A Jon Jones comeback will result in an even more constricted light heavyweight division.
Alongside current champion Daniel Cormier and perennial top contender Alexander Gustafsson, the 205-pound landscape is one mapped by just three men.
This isn’t always a bad thing, but it does prohibit the rest of the roster occupants from breaking out and working towards a title shot.
That said, the light heavyweight weight class does in fact possess a few dark horses entering 2016. Guys like Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Ryan Bader and even Ovince Saint Preux represent a tier of contenders capable of sneaking into the division’s illustrious trio of VIP members.
But there is one more name in the mix that may in fact be ready for a title shot sooner than anyone else. He is former top contender and No. 4 ranked light heavyweight Glover Teixeira.
Teixeira was once considered the next true test for former divisional kingpin Jones, but that prophecy was debunked by “Bones” when he dismantled the hard-hitting Brazilian back at UFC 172 over five rounds. Much can be said about Teixeira’s ability to stay in the pocket and exchange with a more versatile and athletically-inclined champion, but he failed nonetheless.
Now, after shaking off a loss to UFC castoff Phil Davis with a dominant submission victory over OSP back at UFC Fight Night 73, the 36-year-old Chuck Liddell protege finds himself fighting for another chance at promotional gold.
It may take longer than expected because Jones and Cormier still need to hash out their differences, but the waiting room for next dibs is relatively small. And considering Teixeira holds a first-round knockout win over Bader, who currently owns a five-fight win streak, he should be able to leapfrog less attractive contenders on his way to the top.
Of course, he must first get past the always formidable wrestling of Patrick Cummins this weekend at UFC Fight Night 77. Cummins is coming off a TKO victory over Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and is searching for his own road to contention.
Teixeira’s heavy hands and grappling abilities should prevent Cummins from capitalizing on his pressure takedowns and lackadaisical striking, but that doesn’t mean “Durkin” can’t squeak out a win through three rounds.
If Teixeira is indeed able to conquer Cummins and capture victory this Saturday, it would mean everything for his seemingly final push back up the proverbial ladder in order to lock down another chance at a UFC title. Because as a 36-year-old with 27 professional fights, it is now or never for the surging knockout artist.
Within a division known to lack depth, Teixeira’s presence is certainly wanted. Add in the decline of guys like Rashad Evans, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and his presence becomes needed.
Because despite Johnson’s scintillating power, Bader’s strong wrestling skills and Saint Preux’s budding athleticism, there isn’t one fighter outside of the three horsemen (Jones, Cormier, Gus) that are as well-rounded as Teixeira. He simply needs to regain his footing and hope his stock continues to rise every time he’s able to win.
Realistically, a victory for Teixeira this Saturday at UFC FN 77 should put him two wins away from a title shot. That may include a murderous road of contenders like Gustafsson, Johnson, Bader and even Cormier (should he lose to Jones early next year).