Cautious UFC Matchmaking leads to untested challengers for Jon Jones at 205

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Commentary/Opinion

gustafsson1Has Jon Jones jeopardized the health of the light heavyweight division? Seriously, has his quick dismantling of virtually ALL of the top challengers in a short period of time causing problems within the division? To me, it seems obvious that the UFC matchmaking is being compromised to accommodate a champion who could already be out of challengers.

Jones captured the belt barely two years ago. At that time, the division was top heavy with fighters who had, shall we say, been around the block before. Guys like Evans, Shogun, Rampage, Griffin, Henderson and Franklin dominated the top 10. That should have raised red flags about the overall health of the 205 pound class. Today, the UFC seems desperate to anoint the “next big challenge” for Jones.

I’ll be honest, I think Gustafsson is a good fighter—but he’s not ready to fight Jones. And I think the UFC knows it. Wins over Vladimir Matyushenko and Thiago Silva, while noteworthy, aren’t really what a typical challenger has on his recent résumé. Basically, a single top 10 victory—his latest against Shogun Rua—is the only real quality win of Gustafsson’s career. I won’t lampoon Shogun’s recent accolades too much, but I think you know where I’m going—two wins in his last six fights.

A similar path is being paved in the case of tonight’s headliner, Glover Teixeira. The latest sensation at 205 has risen to the top of the division without a single high level victory on his record. His win over Rampage Jackson is only arguably a quality win in terms of the rankings. More telling are Teixeira’s other UFC wins—James Te Juna, Fabio Maldonado and Kyle Kingsbury. Not exactly a murderer’s row of contenders.

His next opponent, Ryan Bader, is also outside the top 10. If my hunch is correct—and I think it will be—Glover will be given a title shot tonight if he wins. That would mean he achieved that slot without ever defeating a top 10 fighter.

The finger isn’t pointed at Teixeira. He can only beat the competition given to him. Instead, the UFC is to blame for this type of cautious matchmaking. If Gustafsson fought Machida—and lost—there goes the plan. If Teixeira was scheduled against Sonnen—and lost—there goes that plan too. Jones’ title reign can’t be a series of fights against the same four fighters. And without being very vigilant in their matchmaking, the UFC was in danger of doing just that.

The UFC is building artificial challengers here. That isn’t to say neither Gustafsson or Teixeira (or Phil Davis, who’s next next next by the way) aren’t quality opponents. Rather, I’m suggesting that the way they were built wasn’t the normal method of building a contender by virtue of fighting increasingly more difficult opponents. For now, the UFC has decided that a LHW contender needs just a single “perceived” big win to be thrust into the cage with Jon Jones.

  1. Josh Boyd says:

    Lets be honest… the 205lb division is and has been weak the entire time Jon Jones has been in the picture! He has beat “has beens”, “not yets” and 185ers!

  2. […] with a great future in the sport. But honestly I think he’s in over his head. Ideally, if the LHW division wasn’t in complete disarray, Gustafsson would likely be at least one or two fights away from […]

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