When it was announced that Chael Sonnen would coach against Jon Jones on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter and challenge Jones for the light heavyweight belt in April, the entire MMA community was shocked. Sonnen, who is coming off a loss to Anderson Silva, has had no success at 205 pounds, but due to the money-making opportunities the two would create, the UFC made it happen.

One individual who is very unhappy with the decision is Dan Henderson, who was expected to face Jones at UFC 151 until “Hendo” suffered a knee injury. Henderson thought he’d get his chance to fight the champion once he was healed, but with Sonnen getting the title shot instead, the former Pride champion was forced to change paths.

Instead of fighting Jones, Henderson will now take on Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 on Feb. 23. Machida had an opportunity to fight Jones as a replacement for Henderson, but turned it down considering it was on very short notice. “The Dragon” was told he would be next in line after his win over Ryan Bader in August, but will now have to defeat Henderson and hope the UFC feels he deserves a title shot.

Once Jones and Sonnen settle their feud on April 23, either Henderson or Machida should face the winner. Henderson has done nothing to lose his contender status, and Machida has looked impressive since losing to Jones last year.

Another fighter that has put his name in the hat is rising star Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson is only 25 years old, but is 7-1 in the UFC, including a unanimous decision win over former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC on Fox 5 just a few weeks ago. But is Gustafsson the next No. 1 contender to fight for the belt?

His resume says he is certainly capable, but at this point “The Mauler” should wait a little longer before getting his title shot. The UFC needs to continue getting his name out there to casual fans. Many fight fans aren’t familiar with the name Alexander Gustafsson, which means the UFC won’t be able to sell a pay-per-view as well with Gustafsson rather than other contenders. If the promotion were to put someone like Henderson or Machida in a main event versus the light heavyweight champion, it would draw more interest.

Gustafsson will have plenty of time to fight the champion, but right now the opportunity should go to one of two guys who paved the way for light heavyweights. Looking ahead to September, which is an estimate of when the winner of Jones/Sonnen will fight again, it should be Henderson or Machida standing across the Octagon from the champ.

Photo: Dan Henderson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.