May 29, 2017

UFC Fight Night 109: Light Heavyweight Is Actually Looking Exciting Again

By Adam Martin

There was a time when the UFC light heavyweight division was the promotion’s marquee weight class. Last week, I wrote about 205 and the golden days, back when fighters like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, and Mauricio Rua ruled over it. The emergence of Jon Jones was another shot in the arm for the division and provided nonstop excitement while he was active, with the peak being Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, but Jones’ downfall in recent years hurt the division badly. Daniel Cormier has done a solid job as the champ, but he’s nothing close to what Jones was. The exodus of some of the UFC’s top light heavyweights to Bellator, plus the retirement of Anthony Johnson, also hasn’t helped matters.

But after Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 109 event, which took place at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, the UFC light heavyweight division is finally looking exciting again.

The main event saw Gustafsson put on his best performance since UFC 165 with a brutal fifth-round knockout win over another top contender in Glover Teixeira. This was a great fight, with Gustafsson exhibiting elite striking and movement, and Teixeira showing his durability and toughness by going as long as he did. The victory should be enough to earn Gustafsson a shot against the winner of UFC 214’s Jones vs. Cormier rematch. Although Gustafsson lost close decisions to both men the first time they fought, if he looks as good as he looked against Teixeira, Gustafsson is going to be a live dog in either of those rematches.

The co-main event saw Volkan Oezdemir knock out Misha Cirkunov in the first round of a battle of top light heavyweight prospects. There are very few 205-pounders on the right side of 30, but Cirkunov, who is 30 on the dot, and Oezdemir, who is 27, are two of them. Although Cirkunov came out storming early, he was over-aggressive and reckless, and it cost him dearly, as Oezdemir was able to clip Cirkunov behind the ear and knock him out. The win over Cirkunov, plus his prior win over Ovince Saint-Preux, puts Oezdemir right in the mix for the next title shot after Gustafsson, and a matchup against Jimi Manuwa -- who Oezdemir called out -- sounds like the perfect co-main event for UFC 214.

To recap, at UFC 214 Jones will fight Cormier in the rematch. If Jones wins, then Gustafsson will likely get his rematch with Jones, though if Cormier wins then you’ll likely see a Jones vs. Cormier trilogy matchup. Then there’s also the scenario where Jones screws up again, and in that situation Gustafsson slots in nicely opposite Cormier. Either way, Gustafsson is in a really good situation right now. And as far as Manuwa goes, the fight against Oezdemir makes sense as insurance at UFC 214, because the timing works out, since Oezdemir took no damage against Cirkunov. Then you have guys like Shogun and OSP filling out the Top 10.

I’ve been highly critical of the UFC light heavyweight division for a while now, but at least for one night at UFC Fight Night 109 the division looked great again. With some other terrific matchups coming up, 205 is finally starting to look like an exciting weight class again. Now let’s just hope Jones doesn’t do anything silly, so the rematch with Cormier can happen, and then Gustafsson can earn a fight against the winner of it.

UFC Fight Night 109: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira took place May 28, 2017 at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC Fight Night 109 was.

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