1. Jon Jones (17-1)
After a relatively farcical win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in Toronto, many were expecting Jones to get a do-over date with Dan Henderson or a rematch with former champion Lyoto Machida. Instead, “Bones” is coaching opposite Chael Sonnen on the 17th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before defending his UFC light heavyweight title against the brash Oregonian on April 27.
2. Lyoto Machida (19-3)
Criticize him if you must, but Machida did what he does best in earning a split verdict over Dan Henderson on Feb. 23. The elusive karateka utilized selective striking while avoiding his opponent’s powerful punches for the better part of three rounds to potentially set up another shot at light heavyweight gold, assuming “The Dragon” believes himself ready.
3. Dan Henderson (29-9)
Henderson had his UFC title hopes dashed once again at UFC 157 by the younger, quicker Lyoto Machida. With no plans to retire on the radar, the 42-year-old will dive right back into the fray on June 15, when he takes on another former champion, Rashad Evans, at UFC 161.
4. Rashad Evans (17-3-1)
Before UFC 156, there was talk of former UFC 205-pound champion Evans heading down the scale for a bout against middleweight ace Anderson Silva. As it turned out, he could not get past Silva’s teammate, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who outboxed an unusually lackadaisical and passive Evans in a tepid three-round affair on Feb. 2. Evans will get another big name in his next outing against Dan Henderson at UFC 161.
5. Phil Davis (10-1, 1 NC)
An injury to Forrest Griffin left Davis without a dance partner for the UFC 155 co-headliner, but the Alliance MMA product has a new target in his sights. After a back-and-forth feud on Twitter, Davis will get the chance to settle the score with 2011 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Vinny Magalhaes in the Octagon at UFC 159.
6. Alexander Gustafsson (15-1)
While many felt his December dismantling of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would be enough to merit a title shot, Gustafsson will have another hurdle to clear. The up-and-coming Swede will take on former Strikeforce ace Gegard Mousasi in an April 6 showdown that, in light of an uneventful UFC 157 co-headliner between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, could serve as a No. 1 contender bout.
7. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-5)
Nogueira entered his UFC 156 bout against Rashad Evans as a sizeable underdog but left as an upset winner. Though the fight was unremarkable, the Brazilian veteran nonetheless used his superior striking to earn a unanimous decision over Evans, marking Nogueira’s first top 10 win inside the Octagon. Next up for “Minotoro” is a return bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who came out on top in the pair’s 2005 Pride meeting.
8. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (21-7)
Despite moments of effective fighting, the former Pride grand prix winner looked like a faded force against young lion Alexander Gustafsson in Seattle. Rua was battered en route to a unanimous decision loss in his second straight appearance on a UFC on Fox bill, leaving “Shogun” without a clear direction at 205 pounds. The Brazilian will look to correct his course against a familiar foe, countryman Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, at UFC 161.
9. Glover Teixeira (20-2)
Teixeira threw Quinton Jackson an unceremonious farewell party at UFC on Fox 6, earning his 18th consecutive win via unanimous decision in Chicago. The Brazilian looks for his fourth straight Octagon triumph when he squares off with James Te Huna at UFC 160.
10. Ryan Bader (15-3)
Bader needed just 50 seconds to dispatch veteran Vladimir Matyushenko with a guillotine choke on Jan. 26, marking the first time the Belarusian had ever been submitted. The Power MMA Team product was set to locks horns with highly touted Brazilian standout Glover Teixiera on May 25 before an injury forced his exit.
Other contenders:Forrest Griffin, Gegard Mousasi, Emanuel Newton, James Te Huna, Attila Vegh.
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