There's an argument floating around that Glover Teixeira, talented though he may be, is getting a title shot without having beaten anyone in the top ten of the UFC's light heavyweight division. Teixeira, supporters of this argument contend, is a tough fighter with considerable ability, but how on earth can he be gifted a title shot for going undefeated against opposition who aren't even close to the best the once great division has to offer? Sure, 5-0 in the UFC is nothing to scoff at, but it's also not something to reward with a grand opportunity opposite arguably the organization's greatest fighter (yes, I'm assuming Jon Jones is going to have his way with Alexander Gustafsson).
The problem here is not that the argument is technically incorrect, although there's that, too. After all, Quinton Jackson was ranked No. 9 when he fought Teixeira. It's the argument is a) mostly correct and b) underscores a perception problem among fans: Teixeira not only fails the meritocracy test, but in actuality, has no chance of defeating Jones.
Ryan Bader may have lost last night, but he did just enough to remind everyone for all the legitimate talents of Teixeira, he doesn't appear to be much of a match for Jones. Teixeira's been rocked, sometimes badly, in fights with Fabio Maldonado and now Bader. Jones isn't necessarily the division's most fearsome power puncher, but he has, by a country mile, the highest fight IQ and some of the surest finishing ability. Where others can't capitalize or over commit, Jones shows frighteningly lethal finesse. It also seems like quite a stretch to suggest Teixeira is going to be the first to control and submit Jones on the ground, although at least here Jones demonstrated some measure of vulnerability against Vitor Belfort.
It gets worse for Teixeira. It is at least arguable there are others currently in the division, e.g. Phil Davis, who have better resumes to justify title shots. Of course, Davis runs into the same problem Teixeira is now contending with: I'm not seeing a ton of fans or media or much of anyone in the MMA community clamoring for Davis to get a title shot on the back of the idea he would be a tough fight for the champion.
Gustafsson has the potential to render this point moot by winning, but I doubt he'll do it. The best the UFC can say for him in advertising is that he's tall, which is statistically insignificant in terms of winning. He's also facing an eight-inch reach disadvantage to Jones, so the highlighting of the Swede's height is doubly irrelevant.
And, yes, Teixeira can do the impossible and surprise us all. Stranger things have happened in MMA and as all promoters say, that's why they fight the fights. It is also only fair to note despite being rocked in this fight and others, Teixeira's poise never failed to carry him to victory.
Still, one can't help but walk away from this scenario with two key takeaways. First, Jones is such a nightmare for this division that he's making it look uninteresting. Or maybe it's naturally evolved that way since the days of comparative parity with Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort and others. Second, Daniel Cormier has no light heavyweight resume to speak of, but he's at least the only figure on the horizon who inspires confidence as a potential threat.
UFC Fight Night 28 is a helpful reminder the UFC light heavyweight division is unmistakably filled with talent, but not enough to keep Jones on his toes. Maybe the bright side is the Cain Velasquez vs. Jon Jones superfight is now that much closer to happening. It's a small victory, but it counts.