The light heavyweight division was once viewed as a three-fighter division, with Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson, and then everyone else.
The division has been rejuvenated with a few veteran fighters moving up and the infusion of some young talent. Although Jones is the champ, keeping the belt might be a bit harder in future fights.
Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos, and Luke Rockhold have recently moved up from the middleweight division. Smith and Santos have fared well in the division so far; each earning themselves a title fight. Rockhold will have his light heavyweight debut at UFC 239 vs Jan Blachowicz. We still have some of the old guard in the division putting on good fights including; Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Ilir Latifi.
Chris Weidman has also recently announced that he is moving up to the light heavyweight division.
Weidman is a former middleweight champion, but his career has become a roller coaster since his two wins over Anderson Silva. He has compiled a 3-4 record since winning and defending the belt versus Silva. Maybe a move up in weight will see him bounce back into championship form, maybe it will further the questions around his championship status in UFC history. As of this writing, there has been no announcement about his first fight at light heavyweight.
The fighter that we should keep an eye on in this division is Johnny Walker. Walker has basically become a household name in a short time in the UFC. After competing on Dana White’s Contender Series, he has gone 3-0 in the UFC, with his three wins clocking a grand total of two minutes and 48 seconds. He burst onto the UFC scene with KO victory over Khalil Rountree. He continued to impress after coming off a win at UFC 235 when he landed a flying knee onto Misha Cirkunov, before pounding him out with hammer fists to record his latest remarkable knockout. This win put him into the top 15 and is now ranked #12 in the division.
Jon Jones has even recognized what Walker has been doing in the UFC stating, “The UFC has been kind of whispering after Thiago Santos, Luke Rockhold possibly. And then, I’d imagine Johnny Walker is going to be in that mix as well. So, I think I got three really tough fights ahead of me before moving up.”
A fighter the is slept on in the division is Corey “Overtime” Anderson. Anderson is currently ranked #8 in the light heavyweight division and appears to be entering the prime of his career. He won season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter and has amassed a 9-4 record in the UFC; also winning three fights over three current top-10 ranked fighters. Anderson is currently on a three-fight win streak and has been working on his striking game to compliment his world class grappling skills.
The most intriguing fighter in the division must be the newcomer Luke Rockhold. Rockhold is game fighter with a 6-3 record in the UFC and another former middleweight champion. He is known for being a well-rounded fighter who can win a fight anywhere it goes. Rockhold, who is never shy when it comes to trash talk said, “I’d jump on [a fight with Jones] in a heartbeat. I’ve been training as Jon Jones for [teammate Daniel Cormier] so many years and I know his style, and like what we have here. So I’m gonna go focus on what I’m doing here this summer and if everything works out, me and Jon will be dancing later this year or 2020.”
Let’s not put the cart before the horse, Thiago Santos is next up for a title shot. Santos has racked up a 13-5 record in the UFC with eleven of those wins coming via KO/TKO. Santos will need to be more well-rounded when he steps in the octagon opposite Jon Jones. The light heavyweight division went from being lackluster and top heavy to being one of the most competitive divisions in the UFC.
With Jones’ inevitable move to heavyweight, someone will have to step up and become the king of the division in his absence.
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The Scrap’s Lee Brown is a 22-year Air Force Vet, fan of all sports – especially UFC, NFL & NBA, and cohost of Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast. You can follow Lee on Twitter (@Levanstian757) and Instagram (@Va121Lee).