The eyes and ears of the world will watch UFC on Fox 4 for one reason or the other, but for co-headliners Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and Ryan “Darth” Bader, as well as headliners Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon “The Truth” Vera, the stakes behind their fights have been raised. In short, the man who looks the most impressive in victory on Saturday night will likely earn a title shot, and they will likely wait for the winner of UFC 151’s headliner between current light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones and challenger Dan Henderson.

Needless to say, this news has sparked just about the same reaction as did the initial announcement that only designated the winner of the “Shogun” vs. Vera headliner as the next contender to the throne.

The only questions left to be answered are who will prevail this Saturday, who will emerge as champion at UFC 151, and maybe the two most important questions that nobody has really asked as of yet, both of which will receive their answers right now.

The first of the two questions we can answer is: What about Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson or Glover Teixeira? Aren’t they contenders to the title?

Glover Teixeira (R) battles Kyle Kingsbury (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Indeed, those contenders fall into a line of questioning that we must place on the table. What if Davis’ performance over Wagner Prado on Saturday’s Fuel TV preliminary card proves more impressive than the performances of the winners in the main and co-main events of Saturday’s card? What if Gustafsson’s next outing inside the Octagon proves outstanding enough to warrant a title shot, or for that matter, what will the UFC do if Teixeira can beat Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in such magnificent fashion that it eclipses the performances of the prevailing parties of this Saturday’s main event and co-main event and allows the Brazilian prospect to leap over Gustafsson and Davis in getting the next title shot?

Another question I’d add is the one that asks how “Suga” Rashad Evans did not meet whatever criteria would entitle him to some consideration for a UFC 151 bout opposite Gustafsson, who really only needs another fight before he’s in line for a crack at the strap.

Gustafsson is not injured at this time and is supposedly in line for a big match-up, but all we’ve learned is that Gustafsson is supposedly in line for a big fight. We have not learned who is in line to face him yet, and with consideration to the seven-day suspension of Evans after his UFC 145 loss to Jones, one may think that Evans would’ve placed his flirtations with a possible drop to middleweight aside so he could test Gustafsson’s standing in the division.

Call me a member of the minority who actually finds Gustafsson a bit more of a deserving challenger than any of the four men taking center stage on Saturday night. But even one in that minority who selfishly hopes that either Gustafsson, Davis or Teixeira gets the next stab at the light heavyweight title may understand why the four men headlining the card are the ones in line for the next crack, thus answering the second question we have: Why these four men and not someone who Jones has yet to face?

Earlier this week, when it was announced that Rua’s fight with Vera would determine the next challenger to the throne, one could’ve counted Yours Truly as one who went on record as believing that the UFC really was admitting that Jones had no challengers left by feeding him a rematch against someone he thoroughly decimated. But when UFC President Dana White flipped the switch and said that the next title shot would go to the man who looked the most impressive on Saturday night, it started to make sense.

First, in so few clear words, there’s no guarantee that Jones even retains the belt against Henderson. The phenom may go down as the most creative and dominant light heavyweight champion in UFC history, if not MMA history, but for all his creativity, he’s still never faced a fighter with the wrestling and knockout power of Henderson. Not only that, but what if Henderson won the belt, and then the most impressive winner from this Saturday’s card fought Henderson, either on pay-per-view or even on the next UFC on Fox card?

Second, Davis is one outstanding prospect, but he’s still coming off a loss, and as he was excluded from White’s stipulation as far as “most impressive performance on Saturday” goes, it will take more than a win over Prado for Davis to get that title shot.

Depending on how his UFC 153 outing goes, the same can likely be said for Teixeira with a win over “Rampage,” unless Teixeira just dominates the former champ.

And although Gustafsson really does need one more fight before Jones or Henderson starts to make sense for him, there’s no telling if the UFC will line Gustafsson up with an opponent that compliments that argument.

Finally, let’s consider the options in front of us. Of these four options, Machida presented Jones’ toughest task to date, Bader probably hit the hardest, Vera openly expressed his doubts about the hype behind Jones before Jones ever rose to super-stardom, and “Shogun” went past round two with Jones. Bader has been impressive in victories over Jackson and Jason Brilz, and Vera has made it clear that he certainly is not the fighter he was back when he was a heavyweight—and coming from Vera’s mouth, it sounds like “Shogun” is in more trouble than triumph because of how different a fighter Vera is now.

Phil Davis (L) battles Rashad Evans (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

One can say, however, that the biggest argument towards why the UFC might favor the most impressive of the four over one of our unsung contenders lies in something Dana White recently said. Ask the UFC President, and he’ll admit he knows that fans are looking at Jones’ run in the light heavyweight division in the same way that fans looked at Anderson Silva’s run in the middleweight division during his 2008-2009 stretch. In other words, White knows that if Jones beats Henderson, fans will say that Jones has nothing left outside of rematches, a run at heavyweight, or a potential bout with Silva.

However, White also makes the case that after Saturday night’s fights, there will come some discussion that leans in favor of one of the two prevailing parties from this Saturday’s event. What those discussions mean in the long run depends not only on the winners’ performances on Saturday, but also on the winner of the light heavyweight title tilt. Sure, Jones can beat Henderson and win a rematch in his next title fight, but what if he doesn’t? What if the most impressive winner of this Saturday’s card instead faces Henderson for the gold?

Until Saturday comes, all we can do is ponder, but rest assured that after Saturday night, the UFC light heavyweight division will never be the same again.

Top Photo: Alexander Gustafsson (R) battles Vladimir Matyushenko (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.