Changing of the guard in the UFC?
After Wanderlei Silva was knocked out by "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 92, there were rumors that Silva may look into moving down to middleweight to find better competition. It would make things easier on Silva because light heavyweight is the sport’s deepest weight class, but the reality is that Silva’s time as a factor in title discussions has passed.
Silva is a legend in the sport and no one can take that away from him, yet I can’t see him ever viably defending a title in the UFC. And Silva’s not the only one on that list. I think it’s safe to add Randy Couture to the list. If he was to pull off what he did against Tim Sylvia and come back against a weak opponent, it wouldn’t be long before he fought another legit heavyweight and lost. Couture could compete at light heavyweight, but his best hope would be to break the top five in the weight class -- holding and defending that title isn’t realistic for him either.
Chuck Liddell is another star on his way out. He’s a one-dimensional fighter who isn’t evolving and he fights, again, in the strongest class in the UFC. He may be the biggest draw in the sport but his days of legitimately competing for and defending the UFC light heavyweight championship are over. Matt Hughes is another former champ on his way out of the title picture and Rich Franklin might not be far behind.
Franklin has a chance to earn some relevance by defeating Dan Henderson in a couple weeks. If he can do that, Franklin can still be a player at light heavyweight thanks to his striking. He’s also a top-three middleweight, so while he’s headed the route of Couture/Hughes/Wanderlei Silva, he’s not there yet. The fact that he can’t beat Anderson Silva has certainly made things more difficult on him though, so if he’s going to find new life, it will have to be at 205.
Those are some big stars and big names the UFC will have to deal with "losing" in the near future. Who else can be added to the list? I think at this point, someone like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is safe because of the weak heavyweight division. However, another showing like he had at UFC 92 and he’ll find himself on the way out.
It’s an interesting time for the sport and things are even more interesting with the bevy of star power that has lost relevance in the last 12 to 18 months.