This morning it was announced that top light-heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson was injured, and his headlining bout at UFC Berlin against Glover Teixiera was off. Replacing the duo is a title bout between women’s strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Jessica Penne.
Holy crap is that a sign that the light-heavyweight division is dead, and its grave is being danced upon by a bunch of 115-pound ladies.
The 205-pound weight class has been in a weird sort of stasis for years. Jon Jones – the erstwhile and newly-stripped ex-champ – was a dominant force that drove the division’s narrative. “Who can defeat Jones?” (Answer: No one.) “Who deserves a shot at his belt next?” (Answer: Whatever. They’re just going to get killed anyway.) “How long will Jones’ reign last?” (Answer: Ha.) But our beloved pound-for-pound great couldn’t get out of his own way, and now he’s suspended indefinitely, leaving behind him a weight class full of guys we all know were never good enough to dethrone him.
Sure, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Daniel Cormier are worthy fighters who very much should be fighting for the belt next, if for no other reason than to fill the vacuum Jones has left. And yeah, despite getting clobbered by Rumble pretty handily, Gustafsson is a top-notch competitor. But who else is there to spark our interest? Ryan Bader – a man who couldn’t get past Lyoto Machida? Ovince St. Preux – a man who couldn’t get past Bader?
The sad truth is, the UFC’s light-heavyweight division – once the best division in all of MMA – is now a shambles.
Now, there’s more fire in the women’s strawweight division.
Consider this of the ladies:
- They just had their own season of TUF, which crowned a champ.
- That champ nearly got BEATEN TO DEATH by Jedrzejczyk, and instead of taking some time to let the dust settle on her 115-pound realm, she takes a short-notice fight against a former Invicta FC champ. And that fight is a better main event than Gustafsson/Teixiera ever was!
- The strawweight already have stars that shine brighter than anyone in the light-heavyweights. It’s a big deal that the UFC has welcomed former Invicta champ Michelle Waterson into the fold, and you can bet far more people give a crap about Paige Van Zant fighting than Gustafsson, Bader, Teixeira and OSP combined.
It’s really no one’s fault but Jones’ that the light-heavyweight division has turned into a sad gallery of uninteresting fighters. But that’s how it is now.
And thanks to the ladies, that’s probably how it’s going to be for a long while.