If you're thinking like me, May 8th will be another W in Lyoto Machida's record, unfortunately. Why do I think this? Even after the masterfully executed game plan utilized by Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua, he did not get his hand raised. Controversy and conspiracy theories aside, ‘Shogun' lost. Maybe not in convincing fashion or on your scorecards but he did. Now this is a must win situation for Rua, in that if he loses his second opportunity at the title, the likelihood that he gets another shot becomes massively lessened. The problem with this is the UFC's light heavyweight division is in what I call a reassembling period. Whereas a few years ago, you had a vast number of names and contenders that could potentially challenge for the belt, now Dana and co. are having to scramble to create believable contenders. Right now, the ONLY contenders are Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson and Rashad Evans. Besides those two, there could be a claim made for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira with a victory over Forrest Griffin. Randy Couture could potentially throw his name in the hat but the UFC seem more focused on superfights for the aging star rather than another title hunt. From there, we have blue chippers Jon ‘Bones' Jones and Ryan Bader. While both have racked up impressive wins in the UFC, throwing them in the sharks pool that is the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division may not be a wise move if they want these guys to be the future draws of the company. As we've seen in the heavyweight division, slow and steady wins the race as both Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez have been primped for their future title shots.
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Thus the immediate future of the light heavyweight division, in my opinion, rests on the shoulders of ‘Shogun' this Saturday and as I stated in my first sentence, his chances don't look good. With a title win, there are countless ways the UFC can go forward. A possible rematch with Rampage would be huge. A fresh match up with Rashad Evans would draw interest. A colossal rematch with ‘Lil Nog' would satisfy any and every hardcore fan. Even a rematch with guy that welcomed him to the UFC would have an excellent storyline. On the flipside, Machida's possible clashes would be much harder to sell. No one wants to see a rematch between him and Rashad. A bout with Rampage would be very interesting but only if he has a good showing against Rashad. I doubt there is much chance that Lil Nog would face ‘The Dragon' as they're both managed by Ed Soares. Forrest Griffin/Lyoto Machida could do some PPV buys but do we really give Forrest much of a chance? Jones and Bader would probably need at least one or two more victories against top flight talent before they get mentioned, so we could possibly see the title and champion sitting on the sidelines for much of the rest of the year.
A victory for ‘Shogun' Saturday is a victory for the UFC and the light heavyweight division. With the other UFC champions basically dominating their respective divisions (even BJ though he's no longer champ), having a competitive division with a vulnerable champion is much needed. As much as we love to see GSP and Anderson Silva crush every welter and middleweight thrown in their way; it's nice to have a champion with challengers that hold a significant threat and are not just positioned to be another member of their highlight reel.