What is The UFC Light Heavyweight Division Without Jon Jones?
By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
It’s been a weird week. UFC 252 was one of the strangest PPV events we have had in a long time with injuries, big upsets, and the odd injury that derailed Sean O’Malley. Today that run continues, and we were hit with some seriously unexpected news. Jon Jones has vacated the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Title.
Just got off the phone with @Ufc, today I confirm that I’m vacating the light heavyweight championship. It’s officially up for grabs. It’s been an amazing journey, sincere thank you to all my competition, Ufc and most importantly you fans.
— BONY (@JonnyBones) August 17, 2020
This came shortly after the fight announcement between top contenders Dom Reyes and Jan Blachowicz.
Breaking: A 205-pound fight between Dominick Reyes (@DomReyes) and Jan Blachowicz (@JanBlachowicz) is in the works for Sept. 26. The fight is nearly agreed to, but the stakes are being worked out. UFC is working with current champ Jon Jones right now to figure out his next move. pic.twitter.com/lHy7GUfX2Q
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) August 17, 2020
This fight appears to have been some kind of a move against Jon Jones. The fight was announced for September 26th, but it was not placed on a numbered UFC PPV event, and it was not announced that this fight was for a title. I suspect that the UFC was attempting to strong-arm Jon Jones into fighting and threatening to put an interim title on the line. Jon, however, seems perfectly content to continue holding out for more cash and his big-ticket up at Heavyweight. Now there can be no other move but to make Reyes vs. Blachowicz for the 205 strap!
It has been SO LONG since Jon Jones was the UFC’s Light Heavyweight champ that I honestly need to take stock of the division and see what it looks like without him in the picture. Jon took the UFC 205 belt from MMA legend Shugon back in 2011 and set the record for being the youngest UFC champion ever. I know there have been several times that the belt has been taken from Jon due to various circumstances, but he has never lost it in combat. So realistically, Jon has been the best 205er and undisputed champion for the nine full years.
Jon most recently fought Dom Reyes (#2), and he did not look like himself. There were arguments to be made that Dom did enough to win that fight, and we should have had a new champion, but the record shows another victory for Jones. We all expected that a rematch would be coming soon due to how competitive the fight was, but another fighter made a strong claim for his chance at a title shot. Jan Blachowicz(#4) has been taking out every challenge placed in front of him and is 7-1 in his last eight fights, with his only loss coming to Thiago Santos. Jan looked posed to sneak in for a title shot as the new exciting contender for Jon over a Reyes who Jon simply didn’t seem willing to face again.
Since we are on the topic of Thiago Santos (#3), let’s check in on the Brazilian KO machine.
Nós treinamos muito, muitas viagens, ficamos em quarentena, mas nada nos impediu. Nós estamos prontos pra tudo que vier e vamos dar o nosso melhor essa noite, obrigado a todos pela força e energia positiva. Deus nos abençoe. @YanaKunitskaya1 #UFCVegas6 #UFCnoCombate pic.twitter.com/NczojvTvJe
— Thiago Marreta (@TMarretaMMA) August 8, 2020
Thiago has been recovering since both of his knees were blown out in his fight against Jon Jones back in July of 2019. The #3 ranked 205er was the first to make Jon look human and nearly did enough to get a win without the use of either of his legs. I still have no idea how Thiago was able to stand in that fight, much less able to throw some of the bombs he was trying to land on Jones. Thiago has been focusing on the career of his wife Yana Kunitskaya during his recovery, but now he is ready to go. Thiago might be the forgotten piece of this puzzle, but if he is back to 100%, you can bet he will be back with a vengeance and a genuine claim to the title.
Welcoming Thiago, back to the UFC, will be the best Gatekeeper of all time in #5 ranked Glover Teixeira. Teixeira is working his way back to the title picture one would-be contender at a time and is off his most recent beating of Anthony Smith, who is ranked #6. With Jon removed the 4 Light Heavyweights in the world appear to have aligned themselves in a neat little tournament that should be an absolute blast to watch.
After the top 4 fighters at 205, things get a little crazy. Smith, who is #6 and coming off a loss, is fighting #10 Aleksander Rakic, who is a young, exciting KO artist. Jacare Souza, who is more of a 185er than a real 205er, is ranked #8 at the moment. Then we have Volkan Oezdemir, who has dropped to rank #9 after running into the hottest new prospect in years in #7 ranked Jiri Prochazka.
Finally, we have the newest possibly most exciting challenger to the division in an old face. Anthony Rumble Jonson appears to be striking while the iron is hot!
Breaking: Anthony Johnson (@Anthony_Rumble) will re-enter the UFC’s mandatory drug testing program this week in anticipation of a comeback, per his manager Ali Abdelaziz (@AliAbdelaziz00). Right now, the plan is to come back as a light heavyweight. pic.twitter.com/5sclYSSaUF
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) August 18, 2020
Rumble has been teasing a comeback for the last couple of years but seemed to be setting his sights on the UFCs Heavyweight Division rather than his old home at 205. The last time we saw Rumble in action, he was wary of the fight game and lost a title fight rematch to Daniel DC Cormier. Now that both Jon and DC have vacated the division, Rumble must like his chances against the remaining fighters because he has abandoned his plans to bulk up to Heavyweight and will now pivot and assault the Light Heavyweight elite again. Anthony Rumble Jonson was my favorite fighter for years, and having him back in the mix is extremely exciting to me. The raw power of most fighters at 205 right now is insane, and we are getting back to the golden days of the division. We will have a nice little run of fights where any man can drop the other on any given night, and I am here for it.
I have been backing the consistently underrated Jan Blacowicz for quite some time and call me crazy, but I think he can beat Dom Reyes. He is fighting an uphill battle, but I can see him getting it done. The match between Thiago and Glover is interesting from the perspective of Thiago’s health. If Thiago isn’t 100%, then Glover will be live in that fight. Jiri needs a dance partner, and with most of the UFC’s other talent already matched up, he will likely get either the winner of Smith vs. Rakic or the returning Rumble.
205 is about to be insane, and suddenly, every fighter on the roster will believe that they have what it takes to rule in the absence of Jon Jones. This is maybe the best thing to have happened to the division in the last ten years.