There is a lot of talk about Jon Jones cleaning out the division in two more fights. Seems a little like jumping the gun, but if we are going to jump it, let’s go for distance. To do so, we will make the following assumptions: a) Jon Jones wins his next two fights; b) Neither Jones nor his opponents suffer injuries that derail any fight plans; c) Anderson Silva has meant what he’s said and will not move up to challenge for the title. I know that last one will bug some people, but it’s what Silva has said. Of course if he changes his mind, he’d leapfrog any other fighter.
Jon Jones will be fighting Rashad Evans in April, unless Rashad has an as yet unreported injury from his domination of Phil Davis. If that’s the case, Jones will face Henderson. Either way, whoever doesn’t face Jones in April will probably face him in August or September. Now the question turns to who will Jon Jones challenge next. Is there another challenger or is the division cleaned out and does Jones start rematching fighters he has dominated?
Joe Silva needs to keep working on tracking some of the talented, young LHWs towards the title. Phil Davis just got turned back, showing he wasn’t ready. But what Joe needs to not do is let guys pad their records with easier fights just to move to a title shot. First up after Rashad and Hendo, Alexander Gustafsson.
Alexander Gustafsson obviously has to beat Lil Nog this April. Assuming he does that and doesn’t look really bad doing it, his next fight needs to be in August or September against either Rua or Rampage if he beats Bader. It’s another step up in competition and if Gustafsson pulls a win there, he has nowhere else to go except a title shot in December or January. If he loses either fight, it shows that like Phil Davis, he is not ready and would not have had any shot against Jones.
Following Gustafsson, Thiago Silva could get back in the mix. Give him Brandon Vera as soon as possible. Vera wants it, though I don’t know why. It’s a nice tune-up for Silva coming back from suspension and he’ll need to knock off the ring rust. Then no rest for the wicked. Next fight would be a rematch with Lyoto Machida in the late summer. If he can’t avenge this loss, he doesn’t deserve a title shot. Third fight, a rematch with Rashad towards the end of the year or early 2013. It was a close decision loss and one that he should try to erase with a win if he wants to get a title shot. This would put him in line to fight for the title in the spring of 2013.
Finally, Phil Davis. Yep, he just lost and showed that he wasn’t ready for a title shot just yet. With all due respect to Vladimir Matyushenko, Davis needs to become the new “Janitor” in the LHW division. He needs to start cleaning up some of the guys being left in the wake of all the other matchmaking. First up, possibly the loser of Rampage/Bader. Or he could go with someone from the “senior circuit” in Griffin/Franklin/Ortiz. Following one or two fights with those five possible opponents, he could look to match up with either Rampage, Rua or Machida if they are coming off a loss to either Gustafsson or Silva. Davis’ next fight should be with another one of those three, especially if one happens to beat Gustafsson or Silva, but didn’t look impressive enough to gain a title rematch. Winning all of those fights gives him a four or five fight win streak, plus enough experience to be ready for a shot title in mid to late 2013.
So there’s the future of the the LHW division until 2014, barring injuries, a loss by Jon Jones, losses by any of three future contenders, Anderson Silva deciding to go for a huge payday at LHW, none of the fighters Jones has beaten making a comeback wrecking guys or an unforeseen newcomer tearing through the ranks. Isn’t speculation fun?