Tuesday, 03 September 2013 18:05
Although light heavyweight was once one of the most competitive and stacked divisions in the company, that's no longer the case here in 2013.
This is due in no small part to champion Jon Jones leaving a path of scorched earth in his wake as he made his comet-like ascent to superstardom. Jones can count many of the divisions biggest names of the past few years among his victims, which is great from an accomplishment perspective but creates problems when it comes to the UFC providing him with fresh match ups. Considering the emphatic nature of Jones' victories over names like Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida, potential rematches between those men and the champ don't hold a lot of intrigue at the moment.
However, A quick look over at the UFC's light heavyweight top ten reveals a surprising statistic: Jones has only defeated 4 of the 10 men on this list (with one of them, Chael Sonnen, being stuck in divisional limbo at the moment). One may think this indicates plenty of potential opponents for Jones waiting in the wings, but a closer look reveals this just isn't the case.
#8 ranked Gegard Mousasi wants to drop down to middleweight. #7 ranked Dan Henderson is coming off two loses in a row. #6 ranked Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a title fight isn't exactly the stuff top drawing pay per views are made of. #4 ranked Phil Davis is in the midst of making a case from himself as a worthy contender with three wins in a row, but he's not there yet.
This leaves just two men at the top of the division who haven't already lost to the champ: #1 ranked Alexander Gustafsson, who is challenging for Jones' title later this month at UFC 165, and Glover Teixeira.
Now it's entirely possible Gustafsson could somehow win the title from Jones, in which case the de rigueur rematch would likely keep the division on hold until the middle of next year. But let's be real. How many people outside the Sweede's camp truly see Gustafsson taking the title from the preternaturally gifted Jones? Sure, Gustafsson is a great talent and anything can happen in a fight, but there's a reason the champ opened as a -800 favorite when the UFC 165 main event was announced.
If things indeed shake out how the odds makers are forecasting when Jones meets Gustafsson in Toronto later this month, then the 4-0 UFC and 19-0 since 2006 Teixeira would likely be the clear choice to get the next crack at the champ.
Of course in order for Teixeira to redeem his golden ticket and capitalize on the biggest opportunity of his career he needs to first get by Bader this Wednesday night. While the Brazilian is favored to win, Bader is no slouch. The former 3 time PAC 10 wrestling champ and 2 time All American could conceivably take Teixeira to the mat and control him for three rounds en route to a decision victory.
A Bader victory would throw the UFC light heavyweight title picture in disarray however. Bader isn't even ranked in the top ten and he's 3-3 in his past 6 fights. What's worse, even if Bader won a few fights in a row after defeating Teixeira, the loss to Tito Ortiz on his record likely works against him politically given the current climate. I'm sure last thing UFC President Dana White wants is to be put in the position to give the recent Bellator-signee Ortiz the opening to say he owns a victory over a man challenging for a UFC title.
However it likely won't come to that as Teixeira has the right tools to defeat Bader. Standing up he's far more polished and can change the complexion of a fight in a second thanks to the wrecking balls he calls fists. If Bader does take the fight to the ground Teixeira is also proficient there as well. The Brazilian transplant is a 2nd degree BJJ black belt who won his UFC debut over Kyle Kingsbury by way of first round arm triangle. Taking him down is far from a guaranteed path to victory. Unfortunately for Bader though it just might be his best bet considering the differential between the two fighter's standup skills.
All things considered, Teixeira should walk out of the Mineirinho Arena with another win on his record. Which is good news for Teixeira as well as for the UFC. Teixeira vs. Jones may not be a huge money matchup, but it's far better than any of the other alternatives out there.