Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
It didn't take Dana White long to feel the public backlash after announcing that either Mauricio "Shogun" Rua or Brandon Vera would earn a UFC light-heavyweight title shot after Saturday night's UFC on FOX 4. To his credit, White adjusted, but now we'll have to wait and see if his newest proclamation is received any differently.
After insisting that Rua and Vera were the only possibilities to emerge as No. 1 contender, White told USA Today that co-main event fighters Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader are also in consideration.
A final determination will be made upon the completion of Saturday night's fights, with White telling the paper that "whoever wins the most impressively" will be vaulted into title challenger status.
Of course, that would mean that if current champion Jon Jones holds on to his belt by defeating Dan Henderson on September 1, his future would still include a match against someone he's beaten in the recent past.
He's not only faced -- but finished -- all four of the men involved in the light-heavyweight sweepstakes.
Vera was the first to face Jones, back in March 2010, suffering a crushing first-round TKO. In February 2011, he squared off with Bader in a match of two of the UFC's rising stars, but he promptly submitted Bader in the second round. Next up was Rua, who lasted the longest but took a historic beating for his effort, ultimately succumbing to a third-round TKO as Jones ascended the division's throne. Two fights later, Jones choked Machida unconscious with a standing guillotine.
As a result of Jones' decimation of the division, there are few names at the top that would not come off seeming as recycled goods, but there has been at least a small groundswell of support for Alexander Gustafsson, the 6-foot-5 Swede with a 14-1 record. Another fighter receiving support is Glover Teixeira, the newcomer who won impressively in his debut and already has a future fight scheduled with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
While Teixeira is locked into a bout, White said Gustafsson was due for a "big fight," but apparently he's not yet quite ready to be moved into a title fight by company brass.
That stands in stark contrast to his decision on someone like Vera, who is not among the division's top 20 of any credible ranking. Vera has only a single win in his last four fights, and was released by the promotion as recently as January 2011, but reinstated after a loss to Thiago Silva was overturned to a no contest after Silva submitted a fake urine sample to drug screeners.
"There's no doubt that Vera is getting the opportunity of a lifetime," White told USA Today. "He's getting the opportunity of a lifetime, but we'll see what happens. We'll see if he makes the most of it."
Given White's new stance, Vera is still in the running for the title shot but he'll have to do more than just win; he'll have to do so impressively.
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