Saturday’s UFC Stockholm card will serve as a light heavyweight exhibition, with the main and co-main event on Saturday’s card putting the division on showcase. And, even with this kind of exposure, none of these fights at 205 have any pension on the immediate future of the division.
A post shared by Anthony "Lionheart" Smith (@lionheartasmith) on Apr 13, 2019 at 10:11am PDT
In Saturday’s main event, Sweden’s native son Alexander Gustafsson returns home to faceoff with fellow top contender Anthony Smith. While both men are undoubtedly elite light heavyweights, they also share the distinction of being the last two men to fall at the hands of the current undisputed divisional kingpin Jon Jones. Gustafsson already has two losses to Jones, so his future in the title picture all but definitely hinges on Jones being upset, something that seems highly unlikely to occur, at least for now. In Smith’s case, he’s still somewhat of a divisional newcomer, and while he did look good up until his title defeat to Jones, a rematch with him seems to be wishful thinking considering the drubbing that occurred.
A post shared by Alex The Mauler Gustafsson (@alexthemauler) on Nov 2, 2018 at 5:00pm PDT
In the co-feature, perennial contender Jimi Manuwa takes on rising prospect Aleksandar Rakic. Manuwa is currently riding a 3-fight losing streak, at the hands of Volkan Oezdemir, Jan Blachowicz, and Thiago Santos. Now, while that is an impressive list of names, it doesn’t change the fact that they were all losses, and decisive ones at that, with the losses to Oezdemir and Santos coming by way of knockout. Manuwa is the embodiment of the term “action fighter,” a light heavyweight equivalent to Cody Garbrandt if you will. Manuwa always brings excitement, but let’s be realistic. Even if he gets back on track and is able to string some wins together, is he really going to be a top light heavyweight contender? The sad truth is, yes, he will be. His opponent, Rakic, has looked very impressive in his three UFC bouts, winning each in dominating fashion. Manuwa will no doubt be his toughest test, but given his recent form, nothing short of a win would be seen as a disappointment for the highly touted Austrian. Crazily enough, just like Manuwa, a couple of wins will put Rakic in title contention. Insane, considering this is his first real, high profile fight.
What a fight last night. I hope everyone enjoyed the war. Big respect goes out to @tmarretamma he did the business. Much love goes out to all my supporters around the world, I have so many messages saying how everyone enjoyed the fight , much love 🦁
A post shared by Jimi Manuwa (@pb1_) on Dec 9, 2018 at 2:37pm PST
**Also worth noting, the planned co-main event was another light heavyweight bout between former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir and top 10 contender Ilir Latifi, but Latifi, unfortunately, pulled out due to a back injury. I won’t get into it right now, but that fight is the same way as the other two. One guy gets a win, and probably jumps back into title contention, once more emphasizing the current shallowness and rigidity of the division.
The light heavyweight division has always been lauded as the glamour division of the UFC. Once run by the first real MMA superstars Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell. After a multitude of champions since Liddell, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, two of the sport’s greatest athletes, have ruled the division with dominating force. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not necessarily a good thing either. Greatness and elite expertise in any given medium are always great to watch and observe from an outside perspective. However, it also breeds situations like the one we face on Saturday, where the main and co-main event of a card is completely irrelevant to the future of the division. Just look at the flyweight division. Demetrious Johnson was seemingly invincible, defending his title a whopping 11 times before controversially losing to Henry Cejudo. Now, the division is on its deathbed, and will likely be folded before 2019 ends.
A women’s bantamweight bout between Germaine de Randamie and Aspen Ladd was just announced as the headliner for UFC Sacramento on July 13. Of course, there was raucous backlash from ignorant “fans,” but to each their own, I suppose. In my opinion, that’s a far more compelling headliner than the one we have on Saturday. A real title eliminator between two of the best women fighters on the planet right now. This isn’t a cut on divisional supremacy; if a fighter is able to accomplish such accolades in his or her division, they should obviously be credited for it and should be seen as one of the sport’s best, as Jones, Cormier, and Johnson all have been. At the same time, answer this question: outside of Johnson or Cejudo title fights, how many flyweight fights have headlined cards? The answer is one. Sergio Pettis vs. Brandon Moreno in August of 2017 in Mexico City. That’s the only one. And while 205 will always get headliners because of its status as a “glamour division,” it doesn’t change the fact that headliners like this, between the number 2 and number 4 contenders at that, are still meaningless, all because of Jon Jones and his superiority.
A post shared by Jon Bones Jones (@jonnybones) on May 30, 2019 at 8:25pm PDT
Gustafsson vs. Smith should be an outstanding fight, and it should be a fun watch, but let’s call a spade a spade. Will the winner of this fight cement their status as a top contender? As long as the P4P king reigns on top, the answer is a resounding no.
Follow Johann on Twitter: @thejohanncastro