether Davis has the heart and determination needed to become the champ.

 

Ryan Bader

A large and powerful light heavyweight, Bader combines smooth wrestling with an advancing striking game. But like fellow collegiate wrestler Davis, Bader hasn't been able to put it together when facing the best the division has to offer.

His biggest career win came over an aging Rampage Jackson, while he suffered the embarrassment of being the first man in five years to lose to Tito Ortiz. Bader scored a big win over former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante at UFC 174, and he'll return against Ovince St. Preux in August.


The Prospects

Ovince St. Preux

A former Tennessee Volunteer football player, St. Preux has looked fantastic since a 2011 loss to Gegard Mousasi. Since then, he's gone undefeated, with his most recent win coming over Ryan Jimmo at UFC 174.

At 31 years old, St-Preux is a bit older than most prospects, but he's still being groomed. A win over Bader in August would likely help vault St. Preux far up the UFC's real and imaginary rankings.

 

Patrick Cummins

Jun 7, 2014; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Patrick Cummins (red) and Roger Narvaez (blue) fight during their light heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night 42 at Tingley Coliseum. Cummins won via second round stoppage. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sp
USA TODAY Sports

He is a raw talent, but Cummins could be a future player at 205. He is most famous for stepping up on extreme short notice to face Cormier earlier this year. He lost that fight but rebounded with a dominant win over Roger Narvaez earlier this month.

He'll be groomed slowly, but one thing is for certain: He's far more dangerous than the one-note barista that fans make him out to be.

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