1. Jon Jones (21-1)Jones was stripped of the UFC light heavyweight belt and suspended indefinitely following his April arrest on a felony hit-and-run charge, but “Bones” remains unparalleled in the 205-pound division. The 28-year-old’s reign included a record eight title defenses and a level of dominance over top competition rarely seen in any weight class, including a decisive victory against the man who now holds his belt, Daniel Cormier. Jones’ prospects for an accelerated return improved in September when he was sentenced to 18 months probation and formally reinstated by the UFC.
2. Daniel Cormier (17-1)While the validity of Cormier’s title reign will be challenged for as long as Jon Jones remains inactive, there is no doubt that the American Kickboxing Academy fighter possesses the grit and tenacity of a tried and true champion. “DC” got off to a hot start against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192, only to be roughed up by the resurgent Swede in the middle rounds of their 25-minute encounter. The wrestler’s ever-improving offense carried him to a split decision win against Gustafsson, setting the stage for a rematch with Jones.
3. Anthony Johnson (20-5)Johnson took care of British hitter Jimi Manuwa with second-round punches at UFC 191 on Sept. 5. The 31-year-old Blackzilians representative wore down Manuwa with a takedown and ground-and-pound in the opening five minutes before carving him up with a looping right hand and follow-up punches 28 seconds into round two. Johnson has won 10 of his last 11 fights, losing only to current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. “Rumble” will next face Ryan Bader in a UFC on Fox headliner on Jan. 30.
4. Alexander Gustafsson (16-4)Gustafsson put on another spirited showing in a five-round title fight, but his bid to take the crown from Daniel Cormier at UFC 192 yielded the same result as his effort to dethrone Jon Jones. “The Mauler” came up short on the judges’ scorecards, giving the Swede his third loss in four outings and making uncertain Gustafsson’s immediate future in the upper echelon of the division.
5. Ryan Bader (20-4)Bader has added some major names to his résumé in the past two years, but none were as big as former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. At UFC 192, the 32-year-old racked up his fifth straight win by consistently beating Evans to the punch en route to a unanimous decision. Bader’s path now leads to a Jan. 30 clash with Anthony Johnson atop a UFC on Fox card.
6. Phil Davis (15-3, 1 NC)The last five fights of Davis’ UFC tenure went the distance, but the judges were not needed when “Mr. Wonderful” made his Bellator debut on Sept. 19 in the company’s one-night, four-man tournament. Davis tapped former Bellator champ Emanuel Newton with a first-round kimura before flattening tourney alternate Francis Carmont with a first-round knockout. Davis will get a shot at reigning Bellator ace Liam McGeary in early 2016.
7. Glover Teixeira (24-4)Teixeira has returned to his winning ways in the year since his failed UFC title bid against Jon Jones and frustrating decision loss to Phil Davis snapped a seven-year unbeaten run. The hard-hitting Brazilian choked out Ovince St. Preux in August and returned to the cage just three months later for a Nov. 7 knockout of Patrick Cummins.
8. Ovince St. Preux (18-7)St. Preux may have the firepower to take out anyone at 205 pounds, but his wrestling remains a liability. Glover Teixeira exploited this hole in the game of “OSP” on Aug. 8, wearing down the former University of Tennessee football player before choking him unconscious before a partisan crowd in Nashville. The loss halted the momentum generated by St. Preux’s back-to-back knockouts of Mauricio Rua and Patrick Cummins. He will next face Rafael Cavalcante at UFC 196 in February.
9. Liam McGeary (11-0)McGeary looked to be in trouble on Sept. 19, as his first Bellator title defense began with him being taken down by Tito Ortiz. McGeary stayed busy off his back, however, and soon caught the former UFC champ in a nifty inverted triangle choke to force a first-round submission. Now unbeaten at 11-0, the Englishman is expected put his belt and his perfect record on the line against Phil Davis early next year.
10. Jimi Manuwa (15-2)Manuwa tore through the first 14 fights of his career with 13 knockouts and one submission, but the British striker has run into trouble against the 205-pound elite inside the Octagon. The “Poster Boy” rebounded from his loss to Alexander Gustafsson by earning a unanimous decision over Jan Blachowichz, but his train was derailed once again at UFC 191, where Manuwa suffered a crushing knockout defeat to Anthony Johnson.
Other Contenders: Corey Anderson, David Branch, Quinton Jackson, Muhammed Lawal, Emanuel Newton.
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