Dana White confirmed reports last week that UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Shogun Rua will not defend his belt for the remainder of 2010. An injury will sideline Shogun Rua until March 2011. Is it time to move on or should the UFC wait for Shogun to return?
The news about Shogun Rua’s knee injury is devastating to the UFC. Shogun Rua came back and dominated a rematch against Lyoto Machida at UFC 113. The UFC had a new superstar with his performance and response coming off a controversial first encounter. The injury halts the momentum that Shogun Rua would take into his next fight and the potential for some big money matches with Shogun in the immediate future.
Rashad Evans becomes the most impacted fighter other than Shogun with the news. Rashad Evans comes off one of the biggest grudge matches in UFC history with a win over Rampage Jackson. The win guaranteed Evans a title shot at Rua. Shogun Rua vs. Rashad Evans for the UFC light heavyweight title would have been huge. As big as the fight will still be, the delay takes a ton of steam off of two guys at the top of the UFC hype machine right now.
Dana White has a critical decision to make here. Could Dana White allow the UFC light heavyweight championship to just lay dormant for almost a year? He did allow the UFC heavyweight title to lay dormant for close to a year before finally acquiescing to an interim title match in March. It is really a shame to take a title away from a guy who won it such a dominating factor. However, Shogun Rua is not big enough to put a pause on the entire division at least in my opinion.
Rashad Evans has already stated that he has no plans to fight before the Rua match. That now keeps two of your biggest stars off of the cards for almost a year. Some may criticize Evans for this, but Shane Carwin did the same thing before being signed to an interim UFC title match. Evans’ hard stance likely forces Dana White’s hands into making a UFC light heavyweight champion. The biggest question is who in the world do you match Evans with in an interim UFC light heavyweight title match?
The name is an obvious one and could be a mega match. Anderson Silva. UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is undefeated in light heavyweight competition. Sure other than Forrest Griffin he hasn’t fought top competition but let’s face it, he deserves a crack at the title. Before he flat out refused to fight his “brother” Lyoto Machida, Dana White and Joe Silva were considering giving him a UFC light heavyweight title shot. I could write the proverbial line, “of course this is all on the condition he beats Chael Sonnen,” but do I really have to? Even if for some crazy reason he loses, it still shouldn’t his record in this division.
This brings us to Vitor Belfort. Vitor hasn’t fought at 205 in awhile, but he does hold a win over Rich Franklin in his last fight. Apparently that win was good enough to get Vitor a title shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, so why not match him up against Rashad Evans for the interim light heavyweight title? Belfort is expected to challenge the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 117. Belfort vs. Evans would be a very intriguing match to MMA fans. With enough hype behind him, Vitor could be seen as a devastating challenger in the division. A win could mean big business for a Vitor Belfort vs. Shogun Rua unification match in 2011.
So I say move forward with Anderson Silva vs. Rashad Evans for the interim UFC light heavyweight title. There are no other options. Rampage Jackson and Little Nog are rumored to be fighting in September or November. By the time the winner would be ready to fight Evans, Rua will be coming back. Anderson Silva vs. Rashad Evans is money and could be the toughest fight Silva has in his career.
And back up the brinks’ truck for Anderson Silva vs. Shogun Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title in 2011.
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