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In the realm of light heavyweights, Ovince Saint Preux is at least a fresh face

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Esther Lin, Sportsfile

Everything you need to know about the UFC’s light heavyweight division is that Fabio Maldonado, that happy Brazilian who carries a Whac-a-Mole appeal for all opposition, is ranked No. 13. Hate on the rankings all you want, but that can’t be anything other than a red flag. Maldonado is 4-5 in his last nine bouts, with his only win in a year-and-a-half coming over Hans Stringer. Yet because that once glamorous division has become a modern day Detroit in the land of scales, that’s good enough for a spot on the rungs.


Look at the rest of the ranked light heavies. Most Americans assume Jan Blachowicz (No. 12) reads tarot cards down on the Bowery. Two of the ranked were last-minute replacements that stuck. Patrick Cummins (No. 10) was a coffee barista who thrown in against Daniel Cormier. The best thing that Ilir Latifi (No. 15) had going for him back when he broke into the UFC was that he was Swedish when the promotion needed to fill a hole on a card in Sweden. His last victory came against…well, I’ll just say it: It was Hans Stringer. Stringer, it seems, is a physical hurdle for 205-pounders looking to get a number assigned to their name.

Stringer is ranked No. 16 (Note: This is strictly conjecture -- the rankings only go up to 15).

Which brings us around to Ovince Saint Preux, who is fighting on Saturday night in Nashville against Glover Teixeira. He is currently No. 6, and he’s the only beacon in the bunch. Saint Preux is about the only "new" threat to emerge at LHW in a very, very long time. Yes, Anthony Johnson came screaming into contention, but he was familiar from his days miscast as a welterweight, and his winning streak extended back to WSOF. Phil Davis never got anywhere but Bellator, in part because of Anthony Johnson.

In that way OSP’s a kind of novelty. Should he win and do it emphatically, there’s at least one fresh face on the circuit making his way towards either the champion Cormier or the guy who turned light heavyweight into a group of has-beens and never-will-be’s, Jon Jones.

Part of the reason Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Teixeira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (ranked No. 11, BTW!) and Rashad Evans all feel like retreads is because Jones made them that way. He so thoroughly dominated his division before he was stripped of his belt earlier this year that he couldn’t help but steal the division’s mojo at the same time. He even beat Cormier, who many think is masquerading with the title until Jones returns.

In the meantime, there’s Ryan Bader, whom Jones beat badly and Cormier would like to. Bader is now booked to fight Evans, who hasn’t fought in 20 months. And there’s Alexander Gustafsson, whom Jones beat less convincingly and Cormier will get the chance to at UFC 192. And there’s Johnson whom Cormier beat and Jones was supposed to fight, and Jimi Manuwa who beat Blachowicz but lost to Gustafsson most ridiculously. He fights Johnson next. That is the extent of your drama for the time being. The light heavyweight division, once ruled by Ortiz's and Liddell's and Couture's, has become a dried-up lakebed.

No wonder Lyoto Machida got the hell out.

Which once again brings us around to OSP, that lone member of the new guard who isn’t a former champion or a leftover from Pride or anything like that. He isn’t a spring chicken. He’s 32 years old. But OSP’s new looking, even if Bader did beat him not all that long ago at UFC Fight Night 47 in Maine. Luckily, not a lot of people were watching (or cared). He has since defeated "Shogun" and Cummins, both of them first-round finishes. Now he has a chance to put an exclamation mark on his run with a win over Teixeira in his native Tennessee. Should he win he won’t likely feel like a threat to the throne, but at least there’s a fresh contender in a division that has long stopped producing such things.

Should he lose to Teixeira? It’s back to fishing for prospects in the once-thriving Salton Sea.