The UFC’s 205-pound division was once one of its most storied, with legendary fighters like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture paving the way for names like Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida before Jon Jones came along and went on perhaps the most historic two-year run in the history of MMA, ruling the division with an iron fist for four years until his own personal problems derailed his reign.
Now, however, the division is arguably the most stagnant in the UFC, with Jones suspended by USADA and still on probation for hitting a 25-year-old pregnant Albuquerque woman two years ago, while oft-injured current champion Daniel Cormier has made one official title defense since winning the belt against Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson at 2015’s UFC 187.
Cormier will face Johnson once again in the main event of April 8’s UFC 210 after a knee injury to ‘DC’ forced him out of their original rematch at last December’s UFC 206, but beyond that high-profile bout, ‘Rumble’ admitted while speaking with MMA Junkie at last weekend’s Daytona 500 that there isn’t much excitement left in the top levels of 205 pounds:
“There’s nobody on top, but me and Daniel. The others are doing their thing.”
The only other relatively big match scheduled for the division is May’s Alexander Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira main event at UFC Sweden; both fighters ‘Rumble’ has knocked out in destructive fashion. Beyond that, UFC ownership has appeared painfully stubborn in allowing the division to fade away, evident by their letting top prospects Misha Cirkunov and Nikita Krylov walk when their contracts expired.
The same may be true for perennial contender Ryan Bader, who has been rumored to be heading for the supposedly greener pastures of Bellator with his contract also expired. ”Rumble’ stopped Bader in only a minute and 26 seconds in early 2016, and he doesn’t think the long-tenured ‘Darth’ will be able to contend with him or Cormier if he decides to stay in the octagon:
“Bader is just irrelevant. He won’t be able to compete with any of us in the top 2 or 3. He just can’t beat us. Period. I’m not taking his talents for granted, but you saw what happened with me. I beat him in what, a minute? Daniel would have taken a little bit longer, but he would have beat him, too.”
As for his current foil in Cormier, ‘Rumble’ has a little more respect after ‘DC’ took his best shot and closed the distance to smother him with a relentless barrage of takedowns and ground strikes in their first meeting. He’s expecting the same hard-charging champion this time around, and is looking forward to a chance at redeeming the loss:
“I expect everything out of Daniel. I expect him to come out fast, hard and aggressive. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t take anything for granted when it comes to Daniel.”
But even with that respect, Johnson is intent on proving he’s the best 205-pound fighter in an extremely shallow talent pool, offering up a blunt yet concise prediction for his rematch with Cormier:
“I’m going to whoop his ass. That’s the prediction.”