UFC light heavyweight crop is full of top challengers

Published 7:07 pm Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Light Heavyweight Wars have just begun in the UFC. Forrest Griffin’s toppling of champion Quinton Rampage Jackson last weekend indicated a changing of the guard in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.

The players?

Nine capable and deserving fighters: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Wanderlei Silva, Rashad Evans, “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine, Thiago Silva, and of course, Forrest Griffin and Quinton Jackson.

In this stacked division in the UFC, one shouldn’t put too much stock in who can win the title. They should put stock in who can retain the title. In the coming months and even years, viewers will be treated to absolute wars to see who will make it, and more importantly, stay on top.

The next major battlefront is set for the deep south as Chuck Liddell meets Rashad Evans down in Georgia this September. The winner could very well meet Forrest Griffin for the title later in the year.

There’s so much parity in this division, only three of the nine fighters in this championship mix have won their last three fights: Thiago Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Forrest Griffin.

Some may argue Silva or Machida deserve the next shot at the title. Perhaps, however, one can argue the two haven’t

fought any top ten talent in those victories.

Forrest Griffin’s victory over Rampage Jackson was indeed a controversial one. Griffin squeaked out a unanimous decision in a close bout. Many felt Rampage deserved at least a split decision, let alone a victory. To see how all three judges marked it to be a Forrest victory is baffling.

Sure Forrest dominated the second round and maybe won the final fifth round, but Rampage appeared to have the other three rounds.

Some people rant that the UFC had become boxing or dare we say, the NBA. However, it’s not like that at all. Time and time again, the MMA stars who should have won to setup a bigger and better fight down the road went down to upset.

Look at Cro Cop. Even look at Forrest Griffin circa 2006 when he lost to Keith Jardine. This halted a potential dream match-up with Chuck Liddell in his prime.

Still, people question Griffin’s ownership of the light heavyweight title. Fans wanted the fight won decisively in their eyes. A victory in his next fight would be the one that truly shows he is deserving of being champion.

Griffin surely feels the same way so his opponents better watch out for a determined, hungry champion with something to prove.

As if the UFC light heavyweight division couldn’t get anymore exciting, super-dominant middleweight champion, Anderson “The Spider” Silva is taking one bout in the light heavyweight division, all in the name of capitalism.

Affliction is the new MMA promotion that poses an immediate threat to the UFC’s dominance. Their inaugural event will take place on July 19th. To counter the move, the UFC scrambled and put together a free UFC Fight Night on the same evening.

The main event will feature Silva’s first foray into the 205 pound light heavyweight division as he faces James “The Sandman” Irvin. Silva contends he’ll stay in the 185 pound middleweight division, however he plans to dabble in the light heavyweight division from time to time and possibly fight for a title there too if successful.

With one fight in September 2007, and finally another fight last weekend, there was a ten month hiatus between fights for Rampage Jackson. One’s got to hope that the UFC puts on fight after fight in the light heavyweight division as quickly as possible so fans get a full feel of the match-ups this special division holds.

David Estrada Jr. is a Mixed Martial Arts columnist for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at DavidEstrada@DavidEstrada.com

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