Jon Jones’ injured hand is good enough to go against Quinton Jackson. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
1. Jon Jones (13-1)
It has been a bumpy ride since 23-year-old Jones became the UFC’s new 205-pound champion 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, Brazil.
3. Rashad Evans (16-1-1)
In his first action in 15 months, Evans was sterling, bashing Tito Ortiz and stopping him with a crushing knee to the body in the second frame at UFC 133. However, Evans did damage to his right hand and will have to hope it heals in time for him to challenge the winner of the Jon Jones-Quinton Jackson bout later this year.
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 has not been much of a topic for discussion for UFC matchmaking since he wanted big money to face Rashad Evans in the UFC 133 main event. Machida's manager, Ed Soares, has floated the name of unbeaten former NCAA wrestling champion Phil Davis as a potential opponent, but no steps have been taken in that direction.
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 champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 27. It will be a rematch of a September 2007 bout that Griffin won in a shocker.
7. Phil Davis (9-0)
Davis was forced out of the UFC 133 main event against Rashad Evans due to a knee injury. He does not yet have a timetable for his return, but a bout with Lyoto Machida has been bandied about in the media and would certainly offer Davis another high-profile opponent.
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-5)
Nogueira was scheduled to meet Rich Franklin in an appealing light heavyweight contest at UFC 133. However, a shoulder injury put "Minotoro" on the sidelines, canceling the bout and leaving Franklin without a dance partner.
9. Dan Henderson (28-8)
It was not at 205 pounds, but Henderson added another big prize to his list of career accomplishments, as he overcame a rocky start to stop longtime heavyweight ruler Fedor Emelianenko in the first round of their July 30 bout. Henderson, now a free agent, will be forced to make a decision between staying Strikeforce champion or trying to lobby for a UFC return. Either way, "Hendo" will be supplied with big-name bouts.
10. Rafael Cavalcante (10-3)
"Feijao" lost his Strikeforce light heavyweight title in March against Dan Henderson. Now, he will meet another Olympic wrestler, when he squares off with Cuban ex-patriot and 2004 Athens Games Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero Palacio on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati.
Other contenders: Rich Franklin, Alexander Gustafsson, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Vladimir Matyushenko, Gegard Mousasi.
Continue Reading » MMA Middleweight Rankings