For most of the last decade, the UFC light heavyweight division has been ruled by Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. Since Cormier's retirement, and Jones' desire to compete at heavyweight, the light heavyweight title has now shifted hands a few times over the last two years.
In 2020, Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes, who was coming off a razor-thin decision loss to Jones seven months earlier, battled at the UFC Apex for the vacant 205-pound championship. Blachowicz dominated, solidifying himself as a formidable champion for any challenger to try and dethrone.
His reign lasted only a year, with one successful title defense against then-middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. At UFC 267, Glover Teixeira defeated Blachowicz to become the oldest first-time champion in UFC history at age 42.
What happened next is where we start our non-comprehensive list of some of the best light heavyweight fights in UFC history:
Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka
UFC 275: June 11, 2022
In the headliner at "UFC 275: Teixeira vs. Prochazka," Teixeira had an opportunity to defend his light heavyweight title against a relative UFC newcomer in Jiri Prochazka, who was making just his third walk to the octagon. With dominant knockout wins over Volkan Oezdemir and Reyes, two of UFC's current top 15 light heavyweights, Prochazka jumped the line all the way to the title.
A minute into the first round, Teixeira proved that his level of wrestling continues to work against almost any opponent, taking Prochazka to the mat while constantly searching for submissions. Towards the end of the round, Prochazka reversed positions and blasted ground-and-pound strikes until the horn. This was a promising sign for the Czech standout, showing that he could withstand Teixeira's top pressure while finding success in his own right on the mat.
After a similar five minutes in the second, Prochazka began turning the tide in the third, controlling Teixeira on the mat while landing unforgiving ground strikes. Teixeira found his footing between rounds and took back control in the fourth, putting him three rounds up on two of the judges' scorecards.
Both men bloody, visibly tired and still recovering from numerous points in which they both could've been finished, the two warriors embraced in the middle of the octagon and delivered one of the most exciting rounds of the year.
A massive right hand from Teixeira only 30 seconds into the round stunned Prochazka up against the cage and nearly had him out on his feet, but the Brazilian ended up making the costliest decision of the night, pulling guillotine and dropping to the mat, allowing Prochazka to break away and instantly be in top position.
Later in the round, Prochazka kicked off the cage, reversing positions and getting top control. Jiri began landing heavy shots, waiting for Teixeira to make a mistake in the grappling exchanges to find a submission. With just 30 seconds left in the final round, Prochazka locked in a rear naked choke, forcing the tap.
After such an incredible performance by both combatants, an immediate rematch was necessary. At UFC 282 on December 10, they will meet again, this time with Prochazka defending his light heavyweight title in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
UFC 165: September 21, 2013
In UFC 165's main event at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, former light heavyweight champion Jones was looking for his sixth consecutive title defense against a surging Alexander Gustafsson, who many believed held the versatility to cause Jones problems anywhere the fight goes.
That notion was confirmed in the first round; Gustafsson controlled distance well and landed 19 significant strikes while opening a cut above Jones' right eye. He also became the first opponent to take Jones down in the octagon.
Gustafsson continued to have success on the feet, as well as stuffing a handful of takedowns throughout the first half of the fight. But with the strike tally and eye test too close for comfort, the two athletes went into the championship rounds knowing that the winner of those rounds would play a pivotal role in the outcome of the fight.
With only a minute to go in the fourth, the right side of Jones' face was smeared with blood, and Gustafsson held an 88-18 lead in head strikes over the champion. But what could've been a 10-9 round on the scorecards for the challenger, turned into a big frame for the champ, as Jones landed three consecutive spinning elbows, each more damaging than the last, stunning Gustafsson until the end of the round.
In the fifth and final round, Jones finally completed a takedown, his 10th attempt of the fight. Pair that with a flurry of head kicks and exceptional striking throughout the round, and the last round was the most decisive of the fight. The first four rounds, however, weren't decisive at all, and fans were left puzzled about what the result may be ahead of Bruce Buffer's announcement. Jones won the bout on all three judges' scorecards, making his sixth title defense the most consecutive in the history of the UFC light heavyweight division.
Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale – April 9, 2005
In the light heavyweight finale of "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 1, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar delivered one of the most entertaining fights in UFC history. On the line was a six-figure UFC contract, amongst other incentives, prompting both fighters to come out swinging right from the start.
The pace set by both athletes was a sight to behold, neither of them taking their foot off the gas or allowing their opponent to settle into a rhythm. In the first, both athletes were hurt on numerous occasions, but they didn't hesitate to fire back and slug it out over the full five minutes. The pace was so high that as the round ended, Griffin laid down on the mat momentarily, trying to catch his breath before even going back to his corner.
Early in the second, a stiff jab from Bonnar opened a cut on Griffin's nose, forcing a brief pause in the action. Luckily, the octagonside doctor allowed the fight to continue, gifting fans with nine more minutes of exhilarating action. Amidst the chaos, Bonnar stunned Griffin with a knee and ended the round with a complete barrage of strikes, never letting Griffin fully recover.
The third and final round was just as close as the first two, making the decision, on first watch, nearly impossible. At the end of the night, Griffin walked away victorious via unanimous decision, but for being one-half of one of the most historic fights in UFC history, UFC president Dana White also granted Bonnar a well-deserved contract.
This story first published at UFC.com.