Thursday, December 9, 2021

UFC Light Heavyweight Division has Reached A Low Point

For years, the UFC’s light heavyweight division was arguably the promotion’s marquee weight class. Some of the greatest fighters in MMA history have been light heavyweights and they have put on some of the greatest fights of all time. Superstar fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson helped 205lbs became a staple of the UFC, and Jon Jones would later dominate the division and set numerous records along the way. But these days, the UFC light heavyweight division is not what it once was. In 2018, the 205lbs weight class has reached a low point.

Jones’ transgressions with the law and with USADA have not helped things. There’s no question if Jones was still fighting the division would be in better shape, but the fact is he could be suspended for a couple more years, and we have to operate under the assumption he won’t be back for a while. Any division losing arguably the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport would be feeling the loss, but at 205lbs it hurts even more because the division is lacking depth. Outside of UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier — who is not even fighting in the weight class at the moment as he moves up to heavyweight to challenge Stipe Miocic — there are no truly elite fighters at 205lbs. And outside of maybe five or six guys, there isn’t much top-shelf talent, nor are there too many prospects on the come-up. The present state of light heavyweight is grim, and the future isn’t much brighter.

How did we get here? Well it’s important to keep in mind how many fighters have left the division in recent years. Just to free agency alone the UFC lost both Ryan Bader and Phil Davis to Bellator, and both guys are universally ranked in the top-10 in the world. The UFC decided they didn’t want to pay big-dollar money to wrestlers, but considering Bader’s recent evolution in his striking and Davis’ overall success since going to Bellator, perhaps the UFC wishes it made a better attempt to retain those two. The UFC also let Nikita Krylov head home to Russia and he’s won three-straight fights since leaving the UFC. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson also retired which didn’t help things as he was a top-five guy as well. And Alexander Gustafsson barely fights these days.

The UFC has also had a hard time developing prospects in the division, with young fighters like Misha Cirkunov, Tyson Pedro, Khalil Rountree and Corey Anderson being exposed badly in step-up fights. There’s still a couple interesting guys like Jordan Johnson and Gadzhimurhad Antigulov that could make headway in the division, but in general there isn’t much to look forward to. The lack of depth at present is a massive concern in a division that is already top heavy and getting older. Sure, a guy like Luke Rockhold moving up to 205lbs or perhaps some new prospects springing up would help light heavyweight, but in general there isn’t much to look out for on the horizon. The UFC can only hope Jones’ suspension doesn’t last long and that he can resume his fighting career. Remember, DC is almost 40 and doesn’t have too many fights left in his career, according to the man himself. A 205lbs division without Jones, DC and Rumble is a 205lbs division I don’t want to know.

It’s really depressing what has happened to the UFC light heavyweight division but here we are. This is what happens when you have a dominant champion for a long time who cleans out the division, let some big names leave in free agency, struggle to develop prospects and have some fighters leave to retirement. All of these factors have contributed to 205lbs reaching a low point in 2018. When the big fights in this division are matchups like Volkan Oezdemir vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua you know there’s a major problem in the weight class. Unfortunately things are not looking up from here. It feels like we’ve reached a low point, but maybe things can get even worse. At least the UFC’s other divisions are interesting.

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