The light heavyweight division was dominated by one man in 2011 and that man is our current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Jon Jones smashed Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson and choked Lyoto Machida out cold. It was an utter path of destruction by what could very well be the fastest rise in the sport, ever. Not since 2005 when Mauricio Rua ran through PRIDE has a light heavyweight done so much, so quick.
I will break down five lingering questions that remain to be answered in 2012 for the division and what 2012 may hold for the hotly contested division
(For my 'Top 5 Questions in 2012: Heavyweight' click here)
5. Who will bounce back in 2012 after losing to Jon Jones in 2011? Ryan Bader, 'Shogun' Rua, Quinton Jackson or Lyoito Machida?
All four men were not only defeated by 'Bones' but all were stopped and three of the four were choked out. 'Rampage'lasted the longest by making it to the fourth round but he could not establish his boxing game as he 'whiffed' on Jones horribly in the first. Machida landed a nice exchange in his title fight but then was choked out brutally. Both Bader and Rua were beaten from the bell and neither laid any good offense on Jones.
UFC 144 features Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader which will prove a lot of how either's 2012 will start to shape. Jackson and Bader are at least two to three wins away as both would need to build the credibility for the UFC to sell either rematching Jones.
Lyoto Machida and 'Shogun' Rua had shaky 2011's going 1-2 in three tilts and both stopped Xtreme Couture members.
Rua returned at UFC 128 and was blasted by Jones and lost his title. He then bounced back UFC: Brazil and smashed Forrest Griffin in their rematch. Rua then would get a huge opportunity at UFC139 against PRIDE legend Dan Henderson where he lost a razor edge decision in an epic fight. Machida lost a close decision to Quinton Jackson at UFC 123, bounced back with a crane kick knockout of legend Randy Couture and as we all saw was choked out at UFC 140 against the champ.
A logical match up would pit Shogun-Machida as Bader-Jackson settle their future title aspirations. These four men would need some huge wins to ever get a title shot but these are some of the world's best so a prospect would need to be the 'real deal' to knock one of these guys out of the hunt.
4.What happens with Dan Henderson?
He has been a champion everywhere he has gone and besides a UFC 17 tournament win, Dan Henderson has not won anything in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In back to back title matches at UFC 76 and UFC 82, 'Hendo' lost to Quinton Jackson and Anderson Silva on bids for the UFC light heavyweight and middleweight titles respectively. He went to Strikeforce and lost to Jake Sheilds for the promotions middleweight title but would go on to eventually collect the Strikeforce light heavyweight title against Rafael Cavalcante.
Henderson's 2001 was highlighted by his knockout of Fedor Emlianenko and his epic five round war with Mauricio Rua. Henderson was lobbying for an immediate title shot against Jon Jones but was unsuccessful. It appears his title shot will be prolonged even longer as UFC on FOX 2 is headlined by a title eliminator for the light heavyweight strap pitting Rashad Evans versus Phil Davis. UFC President Dana White was quoted as maybe backing off that stance should Phil Davis upset Evans.
If Davis wins will Henderson sneak or does Henderson have to fight another day?
3. Can Thiago Silva bounce back?
One year ago this January 1st the UFC held UFC 125 and on that card someone was not clean. Thiago Silva tried to fool the drug test but was caught and suspended an entire year.
Thiago Silva is one of the most liked fighters by the fans for his knockout power and his great staredowns. He is a guy you look at see a fighter. He was coming off a smashing of Brandon Vera and even used Vera's head as a drum.
It was all mute as Silva pissed 'hot' and his much anticipated though rumored bout with Quinton Jackson was called off.
In a year with so many injuries and delays in the light heavyweight division this could have and should have been a huge year for Silva. For example, UFC 133 needed an opponent for Rashad Evans desperately and Silva could have gotten that great opportunity regardless of the outcome of their first fight at UFC 108.
Stupid is as stupid does but can the Brazilian bounce back or even get re-licensed in 2012?
2. Will we see Rashad Evans finally fight champion Jon Jones?
Rashad Evans has been one of the biggest tars for the UFC and his heated match up with Quinton Jackson took a lot longer then it should have and it still drew a million buys on pay per view.
Can Jones-Evans sustain that heat?
Rashad Evans and Jon Jones started out 2011 as members of the much talked Greg Jackson's MMA camp but by March, Evans left the camp and established himself in Florida with Imperial Athletics. It was the biggest story and it alls atrted when Evans had to withdraw from his title fight at UFC 128 against then-champion 'Shogun' Rua and Jones filled in and we are where we are today.
Evans smashed Tito Ortiz at UFC 133 and looked like him and Jones were even closer to their much anticipated bout. Evans still had pins in his ahnd and the UFC bit the bullet and placed Lyoto Machida,a surprise to many as the number contender at UFC 140.
It then appeared it was not a matter of if but when, Jones and Evans were going to square off. UFC on FOX 2 got announced and the original UFC 133 main of Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis was established as the number one contender bout for Jon Jones.
Can Evans win or will Evans-Jones happen this year?
1. Will Jon Jones duplicate his 2011 sucess?
Four wins, four top ten opponents, four stoppages, three former world champions, 1 'Ultimate Fighter' winner and hye remained 4-0 this past year, oh and a UFC light heavyweight title to cemenet it.
Jones did it all in one year and this year he is guaranteed to fight at least the winner of Evans-Davis but after that it is unknown at the moment. He could face Dan Henderson but those plans are up in the air. I'd love to see him fight atleast twice and fighting aginst Dan Henderson and the winner of Evans-Davis.
The problem with Jones fighting and winning so much is that you ahve to ask,w hat is left?. If Jones clears out another three new challengers and all we have are contenders being reaches like how many viewed Dan Hardy vs. Georges St. Pierre at UFC 111 or rematches against guys he's finished.
would you pay to see that?
Jones could literally be a heavyweight by 2013 and be the only champion to vacate his title for a run at another championship in a different weight class.
Will he or won't he?