Contenders are queuing up now that the belt is cinched back around the waist of “Bones.” First will be the surging Anthony Smith, who is slated to get his shot in March. However, most observers agree that the most dangerous challenger standing between Jones and another dynasty is in fact himself. He’s the gift and the curse of the division.
On the one hand, Jones’ capture of the 205-pound belt from Mauricio Rua in 2011, and subsequent run of eight straight title defenses, represents unparalleled dominance. Not only were virtually all of his foes in that stretch highly deserving challengers, several of them were among the greatest fighters of all-time in their own right. On the other hand, it’s largely due to Jones’ mind-boggling litany of personal and professional missteps that this timeline needs so many notes to explain how the championship got to where it did and why.
Of course, holding onto the UFC light heavyweight belt has always been a tricky proposition. While dominant champions including Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Jones have managed lengthy reigns, the fact remains that of the 13 UFC light heavyweight champs (counting Randy Couture’s two separate stints), six of them failed to defend the title even a single time, and two more were able to defend it only once. It speaks to the traditionally top-heavy nature of the division that some of the best fighters in history, even in their primes, were unable to fend off the onslaught of high-level challengers.
Here’s the 21-year history of the undisputed UFC light heavyweight title. It tells a story of a division loaded with star power from the very beginning. Capturing the championship was the mark of greatness but being able to hold onto it made legends.
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