While Jon Jones' grotesquely dislocated toe (pic) has put the champ on ice for up to six months following his first-round stoppage of Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 last month in New Jersey, the UFC light heavyweight's expected absence during the second half of 2013 gives his fellow 205-pounders leeway and an opportunity to establish a pecking order.
That's because Jones is in the curious position of having made five one-sided title defenses since winning the belt two years ago, cleaning out the marquee names with performances so dominant that UFC has focused readily on building new challenges. With the defeats of Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans, Jones essentially rubber-stamped "Denied" on their title hopes so effectively that rematches would be an incredibly hard sell.
Enter Alexander Gustafsson, Gegard Mousasi and Glover Teixeira.
It's clear UFC will need time to build these guys into potential attractions and challengers for Jones. And recent performances by the first two indicate it's a welcome bonus. In short, out of all of them, I think Teixeira has the best style and tools to potentially give Jones a tough fight, but all of them need more time and UFC experience to give it their best shot.
That's why I'm glad the champ is on the sidelines for a while.
Teixeira took a solid step in a good direction Saturday night in submitting the tough James Te Huna, notching an arm-in guillotine that showcased his killer submission game. Gustafsson also has a big opportunity with Jones' absence, especially considering the setback he suffered in having to pull out from his April 6 bout with Mousasi mere days before the showdown.
Mousasi, looking clinical and bored, was basically sleepwalking through a decision against late sub Ilir Latifi, doing nothing to augment his chances in a very forgettable UFC debut. That's very typical of Gegard, who at his best is a potent offensive machine, and at his worst, detached and underwhelming.
After the UFC 160 event on Saturday night (May 25, 2013), I'd venture to say that Teixeira pulled ahead of the pack in warranting a title shot against Jones, even though Gustafsson is technically in the lead due to more face time on UFC cards, and what I call the Michael Bisping Exemption (MBE).
The MBE is something you get when you're a proven draw in a foreign country and/or region, and Gustafsson is definitely that for Sweden and Europe, whereas Glover is just another tough Brazilian.
However, UFC never shies away from putting two tough "maybe could be" top contenders in to produce a single "definitely a top contender" type of guy, and in Jones' absence, it seems inevitable that the Gustafsson/Teixeira/Mousasi trio will produce one soon.
If that's the case, based on what I've seen, I'd take Teixeira over either of them.
Questions or comments? Tell Jason at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst
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