B/R Rankings for February: Top 10 Light Heavyweights in MMA

Vince CareyContributor IFebruary 6, 2012

B/R Rankings for February: Top 10 Light Heavyweights in MMA

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    Admittedly, January was a slow month as far as the light heavyweight division is concerned, with only two fighters in Bleacher Report’s top ten making an appearance inside a cage of any kind.

    Rashad Evans and Phil Davis got a chance to show their stuff on network television last month, and “Suga” seemed to reap the benefits from his win, as he was the lone fighter to rise in this month's rankings.

    Now with February already underway, we’re left waiting for the next meaningful fight in the 205 lb division.

    That title seems to go to "Rampage" Jackson, as he will take on (barely) unranked Ryan Bader, in what will be the only meaningful bout, in yet another slow month.

    "These rankings are the combined effort of some of Bleacher Report MMA's best writers, as we continue to try to provide you with the best content on the web."

10. Rogerio Nogueira

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    Previous Ranking: 10

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 20-5

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Tito Ortiz at UFC 140

    Next Scheduled Fight: Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on FUEL TV 2

    The smaller of the Nogueira brothers starts us off in the number ten spot, as he stays put in the place he secured last month.

    Rogerio Nogueira was looking more like a potential roster cut than a main eventer before UFC 140, where he smashed Tito Oritz with shots to the body and got himself back into the top ten, with a first round TKO.

    "Little Nog" is still one of the best light heavyweights in the sport, but in an ultra tough division, he’ll have to shut down rising prospect, Alexander Gustafsson, in April.

9. Alexander Gustafsson

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    Previous Ranking: 9

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 13-1

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 141

    Next Scheduled Fight: Rogerio Nogueira at UFC on FUEL TV 2

    The hottest rising prospect in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, Alexander Gustafsson is looking to validate his place in the rankings, with a few more wins and an eventual title shot.

    After demolishing tough veterans Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko in his last two bouts, Gustafsson is quickly nearing a future bout with the champion.

    Gustafsson will get to fight close to home in his next bout, as he will headline UFC on Fuel 2 in his native Sweden, against Rogerio Nogueira.

8. Forrest Griffin

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    Previous Ranking: 8

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 18-7

    Most Recent Fight: Lost to "Shogun" Rua at UFC 134

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    It’s been a while since Forrest Griffin has been on a winning streak that meant something, but losing fights against only the best in the world has saved his spot in the rankings.

    Griffin got smashed by "Shogun" Rua back at UFC 134, but his career victories over "Shogun," Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin, and "Rampage" Jackson have kept him among the sport's elite.

    His UFC light heavyweight title reign probably didn’t hurt him in the voting process either.

    Griffin is currently looking for an opponent, and all signs point to a rubber match with Tito Ortiz at some point this summer.

7. Phil Davis

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    Previous Ranking: 7

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 9-1

    Most Recent Fight: Lost to Rashad Evans at UFC on FOX 2

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Phil Davis probably wasn’t ready for the massive step up in competition he faced when he took on Rashad Evans last month, but at least he survived, and will be able to learn from the loss.

    Davis is still one of the brighter young stars in the division, and as long as he keeps on improving his striking, he should end up hanging around near the top of the weight class for the remainder of his career.

    Despite the loss to Evans, “Mr. Wonderful” held on to his spot in the rankings; something that shows the Bleacher Report voters have faith in the young wrestler.

6. Lyoto Machida

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    Previous Ranking: 6

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 17-3

    Most Recent Fight: Lost to Jon Jones at UFC 140

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A 

    After an injury to Rashad Evans forced him out of a title fight against Jon Jones at UFC 140, Joe Silva called upon former champion Lyoto Machida to step up, and attempt to earn his second UFC title.

    Many thought Machida’s karate style would be too much for “Bones” to handle, but Jones just seemed to adapt as quickly as he has in every other bout, choking “The Dragon” unconscious in the second round.

    Now miles away from a title shot at 205, Machida has discussed a potential move to middleweight at some point in 2012.

5. 'Rampage' Jackson

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    Previous Ranking: 5

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 32-9

    Most Recent Fight: Lost to Jon Jones at UFC 135

    Next Scheduled Fight: Ryan Bader at UFC 144

    The former UFC champion has been inactive since getting beaten down by Jon Jones at UFC 135, but a return to Japan, at the end of the month, may be just what Rampage Jackson needs in order to get back on track.

    Rampage is set to take on Ryan Bader at UFC 144, and it’s safe to say that he will have the Japanese crowd firmly in his corner during the bout.

    A win will move "Rampage" back into the mix for a title shot, while a loss will signify the end of the "Rampage" Jackson era in MMA, and likely lead to retirement in the near future.

4. 'Shogun' Rua

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    Previous Ranking: 4

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 20-6

    Most Recent Fight: Lost to Dan Henderson at UFC 139

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Once regarded as the top fighter in the world, "Shogun" Rua had a hard time adjusting to life inside the Octagon.

    He lost his UFC debut to Forrest Griffin, and an uninspired performance against Mark Coleman in his next bout caused fans to worry that the "Shogun" they had grown to love was gone for good.

    Now just three years later, "Shogun" is one of the top fighters in the division, and is coming off a loss in one of the most exciting fights in MMA history, as he and Dan Henderson went to war for five rounds at UFC 139.

3. Dan Henderson

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    Previous Ranking: 2

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 29-8

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    The former Pride, and Strikeforce, champion would like nothing more than to finally get his hands on UFC gold.

    Dan Henderson has long been regarded as one of the best fighters in the sport, and a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame is likely waiting for him, no matter what he does during the rest of his career.

    Still, now that he’s currently riding a four-fight win streak, with victories over "Shogun" Rua and Fedor Emelianenko coming in the last 12 months, Henderson is now determined to wait until he gets a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title before he retires.

2. Rashad Evans

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    Previous Ranking: 3

    Promotion: UFC 

    MMA Record: 17-1-1

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Phil Davis at UFC on FOX 2

    Next Scheduled Fight: Jon Jones at UFC 145

    The lone fighter to enhance his spot in this month's 205 lb rankings, Rashad Evans dominated Phil Davis at UFC on FOX 2, and will finally get his hands on hated rival, Jon Jones, in April.

    After title fights at UFC 128, 133, and 140 were all called off due to either Rashad, or his opponent, suffering an injury, it’s about time that Evans finally gets a shot to reclaim the belt.

    Emotions will likely be running high in Atlanta at UFC 145, as Evans will need every tool in his arsenal to take out the top dog in the division.

1. Jon Jones

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    Previous Ranking: 1

    Promotion: UFC

    MMA Record: 15-1

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 140

    Next Scheduled Fight: Rashad Evans at UFC 145

    Currently holding victories over four other fighters on this list, Jon Jones is looking to make it five this April.

    2011 was the year of “Bones,” as he took out Ryan Bader, "Shogun," "Rampage" and Machida in less than 12 months, and solidified himself as one of the best fighters the world has ever seen.

    Now, with former friend, and training partner, Rashad Evans set to stand across from him at UFC 145, Jones will likely have the opportunity to take out the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked fighters on this list before the year ends.