Saturday, December 4, 2021

New Blood Is Rising Up In The UFC Light Heavyweight Division

The UFC‘s light heavyweight division has for a few years now been one of the most shallow weight classes in the sport, but finally in the summer of 2018 the weight class looks like it’s on the come up. At this past weekend’s UFC Hamburg event, we saw four young light heavyweights put on excellent showings that demonstrated the division finally has some prospects we can look forward to. It’s a nice change of pace for one of the UFC’s oldest divisions, and the future looks bright as all of this new blood rises up at 205lbs.

The most notable performance by these four fighters came courtesy of Anthony Smith, who brutally knocked out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event. Smith was coming off of a knockout over Rashad Evans so he’s now finished two former UFC champions and legends of MMA since moving up to 205lbs. He looks stronger than his opponents at light heavyweight but he’s not killing himself to make 185lbs anymore. It’s true that Smith isn’t a prospect in the true sense of the word as he has 43 pro fights on his record, but he’s also still only 29 and he seems to be improving. He’s already one of the top-10 light heavyweights in the game and could make a run for the top-five soon enough.

Another young light heavyweight who is closing in on the top-five is Corey Anderson, who outwrestled Glover Teixeira in the co-main event. This was by far the biggest win of Anderson’s career so far, and he’s now riding a two-fight win streak in 2018, erasing memories of a horrible 2017 where he was knocked out twice. People forget Anderson is only 28 years old and still an improving fighter. He’s had some bad performances in the Octagon to be sure, but perhaps he’s turned things around, and this win over Teixeira will put a massive name on his resume and guarantees him a big fight his next time out.

Further down the card, Aleksandar Rakic put on one of the most historic beatdowns based on the stats as he outlanded Justin Ledet by two hundred strikes to win a 30-24, 30-24, 30-25 decision, one of the biggest discrepancies in scores in MMA history. Rakic lost his first pro fight but has since reeled off 10 straight wins including two in the UFC. He’s only 26, and after putting on such a dominant display against Ledet, a previously undefeated fighter, you have to wonder if Rakic can possibly go all the way to the top of the light heavyweight ladder. Because right now, he looks like he’s going to be a title contender.

On Fight Pass, Darko Stosic had a dominant beatdown of Jeremy Kimball in a fight that improved the 26-year-old to 13-1 in his career. Stosic looks like he could be something special as well. And this is also a good time to mention a standout performance on this week’s episode of Dana White‘s Tuesday Night Contender Series as 22-year-old Jimmy Crute earned himself a UFC contract with a big knockout win over Chris Birchler. In the past week, that’s five legitimate young fighters showing with their excellent performances that the light heavyweight division is here to stay for a long time, not to mention 28-year-old Khalil Rountree’s breakthrough KO win over Gokhan Saki at UFC 226 a few weeks ago. All of a sudden, the future of the UFC light heavyweight division is bright.

It’s been nearly the entire 2010s that the UFC light heavyweight division turned into an older division. Jon Jones destroying the old guard started it all, and when none of the older fighters were able to beat him it seemed like no other younger fighters were emerging. But with the division in flux with Jones in USADA purgatory and double champion Daniel Cormier fighting at heavyweight, it’s the perfect time for someone new in the division to emerge. We’ve seen on recent UFC cards that there are a number of young fighters with a lot of promise and potential to be future title challengers. These guys still have a lot more to accomplish, but you can see there’s something special there. Between Smith, Anderson, Rakic, Stosic, Crute or Rountree, there is a lot of talent there, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the UFC light heavyweight division.

Who can break through and become a UFC light heavyweight champion among the fresh crop of talent?

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