Jon Jones’ injured hand is good enough to go against Quinton Jackson. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
1. Jon Jones (13-1)
It’s been a bumpy ride since 23-year-old Jones became the UFC’s new 205-pound by blasting Mauricio Rua in March. First, he was to fight former teammate Rashad Evans. Then, he was sidelined with a nagging injured hand that required surgery. Now, “Bones” is back, forgoing the operation in order to defend his belt for the first time against Quinton Jackson at UFC 135 on Sept. 24.
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 (32-8)
In his 40th professional fight, “Rampage” put on a show, shutting down every shot from fellow wrestler Matt Hamill and pounding “The Hammer” in the standup on his way to a May 28 unanimous nod. The win set up a Sept. 24 collision between Jackson and the man who currently holds the belt that was once his, Jon Jones, at UFC 135.
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. 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.
8. 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.
9. Dan Henderson (27-8)
On March 5, Henderson became the oldest reigning champion in any major MMA promotion by punching out Rafael Cavalcante and snatching the Brazilian’s Strikeforce 205-pound strap. Henderson made it known afterward that he sought a quick turnaround for his next fight, and it came, though not in his own weight class. Heavy-handed “Hendo” will move up to heavyweight July 30 for a chance to further his legacy in a duel with Russian great Fedor Emelianenko.
10. Rafael Cavalcante (10-3)
One of the light heavyweight division's most potent punchers, "Feijao" came up on the wrong end of a knockout in his March Strikeforce title bout with Dan Henderson. The Brazilian has yet to receive a date for his return to the cage.
Other contenders: Rich Franklin, Matt Hamill, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Vladimir Matyushenko, Gegard Mousasi.
Previously seventh-ranked Ryan Bader falls outside the contenders list with his July 2 loss to Tito Ortiz.
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