1. Jon Jones (16-1)
With his DWI run-in behind him and a new Nike endorsement in hand, the UFC’s youngest champ will have another chance to add to his rapidly growing legacy on Sept. 1. That’s when he’ll meet former Pride champion Dan Henderson in a new school vs. old school main event 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 (21-6)
It took the better part of four rounds, but “Shogun” was able to punch out Brandon Vera late in their Aug. 4 headliner on Fox. Next up for the Brazilian is a showdown with Swedish up-and-comer Alexander Gustafsson, another bout bound for network TV and one which could decide the next 205-pound challenger.
5. Lyoto Machida (18-3)
Machida needed a big win to secure a title shot on Aug. 4 and that’s exactly what he got. According to UFC boss Dana White, Machida’s second-round knockout of Ryan Bader has earned him a crack at the winner of next month’s Jon Jones-Dan Henderson light heavyweight title tilt.
6. Phil Davis (9-1, 1 NC)
Davis’ Aug. 4 meeting with Brazilian newcomer Wagner Prado was cut short when the former NCAA wrestling champ accidentally poked Prado in the eye less than 90 seconds into the bout. The pair will get a chance to run it back on Oct. 5, when they’re scheduled to rematch in Minneapolis.
7. Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
Sweden’s top export put himself on the verge of title contention with his April decision win against Thiago Silva, and his next matchup could just put Gustafsson over the top. In the biggest fight of his young career, “The Mauler” will square off against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on Fox in December.
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 (14-3)
Following the biggest win of his career against Quinton Jackson, Bader bit off more than he could chew with another ex-champ, Lyoto Machida. Having been scorched by “The Dragon” in the second round of their August encounter, it’s a step back down the light heavyweight ladder for the wrestler from Arizona State.
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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