The UFC’s ever-increasing number of weight-classes have always fallen into one of two groups. There are those special divisions where it’s damn near impossible to make a bad matchup within the top 15; where the laundry list of killers and celebrity names guarantee that big fight feeling every single time. These are the divisions that fans truly care about… and then there are the other ones *cough* Flyweight *cough*. Those that simply bumble along in the background, with fans offering a mere glance every now and then, before reverting their attention back to those sexy money fights. Over the last decade, light heavyweight went from the UFC’s marquee, celebrity division, to a stagnant contest of “Who will get to lose to Jon Jones next?” But with “Bones” recently vacating the title that he’d been having an on/off relationship with for nine years, I feel that we’re entering a new era at 205lbs, and a very exciting one at that.
As I mentioned, once upon a time the light heavyweight division was to the UFC what lightweight is today: the most talent-rich weight-class in the sport, with all-time greats, PPV selling names, and future Hall of Famers. Then, however, a man named Jonathan Jones came along and killed them all. Every last one. Not to say that Jones’ historic reign was a complete slog; there were enthralling battles and displays of dominance that are captivating to this day. But in recent years, fans had a hard time seeing any contender as a legitimate threat to Jones, with some (wrongly) going as far as to call the division “shallow”. And thus, they became bored.
All of that change has changed as of a matter of weeks ago when Jones announced his vacating of the light heavyweight title. Suddenly, after a decade-long tyrannical reign, it’s anybody’s game. The Jones eclipse is over, and with his looming shadow gone, the fantastic array of talent at 205lbs is able to shine through at last. Dominick Reyes is the uncrowned champion in the eyes of many (including myself), so when you pair him against the one-punch power of Jan Blachowicz, we have the most intriguing title fight since Jones vs Gustaffson 2. Meanwhile, Glover Texiera has been defying age and crushing the dreams of many an aspiring young fighter, so I can’t wait to see who emerges as the next challenger from his upcoming bout against returning wildman Thiago Santos, who always turns up trying to murder his opponent. When it comes to this top four, it’s anybody’s guess who sits atop the 205 throne this time next year (although my money is on Reyes).
I won’t lie and say the division has become the company’s best overnight; it certainly doesn’t have the blockbuster fight potential it did many moons ago. But if you’re strictly looking for some good scraps, then light heavyweight’s got you covered. Outside of the aforementioned top 4, we have a healthy dose of fresh blood that every weight class needs to keep moving. From Aleksander Rakic to Nikita Krylov, all the way to Jiri Prochazka, the last of whom recently danced like a muppet in the middle of octagon before knocking Volkan Oezdemir out cold. Sprinkle in the always game Anthony Smith and we have a division full of great, interesting matchups. One that can finally move on from the Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, and create some brand new stars at the top. The word “era” is used far too much in MMA (I’m looking at you, Jon Anik), but this truly is the beginning of an exciting new one.