Earlier this week, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White told the mixed martial arts (MMA) community that the winner of Alexander Gustafsson vs. Mauricio Rua, who went to war at UFC on FOX 5 last night (Dec. 8, 2012) at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington, would emerge as the light heavyweight division's number one contender.
"The Mauler" defeated "Shogun" by unanimous decision.
On paper, that gives Gustafsson the right to challenge the winner of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen, who are currently slated to face off at the UFC 158 pay-per-view (PPV) event on April 27, 2013 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
There's just one problem.
Previous division number one contender and former Strikeforce 205-pound champion Dan Henderson has an opportunity to steal that spot by knocking out Lyoto Machida on the main card of UFC 157: "Rousey vs. Carmouche," which takes place on Feb. 23, 2013 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Fickle fans are fickle.
"Hendo" is an institution in this sport and he was already in line to challenge Jones for the title before he got injured. And you and I both know that if Henderson cold-cocks "The Dragon" with his patented "H-bomb," fans won't give a flying f--k about the towering Swede and his "shot."
"Bigg Rigg" punched his ticket to a 170-pound title shot against Georges St. Pierre, only to see it handed off to Nick Diaz, who is not only coming off a loss, but also a one-year suspension for failing a post-fight drug test. Nothing personal Johny-boy, just business.
But it has to be a finish.
Henderson can't go in there, huff and puff his way to a decision and expect to earn the nod. He needs to put the Brazilian's lights out. Gustafsson looked good against Rua for most of their fight and in order to steal his thunder, "Dangerous Dan" has to look even better.
What if the roles are reversed?
If Machida looks sensational and puts Henderson on queer street, it wouldn't be enough to overtake "The Mauler." After all, the power-punching pee drinker had his shot at the title in late 2011 and went to sleep in the second round. I don't believe that rematch takes place unless all other options have been exhausted.
And with the tear Jones has been on, it may not be long.