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8/8/16: Five Fights to Make in UFC’s Light Heavyweight Division
Running with the assumption that Jon Jones’ USADA test failure will take him out of action for a considerable time, today we look at five fights to make in the UFC’s light heavyweight division from the top on down.
5. Rashad Evans vs. Nikita Krylov: If Evans is ever going to get himself anywhere close to “back” in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, he needs a win. He needs a win badly. It doesn’t ultimately matter who he fights at this point to accomplish that, but a fight with Nikita Krylov could hit a number of possible options for the UFC. Krylov’s been on a roll against a lesser level of competition, but he needs a significant win to take that next step. If Evans can block it he’ll be right there once again at the top of a weak field.
4. Ryan Bader vs. Ilir Latifi: We’re getting into some fights already booked, but this matchup between Bader and Latifi is one that could have been made under any circumstances. Latifi continues to impress against a certain level of opposition, while Bader tends to beat those he’s better than while losing decisively against those he’s not. Latifi’s got a chance to prove which end of that he belongs on while Bader tries to keep himself afloat.
3. Ovince Saint Preux vs. Jimi Manuwa: Saint Preux put forth an admirable effort against division kingpin Jon Jones on short notice in April, and the UFC’s essentially rewarded him with what should be somewhat of a tune-up fight. Manuwa’s a veteran who’s only lost twice in his career, but those two losses came in his last three fights, and both were by strikes. Manuwa’s on his way down, Saint Preux’s got a lot left to offer, and the fight serves as a showcase for a fighter who may have been lost in the shuffle otherwise.
2. Alexander Gustafsson (w/win over Jan Blachowicz) vs. Anthony Johnson-Glover Teixeira loser: Gustafsson’s fighting Jan Blachowicz next in what is essentially a reset fight, so if he wins that fight he belongs in a bout against whomever isn’t challenging for the title next. A rematch with “Rumble” Johnson could be a good chance for him to get a win back, while a fight with Teixeira would be a new matchup for the Swedish star in order to get back into the title picture. Either way, a win in his next bout has him lined up for something significant.
1. Daniel Cormier vs. Johnson-Teixeira winner: If Jones is out of the mix, there just isn’t a better fight to make at the top end of the division than Cormier against the winner of UFC 202’s “Rumble” Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira bout. It’s preferable if it’s Teixeira due to the fact that Cormier’s beaten Johnson already, but it’s the right fight to make for Cormier regardless if he’s going to move forward as the best of the rest at 205 lbs.
[Photo (c) Joe Camporeale via USA Today Sports]
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