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Digging In: UFC Light Heavyweight Division


The Golden days of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz are no longer. The Days of Rivalries aplenty and higher weight wars are diminished. Nowadays, Jon Jones reigns over the division from afar as he is typically on suspension. In the eyes of many, the current champion Daniel Cormier is not a true champion, because he has never defeated Jones. With Daniel Cormier taking a fight at heavyweight and considering retirement around years end, it will be interesting to see who can step up and take the strap.

Champion – Daniel Cormier: The current champion of the UFC Light Heavyweight Division is the well-traveled Cormier. The Former NCAA Division 1: All American and Former Olympic Wrestler is 21-1 in MMA with his only loss coming to the aforementioned Jon Jones. Jones has surely been Cormier’s Kryptonite, as he gets the best of him inside and outside of the cage. In all seriousness, I do believe that Daniel Cormier is the 3rd best Mixed Martial Artist in the world currently behind Jones and Flyweight Champ Demetrious Johnson. Cormier’s latest win was over the Streaking Volkan Oezdemir, before that he received a No Contest with Jon Jones and defeated Anthony Johnson. What I will remember Cormier most for when he is done with his career is his UFC 192 headliner against Alexander Gustafsson, in my opinion, that was the second-best Light Heavyweight fight ever (second to Jones vs. Gustafsson). Currently, Daniel Cormier is training to face Stipe Miocic for the Heavyweight Title, I’m very excited for this one as it should be a closely contested war.

Contenders:

Alexander Gustafsson: “The Mauler” is going into his prime at the age of 31, and if his fight with Glover Teixeira was any indication of the greatness that can occur, then I can see Sweden’s favorite son taking a strap back to Scandinavia. Since his UFC 192 war, Gustafsson has gone 2-0 taking victories over Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Gustafsson is very skilled in all aspects of MMA while not being a master of any, this can really help against fighters who have specialties such as DC with Wrestling. Also, Gustafsson’s training camp in Sweden provides high-level light heavyweights to be training partners, namely Ilir Latifi and Jimi Manuwa. I believe that with DC heading up to heavyweight and mulling retirement, Gustafsson will soon be announced to be fighting for an interim title.

Volkan Oezdemir: No one expected Volkan Oezdemir to come off the couch and defeat Ovince St. Preux, he did it. No one expected Volkan Oezdemir to defeat submission specialist Misha Cirkunov, he did, by KO in under a minute. No one expected Volkan Oezdemir to defeat Jimi Manuwa, he did, also KOing him in under a minute. Volkan’s Meteoric rise is unprecedented in the UFC and it was extremely impressive, right now, he is Henri Hooft’s star pupil. Volkan’s Momentum was halted however as he was defeated by Daniel Cormier at UFC 220. “No Time” will return to action in the Main Event of UFC Fight Night: Hamburg against Shogun Rua. Also, he should probably make sure his Aggravated Assault charge is taken care of before he goes overseas, just a thought.

Glover Teixeira: Glover is always going to be apart of the upper echelon of the Light Heavyweight Division, will he ever win a UFC Strap? No. Glover is 2-2 in his last 4. His wins were somewhat impressive, but his losses were very, very unfortunate. He was nearly decapitated by Anthony Johnson, and he was ground out and uppercutted to death by Alexander Gustafsson. I believe that Glover is still one to watch, and his victory over Misha Cirkunov is proof of that, I just believe that for the rest of his UFC journey, he will be a high-level gatekeeper.

Jon Jones: The second best fighter of all time is also the second worst driver of all time. He has a lengthy list of impressive finishes, drug test failures, and unfortunate driving offenses. Honestly, I’m kind of impressed. Everytime that we believe Jon Jones has changed, he hasn’t. It’s an incredible circle. I do believe that he was innocent in his drug test failures, however. I believe Joe Rogan’s hypothesis about him taking a tainted supplement, especially due to the levels of that substance that were in his system both before and after the fight. Once Jon Jones comes back to the UFC, I fully expect him to regain his former glory and once again take the strap. At a press conference for UFC 214, Jones told Cormier I beat you after a week after I was on Cocaine. This is all I need to hear. Disclaimer: Jones is supposedly clean from drugs now, barring the occasional Viagra.

Other Contenders:

Ilir Latifi: Latifi is a bit of an enigma, he seems like a gatekeeper to the untrained eye, but in reality, he is a very stout wrestler and has hands of steel to go along with it. He has a fight scheduled with Glover Teixeira at UFN: Hamburg and I fully expect it to end with a finish.

Jan Blachowicz: Jan Blachowicz has experienced a career revitalization in late 2017. After losing 4 out of 5, Jan has won three straight against Devin Clark, Jared Cannonier, and Jimi Manuwa. I fully expect his skyrocket to come back to earth, but he should still enjoy a successful UFC Career when it’s all said and done.

Jimi Manuwa: Jimi Manuwa has had his up’s and downs in 2017. He was ready to step up at UFC 214 in case of a drop out from the title fight, but his lack of focus could’ve contributed to his defeat at the hands of Volkan Oezdemir. He also just was outworked by Jan Blachowicz in their second meeting. I feel like Manuwa should face someone like Antigulov to either A. Get back on track or B. Help promote a rising Russian fighter.

Shogun Rua: Former Champion Shogun Rua will not sniff a chance at the belt as long as Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones are competing. However, he can still carve out a great ending to a storied career by keeping his three-fight win streak momentum going.

Ovince St. Preux: OSP just had his three-fight win streak snapped by Ilir Latifi, He can rebound from this with a win over Tyson Pedro in Singapore later in the year. I hope that Mr. Von Flue Choke can get another in his return to Asia. Seriously, there have been 5 Von Flue Choke finishes in UFC history and St. Preux own’s three of them. Jason Von Flue, the namesake of the choke, only did it once. It’s a Saint Preux Choke now.

Light Heavyweight Prospects:

Tyson Pedro: Tyson Pedro is 3-1 in the UFC with impressive wins over Khalil Rountree, Paul Craig, and Saparbek Safarov. He has finished all of his wins and I believe he is ready for a big step up in competition such as Ovince St. Preux.

Gadzhimurad Antigulov: Antigulov has finished his only two UFC fights via submission and he looks to be a tough out for anyone matched against him.

Jordan Johnson: Johnson is 3-0 in the UFC and is undefeated as a professional. He is also officially ranked. His last fight over Adam Milstead was somewhat lackluster, and since the finish in the UFC has alluded him he should not expect to be on any Main Cards anytime soon.

(Anthony Johnson please come back)

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