With Dana White announcing that either the winner of Ryan Bader vs Lyota Machida or the winner of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs Brandon Vera will get a title shot, people have been saying that this goes to show how shallow the Light Heavyweight division has become.This is simply not the case. The division is as stacked as ever, with many elite fighters besides Jon Jones, like Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua, Lyota Machida, Rampage Jackson, and Dan Henderson. Up and comers like Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis, Ryan Bader, James Te-Huna, Ryan Jimmo, Glover Teixeira, and even guys like Stanislav Nedkov, Vinny Magalhaes, and Igor Pokrajac. The old gaurd is still being represented with guys like Stephan Bonnar, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Thiago Silva, and Krzysztof Soszynski. So if a lack of depth isn't the problem, then what is? After the jump, we'll examine the real problem with the division and look for ways to solve it.
This is the elite of the division, and people here are either currently deserving of a title shot, have had a recent title shot, or are 1 potentially big fight away from a title shot. The problem here is that 5 of the 9 fighters have not only lost to Jon Jones, but have been completely dominated by him. Of the remaining 4, one has a title fight scheduled with Jon Jones, which only leaves Alexander Gustaffson, Phil Davis, and Forrest Griffin. Out of these remaining 3, Gustaffson is the clear choice to give a title shot to, but he is injured, and will be on the sidelines until probably November. The UFC should be scheduling the last 2 fighters against other fighters in this tier, setting them up for possible title shots. Instead, they are matching them against unknown new comers like Wagner Prado and 5 years past his prime Tito Ortiz. Some people will say that Forrest doesn't belong in this group, but ask yourself, if they matched him against a guy like Rashad Evans, and Forrest wins convincingly, would you think he deserved a title shot then? Probably, which puts him in this tier.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
These are the second class citizens of the division, fighters who have either been in the Elite of the division before, or who are recently on a good run of fights. These fighters haven't had a signature win over a top fighter recently, and are 2 or 3 big fights away from being in the title picture. This tier is made up of the old guard, and the up and comers. The UFC needs new faces in the top of the division, and for that to happen they need to match the fighters in tier 1 who are coming off of losses with the fighters in tier 2 to try to shake up the division and breathe a little life into the stagnant rankings. These fighters should also be shoved into the public's eye, so if they do become tier 1 fighters, they won't be unknown and unmarketable like Alexander Gustaffson.
This tier consists of potential up and comers, the old guard who haven't done well lately, and tier 2 fighters who have been set back.These fighters need a couple signature wins to become mainstays in the division, and are 4 or 5 fights away from the title picture. The UFC needs to be matching these fighters against fighters in tier 2 who are coming off losses, and the old guard of tier 2 as well. They need to be attempting to move these fighters up through the tiers, and into the public's eye, and relevancy in the rankings. I don't think Brandon Vera belongs even in this tier, and he would have been unlisted if he wasn't being promised a title shot if he wins "impressively".
In summary, the problem with the Light Heavyweight division is matchmaking, with not enough fights being scheduled and not enough fighters being moved up through the division. The fighters who are closest to fighting Jon Jones aren't being matched against the right opponents to get them there. The UFC needs to start scheduling a lot more fights in this division, or Jones is going to keep fighting the same few fighters over and over again.