From Mike Chiapetta at MMAFighting.com comes word that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is out of action until at least March 2011 due to a recent knee surgery.
Dana White wants to re-assure everyone that this was actually good news, as it means Rua’s knee is healing the way it should.
Which is all well and good, but what’s the UFC going to do with this division in the interim?
The precedent thus far would indicate that the long lay-off will result in an Interim Championship being rewarded, followed by a unification match when (or – God forbid – if) Rua returns to action. We most recently saw this when Shane Carwin knocked out Frank Mir to win the Interim Heavyweight Championship (the unification bout with rightful Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar occurs this Saturday).
Unlike the heavyweight division, however, there are few fighters that could be considered clear contenders. Each potential fighter presents his own unique logistical problems.
Rashad Evans: Coming off a win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, it was thought that he’d get the next title shot. His loss to Machida was devastating, but enough time has passed and he’s looked impressive enough in his last two outings to at least warrant serious consideration.
Lyoto Machida: The logical choice to face Rashad given he beat the man to win the title in the first place. The problem, however, is that the UFC probably isn’t eager to set up a potential rubber match, since he lost their first encounter despite the judges’ scorecards and Rua devastated him in their May rematch.
Forrest Griffin: Back to back losses against Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva can’t necessarily be held against a guy, but he didn’t do himself any favors in the long run by taking that fight against Tito Ortiz. Sure, he won, but it did nothing for his standing in the division. It doesn’t help that he’s currently on the shelf with a nagging shoulder injury.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Little Nog would have been a shoe-in if it weren’t for his poor showing against Justin Brilz. Not to take anything away from Brilz’s performance, but the UFC won’t award a title shot coming off a controversial decision win against an unknown fighter.
The fight that makes the most sense to me? Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans. Some will say it’s too soon for “Bones,” but he’s looked like a complete beast in all his fights against really solid competition. Given the alternatives, it’s the fight that makes the most sense from both a competitive and promotional standpoint.
No word yet, though, on when we can expect an announcement regarding the future of the Light Heavyweight Title.