KING’S TAKE: The UFC Light Heavyweight Division and where Ryan Bader fits in headed into 2017

By Christopher King, MMATorch contributor

Ryan Bader (photo credit Jason da Silva © USA Today)

For many years the Light Heavyweight Division was MMA’s best. The fighters combine tremendous power while still being able to move with agility and have great technique. The competition at the top of the division was fierce and unyielding. Sadly, those days are long behind us.

In recent years the division has grown stale. With little to no outstanding young talent emerging, the division has suffered. Looking through the top ten in the division, we see few emerging names and several aging fighters. The current champion Daniel Cormier is 37 and his next challenger Anthony Johnson is already 32.

Glover Teixeira is 37, Ryan Bader is 33, Jimi Manuwa is 36, and Ovince Saint Preux is 33. The only person who is under 30 before we get to the number ten rank fighter is Alexander Gustafsson, and he is 29.

Rounding out the top ten we have Mauricio Rua, 34; Rashad Evans, 37; and then of course there is Antonio Rogerio Nogueira who looked ever single minute of his 40 years while being destroyed in last weekend’s main event in Brazil.

He was, of course, mauled by Ryan “Darth” Bader who has recently closed out his contract with his third round TKO of the legendary Brazilian fighter by using his excellent takedown offense and vicious ground and pound. Bader himself said afterwards…

“I’ll get with the UFC, have talks with them, re-up… I don’t see anybody else up there. The top five is wide open. I deserve that title shot, and that’s what I’m coming for.”

If Daniel Cormier wins his title match at UFC 206, I do believe that Ryan Bader will deserve his chance at the belt. There are problems that work against him, though. Jon Jones may well come back and move in front of him in the queue once he has served his suspension, although that will not be until July 2017. The other problem is that the general public is not clamoring to put him in a title shot.

A strong wrestler, Bader seems to fall when he faces the elite competitors. He has lost to Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida, Glover Teixeira, and Anthony Johnson. While he is still clearly in the top five best in the division, it seems inescapable that he is not the best, so therefore why have him in a title shot?

With Bellator once again showing their strength by signing “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko, you can bet that they would be very keen to talk to Mr. Bader and potentially sign him up.

So this looks like it could lead to a bumper pay deal for Bader, and one I think he deserves. He has been fighting at or near the top for quite some time and it is time to get paid. The Reebok deal still being an issue, it seems that the UFC will have to dig deep into their coffers if they want to retain him. With the state of the division, and his name recognition, it would be a big blow if they could not hold on to him.

Time will tell, of course, but the UFC should take note that it is not only their once banner division that is suffering from a lack of talented new blood. The Flyweight Division and Heavyweight Division, and both women’s divisions are all sorely in need of more outstanding talent. It is time that the new owners ante up.

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS KING’S TAKE: The importance of making weight – Gastelum and Lineker hurt themselves, but selfishly also affect their opponents’ careers and livelihoods

(Christopher King of Arundel, England is a new MMATorch contributor. He got hooked on MMA after watching UFC 114 featuring “Rampage” Jackson vs. Rashad Evans and from there, he says, “I spent a ridiculous amount of money and time watching every event from UFC 1 up to the present so I could understand the history of the sport, the fighters, the weight divisions and everything else in between. It was the style of fighting that drew me in, in order to see what martial art was the most effective, and from there, the fighters themselves, their story, their training and the sacrifices that they go through.” Follow him on Twitter – @ChristofKing)

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