UFC 145 may be over but the life of a UFC champion never stops. Now that Jon Jones put Rashad Evans behind him, it is time to look to the future. What does the future of Jon Jones look like as UFC light heavyweight champion?
If we were to guess a timeline here for Jones’ next fight I would guess somewhere around August or September. A lot can happen between now and then but there is already a nice line forming of challengers looking to do what appears to be the impossible, beat Jon Jones.
Dan Henderson – I already went in depth with my look at Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson so I won’t talk too much here about the fight. Henderson is next in line for the champion barring any injuries or change in plans. Henderson brings a 4-0 record in to the fight as a light heavyweight. Henderson is always one right hand away from winning what appears to be a fight he has very little chance of winning. It’s been a long time since Hendo has lost a light heavyweight bout and is a guy I could see the champ underestimating. But what happens if the former Strikeforce and Pride champion gets hurt in training?
Mauricio Shogun Rua – The former UFC light heavyweight champion has had an interesting run since winning the strap from Lyoto Machida. He has gone 1-2, his last loss being a controversial five round decision to Henderson. I don’t believe that the Rua we saw fight Jon Jones at UFC 128 is the same Shogun that would show up for the rematch. He was hurt and something was off mentally. If Rua can put together back to back wins, I have to believe the UFC would love to put him back in the mix to challenge the champion.
Alexander Gustafsson – Gustafsson is a hot name right now coming off his big win over Thiago Silva on the UFC on Fuel TV 2 special. It was obvious from the start of that fight that the UFC are already slowly building towards a Gustafsson vs. Jones fight. Rashad Evans only needed one more win after beating Silva to get a title shot (although it was delayed). While I don’t think the UFC wants to go here this soon, I have to believe that if Gustafsson can beat a top five fighter, he’d be right in line for a title shot in early 2013.
Ryan Bader – It pains me to include Bader here because I don’t think he is a real contender but with a two-fight win streak, his last over an elite opponent, he is definitely in the mix. Bader has a fight with Lyoto Machida coming up in August. If Bader can beat Machida that should theoretically put him one win away from a title shot, although I think Machida wins it. We already saw what happened when these two guys clashed and I can’t imagine it would be much different. Jones has only improved and Bader really hasn’t done much to evolve since their past fight. Bader is certainly no threat to Jones although to be fair he did take Jones to the second round. I am sure Joe Rogan will remind fans of that during every second of fight hype.