Title Picture Following UFC 75

September 11, 2007

HEAVYWEIGHT

It had looked like the UFC was building toward Cro Cop v. Antonio Nogueira for an eventual shot at the Heavyweight title. There had been some talk of a quick turn around for Cro Cop to get this fight on the November show that is still without a main event. Cro Cop’s loss to Cheick Kongo erases that match as well as any potential rehabilitation of his drawing power. With such a high downside guarantee, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cro Cop cut.

Nogueira v. Andre Arlovski in November for a shot at the heavyweight title would make a lot of sense. Arlovski was supposed to be next in line for a title shot following his win over Fabricio Werdum at UFC 70. He was subsequently stripped of that shot by Dana White as punishment for not trying to finish the fight. However, Arlovski only has one fight left on his UFC deal which means there is zero chance he’ll get a prime spot before signing a new deal. Former champion Tim Sylvia and the undefeated Brandon Vera (back from exile after changing management and signing a new deal) would also appear to be logical candidates for the spot, however, they are strongly rumored to be facing each other on the October show.

Given all this, Kongo v. Nogueira looks very likely for later this year, however, that fight lacks the luster to be any kind of draw. Randy Couture won’t be available to defend the title until Super Bowl weekend (due to his arm injury and role in a movie), so it looks like Randy v. Sylvia/Vera in February, with Nogueira being groomed for a shot in the late spring/early summer. Ofcourse this is all subject to change should the UFC sign Fedor Emelianenko.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (205 lbs)

Rampage over Henderson was good for business. The UFC could really use a little stability on top after year that has already saw five title changes with one more looming (as a result of Sean Sherk’s positive). Jackson is a marketable, albeit little known, fighter who has the rub of having beat arguably the sports biggest star, Chuck Liddell, twice, the last by knockout in a fight that received the biggest main stream publicity of any MMA fight in history.

From here it looks like they’re building towards Jackson v. the winner of the much anticipated Liddell-Wanderlei Silva fight in December. Of course that is subject to Liddell dismissing Keith Jardine at UFC 76. Shogun Rua looks to be the next in line for a title push, getting the rub of one of the company’s biggest stars in his debut fight against Forrest Griffin. Exciting Houston Alexander v. the winner of Rua-Griffin looks like a logical next step building towards a Rua title shot next spring.

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 lbs)

Henderson’s loss at 205 puts the reigning Pride Middleweight Champion squarely into title contention at 185. Dana White has said that he’d want Henderson to fight once in the division before stepping up to unify the belts. That looks like the logical direction to go after the Anderson Silva-Rich Franklin rematch in October. After that it’s pretty slim in pickings in the company’s weakest weight class.

WELTERWEIGHT (170 lbs)

This is widely considered the company’s most crowded division, but thanks to a string of contender fights the title picture is pretty clear. Matt Serra will defend against Matt Hughes in December (although some have suggested that there is an outside chance of this fight getting bumped up to November to fill the void). From there, best case scenario, Hughes regains the title and defends against George St. Pierre in Canada next spring. Worst case scenario, Sera retains and worse still they can’t get a date in Montreal.

From there the title picture opens back up. A Jon Fitch win over Diego Sanchez at UFC 76 would probably move him to the front of the line for the next shot after GSP.

LIGHTWEIGHT (155 lbs)

This division is in limbo pending the outcome of Sean Sherk’s appeal of his steroid suspension. The only thing we know is that BJ Penn is the number one contender to the title and will most likely be fighting someone for the belt in November. Assuming Sherk’s appeal is denied and he is stripped of the title, from there things get complicated. Joe Stevenson suffered a broken jaw in his last fight, likely dropping him from consideration for the spot opposite Penn. The Kenny Florian-Din Thomas winner at next week’s UFN is a possibility on a tight turn around. From there it’s hard to get a handle on this division. It’s full of talent, but there is very little separation and no real stars outside of Penn and Sherk.

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