Jon Jones (pictured) will likely sit until late 2011. | Sherdog.com
1. Jon Jones (13-1)
Immediately after Jones’ brilliant, title-winning performance against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on March 19, the focus turned to the 23-year old champion’s first title defense against former teammate Rashad Evans. However, that fight will have to wait, as “Bones” revealed in late April that he will undergo surgery to repair an injured right hand, sidelining him until late 2011.
2. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (19-5)
Following yet another lengthy layoff due to knee surgery, “Shogun” was mauled by young gun Jon Jones in his March 19 return, dropping his UFC 205-pound title in the process. While the former Pride star has a long way to go toward avenging that loss, he will have the chance to take back the defeat from his 2007 Octagon debut when he rematches Forrest Griffin on Aug. 27 in Rio de Janeiro.
3. Rashad Evans (15-1-1)
In spite of the drama that surrounded Evans and Jon Jones after Jones’ March 19 title win, the former training partners will not meet in the cage anytime soon. With Jones on the mend due to hand surgery, Evans will instead face unbeaten prospect Phil Davis at UFC 133 on Aug. 6.
4. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (31-8)
“Rampage” was originally set to face Thiago Silva at UFC 130 in May. However, Silva’s licensed was revoked for one year after he altered a UFC 125 drug screen. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 alum Matt Hamill has since been installed as Jackson’s opponent -- a move “Rampage” himself has critiqued on Twitter.
5. Lyoto Machida (17-2)
Machida threw the brakes on a two-fight skid, as he knocked hall of famer Randy Couture into retirement with a highlight-reel front kick at UFC 129. Before more than 55,000 fans in Toronto, the former light heavyweight champion reminded the MMA world why he remains a perennial title contender at 205 pounds.
6. Forrest Griffin (18-6)
The original “Ultimate Fighter” returned to the cage in February for the first time in 15 months and took a unanimous decision over former middleweight titleholder Rich Franklin. The 31-year-old will continue his road back to title contention when he meets fellow ex-light heavyweight champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 27. It will be a rematch of a September 2007 bout which Griffin won in a shocker.
7.Ryan Bader (12-1)
Bader came up well short in his February encounter with Jon Jones, submitting to a guillotine choke late in the second round. However, the former Arizona State University Sun Devil will have a chance to get back on track and add another big name to his resume when he takes on Tito Ortiz in Las Vegas on July 2.
8. Phil Davis (9-0)
So much for taking some time off. Shortly after outpointing Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and announcing a break from the hectic schedule that saw him go 5-0 in a 13-month span, “Mr. Wonderful” was pulled back into the fold. The unbeaten collegiate wrestling standout will replace injured 205-pound champ Jon Jones against Rashad Evans on Aug. 6, and he will do so before a hometown crowd in Philadelphia.
9. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-5)
The legendarily durable “Little Nog” provided a stiff test for up-and-comer Phil Davis on March 26 but dropped a just unanimous decision after three rounds. The 34-year-old Brazilian will attempt to rebound from the first back-to-back losses of his 10-year career on Aug.6, when he faces Rich Franklin at UFC 133 in Philadelphia.
10. Dan Henderson (27-8)
After using his devastating right hand to fell Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and snatch the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in early March, 40-year-old “Hendo” made it known that he was seeking to make a quick turnaround. It appears the former two-division Pride champ will get his wish, as both Strikeforce and M-1 Global have expressed interest in booking a contest between Henderson and Fedor Emelianenko for July.
Other contenders: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Rich Franklin, Matt Hamill, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Gegard Mousasi.
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