Jon Jones Return Results in a Stalemate in the Light Heavyweight Division
The top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division is up in the air now that Jon Jones has returned. Jones came back to defeat Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 in California. It has been made official that Jones’ next fight will be against number three ranked Anthony Smith, as long as Jones is granted a license by the NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission). That fight takes place in March at UFC 235.
Gustafsson has made it clear that he wants to get back in the octagon soon. Since he is uninjured he should get back to it as soon as possible. That being said, he called out Corey Anderson. Anderson had an impressive win on UFC 232. Although Anderson made it clear that he will be taking some time off due to the birth of his child.
Volkan Oezdemir (#5*) will take on Dominick Reyes (#8*) on March 16th. A couple weeks prior on February 23rd Jan Blachowicz (#4*) is slated to fight Thiago Santos (#6*). That accounts for everyone in the top ten except for number 9 and 10 Ilir Latifi and Jimi Manuwa. Latifi and Manuwa are both teammates of Alexander Gustafsson, they are out of the question.
Gustafsson expressed that he is willing to move up to heavyweight in order to get a quick fight in. If he wanted to stay at light heavyweight he could welcome Luke Rockhold to the division. Rockhold stated numerous times his desire and intent on moving up a weight class. A fight with Gustafsson would likely spring him directly in contention for the belt at 205. He obviously also has the option to wait it out for a title eliminator matchup.
Not only does Jones hold up Gustafsson, but Latifi and Manuwa also will have a hard time finding a fight. Both men might be forced to find an opponent ranked behind them. There are only two fighters in the top 15 not slated to fight in the near future. Those two men are Shogun Rua and Nikita Krylov. There are a lot of great fighters right outside the top 15, but Latifi and Manuwa are too deep in their career to start going backward.
The light heavyweight division will be ready to move on towards the middle of the year. The question remains will Gustafsson, Latifi, and Manuwa wait it out to get a better fight or will they take a fight to stay busy?
Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold both plan to move to light heavyweight so there could be a little room for leniency for top contenders like Gustafsson. Jon Jones may very well be the greatest of all time, but so far all he has done is hold up the division.