Earlier today, UFC President Dana White amended statements he made in a recent conference call pertaining to how the organization would handle top contendership in the light heavyweight division. Initially, White explained the winner of the UFC on FOX 4 headliner between Brandon Vera-Mauricio Rua would exit the Octagon with an opportunity to face the 205-pound champion. He has since changed his take to include Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader in the discussion, as the two talented 205ers also fight at this weekend’s event.
While White’s intention may have been to quell an outraged fan base wondering why Vera, whose only win since 2009 was a controversial decision over Eliot Marshall, was even up for consideration or Rua, who lost his last fight, were up for consideration. However, including Machida (1-3 in his last four) and Bader (finished in consecutive fights a year ago) is a small concession considering the bigger picture.
Were there no other options the UFC’s plan might be understandable. Unfortunately, they apparently forgot about Alexander Gustafsson who is 14-1 and has won five fights in a row including one-sided showings against Vladimir Matyushenko, Matt Hamill, and Thiago Silva. The 25-year old Swede also has the range and athleticism to deal with Jon Jones if the current champ retains against Dan Henderson in September. Even better, unlike Machida/Rua/Bader/Vera, Jones has never faced Gustafsson nor finished him as he did the quartet of aforementioned “contenders” in previous meetings.
What, they’re going to potentially promote a fight between “Bones” and three guys who couldn’t even last three rounds against him in recent match-ups? Ridiculous. Instead, the UFC needs to let Gustafsson fight a contender and give him the title-shot if he emerges with his hand raised. If he loses, enough time would still be left to have a combination of the winners from UFC on FOX 4 go at it while Jones/Henderson take an extra month or two to heal/train. It’s actually quite simple, yet apparently the importance of FOX trumped intellect.
Holding the UFC’s light heavyweight strap used to mean more than it did in any of the other weight-classes. Now the gold has seemingly been replaced by gilded steel (or maybe even the tin-foil those traditional chocolate coins are wrapped in if Vera somehow earns the shot). The approach is also a stark reminder of why MMA will struggle to find the same mainstream success as other sports where those contending for championships are determined by performance instead of popularity.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC