The division has been left wide open with the recent announcement that Jamahal Hill has vacated the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship due to injury. Let's break down some possible outcomes for the next title fight in the 205 lbs division.
The co-main event for UFC 291 is a spectacle in the Light-Heavyweight division. Former Light-Heavyweight Champion Jan Błachowicz will take on former Middleweight Champion Alex Pereira in a three-round bout. However, this bout could be promoted to a 5-round title fight following the relinquishment of Hill's title. This isn't unprecedented in the sport, as this happened to Błachowicz in his last bout against Magomed Ankalaev, which ended in a split draw. However, with Procházka waiting on the sidelines for his promised title fight, they'll want to keep him ready for the vacant Championship.
A more realistic scenario for the 205 lbs title picture is that Jan Błachowicz vs. Alex Pereira is treated like a #1 contender fight. Błachowicz is ranked #3 in the division, with a draw against the #2 ranked contender Ankalaev and wins over Aleksandar Rakic, Nikita Krylov, and Dominick Reyes. Despite not holding accolades over Light-Heavyweight contenders, Pereira holds a victory over the current Middleweight Champion, Israel Adesanya, and if he defeats Błachowicz, he will earn an immediate top-5 ranking. Whoever wins this fight would have a claim to face Procházka for the vacant title, who was promised to receive an immediate title shot by the UFC when he returns.
The other option would be to discard the fight between Alex Pereira and book Procházka against a different contender in the Light-Heavyweight division. If we look at the current rankings in the division, this is how we see it playing out.
Magomed Ankalaev is the most probable contender, holding the #2 ranking in the division. He holds victories over Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos, and Volkan Ozedemir and recently challenged Błachowicz for the vacant title. Despite the result ending in a draw, many fans believed Ankalaev won the contest, finishing the bout stronger with a 10-8 in round five on two of the judges' scorecards.
Johnny Walker is riding a three-fight win streak in the division and is ranked #6, finishing Paul Craig and Ion Cutelaba and dominating Anthony Smith en route to a decision win. After suffering some defeats in his early UFC career, Walker has turned his wild style into a calculated approach, allowing him to score a huge win streak. While Ankalaev is ranked higher, he hasn't been as active as Walker, who has already secured two wins this year.
Nikita Krylov is one of the biggest contenders at Light-Heavyweight despite flying under the radar of many fans. He's also riding a three-fight win streak, KOing Alexander Gustafsson, submitting Ryan Spann, and out-classing Volkan Ozedemir on his way to a unanimous decision win. He's ranked #5 at Light-Heavyweight, and while he may not receive the title shot, he could find himself matched up against one of these contenders shortly.
UFC 293 will be taking place in Sydney, Australia, and one-half of the main event is expected to be Israel Adesanya. The next title fight at Middleweight will be Adesanya vs. du Plessis, but if that happens in Sydney is another question. UFC 293 goes down on September 10th, meaning du Plessis has under two months to prepare. We could see Adesanya move up to face Procházka, or another contender, for the vacant title if du Plessis requires more time. Although unlikely, never count out the possibility of a superstar in the sport, especially one as big as Adesanya.
Which option do you think the UFC will take? As a member of the Verdict Community, let us know your prediction in the comments below.