Here we are just a little over a month removed from two incredibly important light heavyweight fights. Now it’s time to decide what comes next for the division. Daniel Cormier came up short against champion Jon Jones, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson demolished Alexander Gustafsson, the one fighter to present Jones with a legitimate challenge to his throne. The champion has a date with Rumble, but what comes next for “DC” and “The Mauler”?
It has already been announced that Johnson, fresh off his first-round upset of Gustafsson, will be the next to challenge for the light heavyweight championship. Rumble will meet “Bones” Jones, who is coming off a five-round decisive victory over Cormier. Most would think that a match-up between the losers of these two fights would be an excellent way for those fighters to climb back up that ladder. However, UFC President Dana White shot down that idea. So, what comes next?
A previously scheduled foe seems to be the most logical choice for Cormier. That opponent, of course, would be Rashad Evans. The pair was to meet at UFC 170 to settle their differences, but Evans was forced to pull out due to a leg injury just 10 days prior to the event. This allowed Patrick Cummins to build upon a some old bad blood with Cormier and help market the fight. The feud created the impression that the fight would be more competitive than it actually ended up being. Cormier destroyed Cummins via TKO in just 79 seconds and would go on to rag-doll Dan Henderson just three months later. Cormier then challenged Jones for the light heavyweight crown, but he came up short and suffered his first career loss.
Evans, on the other hand, has not been inside the Octagon since a first-round TKO of Chael Sonnen in November 2013 at UFC 167. Evans has been linked to multiple fights since then, including pairings with Gustafsson and, most recently, Glover Teixeira. Neither of these fights came to fruition, though. Now, a fight with Cormier makes the most sense for Evans, a former champ in need of a chance to prove his relevance inside the cage after such a long layoff. Who better to welcome him back than DC?
This fight provides Cormier with his own set of perks as well. Cormier’s resume in the light heavyweight division is problematic. He has just one win over top-10 competition, and even that is debatable given that the victory came over Henderson, who is 1-4 in his last five appearances as a 205-pounder. With a win over a veteran fighter and former champion like Evans, Cormier would catapult right back into the mix and really solidify his place as a top contender.
But enough about Cormier. What about Gustafsson?
Well, it seems that the Swede might be on a crash course with Ryan Bader. It seems that this match-up is a way to stop a logjam from forming and puts the top six fighters in the division, including Jones, on schedule for their next challenges. Gustafsson will be looking for redemption following his upset loss to Johnson. In Bader, he would be facing a talented wrestler who is currently riding a four-fight winning streak.
Bader will be looking to recapture fans’ attention with an exciting performance and high-profile win over a former title challenger. Bader’s last performance against Phil Davis wasn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser. However, if Bader scores a dominant win over a fighter such as Gustafsson, it will be hard to deny his title-contender status. Jones derailed Bader’s march toward a title shot four years ago, and Bader would certainly love a second chance against the champ.
Cormier and Gustafsson are still key players in the makeup of a light heavyweight division that could be completely revamped by year’s end depending on the results of their fights and the title tilt between Jones and Rumble.