1. Jon Jones (16-1)
Jones isn’t scheduled to defend his UFC light heavyweight title until Sept., but the 24-year-old champ now has a PR battle in front of him after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in mid-May. When he returns to the cage, “Bones” will look to defend his belt for the fourth time when he faces former Strikeforce and Pride titleholder Dan Henderson at UFC 151.
2. Dan Henderson (29-8)
Who could have guessed that Henderson would be more relevant than ever at age 41? With a four-fight winning streak that includes victories over fellow MMA icons Fedor Emelianenko and Mauricio Rua, “Hendo” is now looked upon as one of the only possible foils to UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, who he’ll meet in September at UFC 151.
3. Rashad Evans (17-2-1)
Though he was downed by Jon Jones in his bid to reclaim UFC gold at 205, Rashad Evans might not be out of the title picture entirely. After Anderson Silva’s July 7 triumph of Chael Sonnen, Evans suggested via Twitter that he would be interested in fighting the middleweight king at 185, re-igniting discussions of Evans at 185 which hadn’t been entertained in years.
4. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (20-6)
Originally scheduled to lock horns with countryman Thiago Silva at UFC 149, Rua was transplanted to UFC on Fox 4 when Silva withdrew from the bout with due to injury. After allegedly turning down a proposed fight with hot prospect Glover Teixeira, Shogun will lock horns with Brandon Vera in a curious Fox main event pairing on Aug. 4.
5. Lyoto Machida (17-3)
Things have been quiet for Machida since being choked out by Jon Jones in a failed December bid to recapture the UFC light heavyweight title, but “The Dragon” is set to emerge from hibernation in August to take on the resurgent Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4.
6. Phil Davis (9-1)
Davis was supposed to face former heavyweight Chad Griggs at UFC on Fox 4, but Griggs wasn’t immune to the injury bug that has hit numerous UFC fighters recently. Now, “Mr. Wonderful” will square off with unbeaten Octagon newcomer Wagner Prado on Aug. 4 instead.
7. Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
Sweden’s top MMA export didn’t miss the biggest opportunity of his young career: April 14 at UFC on Fuel TV 2, the 25-year-old “Mauler” dominated Thiago Silva for three rounds before a partisan crowd in Stockholm. Gustafsson’s next assignment has yet to be announced, but with champ Jon Jones booked for a September defense, it seems the Swede will need another win or two before a title shot.
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5)
Injury derailed Nogueira’s second UFC main event, which was to come against Swedish up-and-comer Alexander Gustafsson on April 14. Instead, “Lil Nog” opted for surgery for an injured patella and watch from the sidelines as Gustafsson went out and cruised past Thiago Silva.
9. Ryan Bader (14-2)
Bader has rebounded nicely from his first two losses, knocking out Jason Brilz at the close of 2011 and grinding out Quinton Jackson to start 2012. He’ll have a chance to add another big name to his résumé when he goes against Lyoto Machida on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles.
10. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-10)
In spite of his public antagonism of the UFC, “Rampage” will have the final bout on his contract fulfilled the promotion. However, Zuffa brass aren’t doing the former light heavyweight champ any favors: Jackson’s potential final UFC bout will come at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro against Brazilian stalwart Glover Teixeira on Oct. 13.
Other contenders:Rafael Cavalcante, Forrest Griffin, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Vladimir Matyushenko, Gegard Mousasi.
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