Jon Jones (center) has taken the MMA world by storm. | Sherdog.com
1. Jon Jones (13-1)
Jones became the youngest titleholder in UFC history on March 19, crushing Pride Fighting Championships veteran Mauricio “Shogun” Rua with a diverse array of strikes and positions en route to a third-round technical knockout. Things will not get any easier for the 23-year-old wunderkind, as “Bones” has already been handed his next challenger: former 205-pound champion and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts teammate Rashad Evans.
2. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (19-5)
After 10 months on the shelf mending from knee surgery, “Shogun” was given the rudest possible welcome upon returning to the Octagon. On March 19, Jon Jones bashed and battered the former Pride star, relieving Rua of his UFC light heavyweight strap in the third frame after two and a half rounds of savage beating.
3. Rashad Evans (15-1-1)
Positioned as the UFC’s top 205-pound contender, Evans’ decision to wait for Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s surgically repaired knee to heal proved a costly one. The former Michigan State Spartan sustained his own knee injury shortly before his crack at Rua’s title, and the shot was instead awarded to Evan’s Greg Jackson-trained teammate, Jon Jones. Now, with Jones atop the heap and Evans seeking to regain the belt, the former training partners will be forced to square off, and Evans will do so without the help of Jackson, from whom he split the day after Jones’ title win.
4. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (31-8)
“Rampage” was originally set to face Thiago Silva at UFC 130 in May. However, with Silva’s status still up in the air pending reported commission clearance from his last bout at UFC 125, Zuffa has erred on the side of caution. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 alum Matt Hamill has been installed as Jackson’s tentative opponent -- a move “Rampage” himself has critiqued on Twitter.
5. Lyoto Machida (16-2)
It was not long ago that many thought Machida was simply unbeatable at 205 pounds. Two losses later, Machida heads into a bout with MMA legend Randy Couture at UFC 129 on April 30 in Toronto, with many fans having completely forgotten the kind of dominance that was expected for “The Dragon.”
6. Forrest Griffin (18-6)
In his first action in 15 months, Griffin was not perfect. However, the former UFC light heavyweight champion used top control and rangy striking to earn a unanimous decision victory over former middleweight titleholder Rich Franklin at UFC 126. The performance netted a strong win and put him back in the consciousness of the MMA public.
7. Ryan Bader (12-1)
In a matchup of preeminent 205-pound prospects, Bader was definitively the lesser when he met Jon Jones at UFC 126. For the better part of two rounds, he was dominated by Jones, who forced “Darth” Bader to tap to a guillotine late in the second stanza.
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-4)
Following a highly contentious decision win over Jason Brilz last May, former Pride star “Minotoro” was dealt his first official loss in over three years in September by then-unbeaten Ryan Bader. The lighter Nogueira brother will have a chance to once again boost his stock on March 26, though, when he takes on hot prospect Phil Davis, a late replacement for original opponent Tito Ortiz.
9. Dan Henderson (27-8)
The former two-division Pride champion added another knockout to his highlight reel on March 5, plastering Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in the third round to claim the Brazilian’s Strikeforce 205-pound title. Henderson will attempt to become the first man to defend the belt since Bobby Southworth in 2006; while no date has been set for his first defense, “Hendo” has expressed a desire for an early summer return.
10. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (10-3)
Cavalcante fell victim to the curse of Strikeforce’s 205-pound belt, becoming the fourth consecutive titleholder who was unable to defend the strap. He also fell victim to the sledgehammer right hand of Dan Henderson, who stopped “Feijao” in the third round of their March 5 encounter.
Other contenders: Rich Franklin, Matt Hamill, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Gegard Mousasi, Thiago Silva.
With Dan Henderson's entry, previously 10th-ranked Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal was knocked to the contenders list.
Continue Reading » MMA Middleweight Rankings