Everybody form a line and take a number. Well actually hold up, there could be someone coming to the front of the line, he kind of has a reservation. This is the situation the UFC’s 205 pound Light-Heavyweight division finds itself in. Daniel Cormier, the current champion, has defeated the two consensus top competitors in his last two fights. First he defeated Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC 187 via submission in the third round, then he defeated Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 in a five round war. A fighter like Cormier would ordinarily be accepted as a fine undisputed champion but therein lies the problem, people are disputing it. If you’ve been away from the sport, or are a newcomer, you may not know about the stipulations surrounding Cormier’s attaining of the Light-Heavyweight belt.

It all started when Jon Jones decided to continue his questionable activities outside of the ring when he got popped for cocaine use. The UFC couldn’t technically suspend him because he tested positive outside of competition. The week before a fight is considered during competition, so when Jon Jones tested positive outside of that time frame he got off scott free, much to the outrage of fellow fighters, including Phil Davis who sarcastically had this to say to the UFC brass,

“I feel like it all needs to be explained to me, so I know when it’s okay to do cocaine and get away with it. So I can do cocaine right now? Cool. Now, when does that period stop? Twelve hours? Why didn’t you tell me this? Halfway through the night before (a fight), I need to stop?”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission couldn’t suspend him because cocaine is not a banned out of competition substance, the UFC didn’t suspend him because, well, he makes them money. Jon Jones was once the UFC’s golden boy, they marketed him as some infallible man who found strength in his religion. With his image already falling they changed the focus to his incredible abilities in the octagon. Jon Jones was taking out all of the top competition, but never doing rematches, Jones had just defeated Cormier and was rearing up to fight the knock-out artist that is Anthony “Rumble” Johnson when he ruined his career. Jones was involved in a traffic collision. Jones ran a red light and hit another car, being driven by a pregnant woman and breaking her wrist, he then fled the scene only to return to the car so he can gather cash and god knows what else before fleeing the scene again. When police showed up to the scene they discovered marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia in the vehicle. Jones was arrested for his crimes and faced severe jail times. With no choice the UFC had to strip him of his title and suspend him indefinitely. Well Jones has gone to court for fleeing the scene, he pleaded guilty and will receive no jail time, despite already having plead guilty for DWI in the past, and will be on probation with required public service.  Now the question is, when will he be back in the UFC?

Daniel Cormier has stated on multiple occasions that he is ready, he wants Jones to “get his S**t together” so he can avenge the only loss of his MMA career. This has created a log jam at the top of the 205 division. There is just 3 absolute tip top fighters, 4 with Jones, and Cormier has already beat the other two in the top 3. At this point the only contender Cormier hasn’t beat is Ryan Bader who’s riding a 5 fight win streak, but the talent disparity leaves Bader’s chances pretty slim. Bader is a fine fighter, he’s improved specifically in his stand up game. He has always been a very strong wrestler with some knockout power but his stand-up has always looked awkward and he looked uncomfortable standing and trading with opponents. In his most recent fight, against Rashad Evans, he looked a lot more comfortable on his feet, he bobbed and weaved, he throw creative punches and more kicks than I think in all of his previous fights combined. But, it’s still not enough. Not if he faces Cormier, who has fought better strikers, stronger wrestlers, and has been hit harder than Bader can throw. Cormier has said he is open to fight Bader, he’s earned his title shot, but do you really think the UFC wants to make Daniel Cormier vs. Ryan Bader a pay-per-view headliner? There’s no money in that. It’ll make a decent placeholder simply because he did earn the shot and it’s a brand new match up, but if Jones announces his return the UFC would love nothing more than to sell the story of a champion returning to claim his throne against the man who he has had the biggest conflict with. Now, that’s money.

I however would love if the UFC does what’s best for the sake of competition. Give Bader the much earned title shot, and make Jon Jones fight his way back to the title. Jones was set to fight Anthony Johnson, let’s make that fight happen. the fans will get to see if Johnson would be able to get within range and knock out the former champ. It was a great match up to begin with and would make for a tough return fight for Jones who may need to prove himself again to the fans. You can even put them on the same card, that way they can keep the division moving forward, use Jones’ return as a selling point for the PPV, and if Jones wins you can build the drama right then and there on the same night. The other two competitors left are Alexander Gustafsson, who just lost the title fight, and Glover Teixiera who’s coming off of an impressive win against Ovince Saint Preux. Alexander Gustafsson is in a perennial champion, he is in the highest regards a gatekeeper of champions. He has put both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier through absolute gauntlets, 5 rounds of the toughest fights of their lives. He’s always going to be at the top of the pack, and it is not unrealistic to believe that he could beat Cormier, Jones, or Johnson if given the chance at a rematch. Teixiera is a crafty fighter with a solid skill-set in all aspects of the game, but he’s a notch under these top fighters.  Pitting Gustafsson against Teixiera would allow the UFC to distinguish who is able to stand with the top fighters in the Light-Heavyweight class The 205 division has been made a whole lot more interesting with the downfall of Jon Jones, a bit more confusing, but a whole lot more interesting with match-ups like Jones vs Rumble Johnson, and allowing a fighter like Ryan Bader the opportunity to fight for the title he has been chasing for years the fans get the chance to see new fights and not just recycled bouts.

Michael Gomez covers MMA, The Lakers, and Video Games  for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelGom3

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