Enough talk about Chael Sonnen and how he’s “cutting the line” for this title opportunity. Regardless of anyone’s personal feeling about the match up, it’s going to take place and now all focus should be moved to deciphering the next number one contender. There’s a strong argument for several elite fighters to get the next crack at the light heavyweight belt, but with the recent announced match ups, only three possible options truly stand out.
Winner of Lyoto Machida / Dan Henderson
After his win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Dan Henderson was slated to face Jon Jones at UFC 151, but a knee injury prevented him from fighting. Henderson hasn’t fought since his injury, but a win over the dragon is enough to put any fighter on the top of the division, especially if he can do it with his famous H-bomb. Machida was set to fight Jon Jones after Henderson got his shot, but when Henderson pulled out of the fight, Machida declined to replace him, stating that he didn’t have enough preparation time. Machida had an impressive knockout over Ryan Bader, but what’s equally as impressive, is that he’s the only fighter to steal a round from Jon Jones in his last ten fights. A win over the former number one contender, and Strikeforce light heavyweight champion would be a huge reason as to why Machida deserves his rematch with the current champ. Before either one of them get a crack at the title holder, they must first face each other, but the winner may be granted what they’re looking for, a chance to fight for the title.
Winner of Alexander Gustafsson / Gegard Mousasi
Gustafsson has been a top ten light heavyweight for awhile now, but his win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua really put him on the board for a possible title fight. His last win puts him on a six fight win streak, more than other top ten light heavyweight. Gegard Mousasi may be making his UFC debut, but the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion has more than twice as experienced as Gustafsson, with wins over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Renato Sobral, and Mark Hunt. Regardless of who is victorious, it wouldn’t be surprising if the UFC made them the official number one contender.
After his first fight in the UFC, it was fans speculated that Teixeira would be a prospect in the light heavyweight division. His annihilation of Fabio Maldonado was nothing more than clarification that the hype behind him was absolutely legit, and that he needed a high level opponent. The UFC did just that and match him up with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Teixeira is an extremely well rounded fighter who can submit his opponent just as easily as he can knock them out, and if he can muster up an impressive win over a big name like Rampage, I can see the UFC giving him the title opportunity.
Whoever the UFC ultimately forwards the title opportunity will be acceptable, as long as one of these fighters are selected.
- Ryan “Fight Freek” Poli