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UFC Light Heavyweight Division

By jasonadams | February 8, 2006

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Chuck Liddell’s second round KO of mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture at UFC 57 solidified his hold on the top spot at 205lbs. in the UFC. Couture’s emotional farewell after the fight marked the end of an era. Randy has been a major player in the push towards making mixed martial arts a mainstream popular sport in the US. Starting with the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, Couture was pushed as the wise veteran, a true gentleman of the sport that was hard to root against. Now he’s gone. That leaves a big hole in the division. But it also leaves a tremendous opportunity for someone to step into the role of Liddell’s next big challenge.

If you evaluate the current status of the light heavyweight division, only a couple of names really jump out at you as possible contenders. Renato “Babalu” Sobral has been extremely impressive lately, riding a big winning streak. He would seem the natural choice for a shot at the title. However, there are a few factors working against that. First off, as talented as Babalu is, the newer fans in the UFC audience have yet to really connect to him. He hasn’t worked his way into “star status”. And secondly, Babalu has already fought Chuck once and was convincingly defeated by KO. I still believe having Babalu fight Chuck is the best option available. If Chuck wins, he continues his run of beating extremely tough guys. If Babalu wins, we build up to an extremely hyped rubber match between the two for the title.

The second name that really jumps out at you is former champ Tito Ortiz. Tito signed a three fight deal, with the 3rd fight being a shot at the title if he wins the first two. First up is a tough test against TUF I winner Forrest Griffin. From this fight, a top contender will emerge. If Ortiz wins, he captures momentum by being the first to beat Forrest in the UFC. Griffin is extremely popular from his time on the TV show, and a victory by Ortiz gives him credibility with new fans. If Griffin wins, he gains all kinds of credibility from defeating a former multiple-time champion.

There are several newer fighters that could eventually challenge for a title shot. Stefan Bonnar has been impressive thus far. Alessio Sakara is a tough fight for anyone. Keith Jardine and TUF 2 winner Rashad Evans are both fighting light heavyweight now. Jason Lambert and Scott Smith are up and coming 205ers. Eventually matching some of these contenders against each other to determine future #1 contenders to the title would serve the UFC well.

Also a possibility now that the UFC appears to have become very profitable is brining in a big name from overseas like Rampage Jackson(who holds a win over Liddell). This is another exciting possibility that is looking to be more and more realistic.

Overall, this division is a strong suit for the UFC. Liddell is probably the biggest star the UFC has. The way new stars are made is to beat an existing star. So I think this division, along with welterweight, will continue to be a compelling division for a long time to come.

Topics: All Topics, Jason Adams, MMA, UFC | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

5 Responses to “UFC Light Heavyweight Division”

  1. Ryan says:

    Rampage has only one fight left on his Pride contract, which is this month. UFC needs to break out the pocket book and dish out the $$$$. Word is that UFC won’t probably give him as much money as Pride, but the endorcement deals will make it over the top.

    With his promo abilities, Rampage will become a UFC superstar for sure.

  2. Luke says:

    Jason, I don’t feel the same way. After Babalu I don’t know where UFC goes with the LHW Division. I don’t think Griffin or Bonnar are ready for primetime yet. I think UFC is going to have to ride the Welterweight and/or Middleweight Divisions for now, while they rebuild the LHW Division. I think if UFC books strategicallly, there are quite a few quality main events to keep them going through 2006 (along with Tito/Ken and possibly Tito/Liddell 2). I think the two heaviest divisions in UFC are the weakest.

  3. Jason says:

    I agree heavyweight is very weak. I think everyone agrees there. But I really like the fighters at light heavyweight and how they stack up over the next 2-3 years. I don’t think that division is weaker than middleweight. Middleweight has some solid fighters but only one star. Franklin is the only well known fighter in the division. After that, maybe Leben and Swick are somewhat well known, but not to the point of the TUF light heavyweights. Jeremy Horn is solid, but boring in his last fight and he won’t fight Franklin. Marquardt, Salaverry and Terrell are all good fighters but not people the average fan knows.

    In light heavyweight, you have Liddell, Ortiz, Shamrock, and yes, Griffin and Bonnar, who are all well known fighters. Babalu is a stud who could give Chuck problems. Griffin and Bonnar may not be ready for the big time, but we will find out soon. Griffin/Ortiz will be a huge fight for the UFC. The build up for the winner of that fight taking on the champ will be huge.

  4. Tomer says:

    Don’t forget Franklin’s challenger for UFC 58, David Loiseau, at Middleweight….

  5. HijoDelOso says:

    Out of the currently contracted fighters, the only big money fight I see for Chxck is the rematch with Tito.


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