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B/R Official Rankings for April: The Top 10 Light Heavyweights in MMA

Vince CareyContributor IOctober 9, 2016

B/R Official Rankings for April: The Top 10 Light Heavyweights in MMA

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    After a year of build-up and plenty of verbal sparring, it’s almost time for Jon Jones and Rashad Evans to finally go toe-to-toe.

    The biggest light heavyweight fight of the year is set to go down April 21st, and the one-time training partners are going to settle the feud that has been a major focus of the MMA world since Jones took the 205 lb. title off of Shogun Rua last March.

    With former Strikeforce and Pride champion Dan Henderson waiting in the wings, the winner of this title fight will already have a top-level opponent set up in the consistently stacked light heavyweight division.

    There hasn’t been much of a change since last month’s rankings, but the division is about to heat up considerably in April.

    "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. Rampage Jackson

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 32-10

    Most Recent Fight: Loss to Ryan Bader at UFC 144

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Previous Ranking: 10

    It’s been a rough few months for Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

    After losing a decision to Ryan Bader at UFC 144, a loss that was even more emotionally troubling due to the fight taking place in Japan, Rampage went on a Twitter-induced insult spree towards his employer.

    Rampage has always had an off-and-on relationship with Dana White and company, and they at least convinced him to agree to finish out his contract, giving Jackson the rematch he has sought for years against Shogun Rua.

    The fight has been postponed for a while so that Rampage can get healthy, but if everything stays the way it is, it could be Rampage’s last fight inside the Octagon.

9. Alexander Gustafsson

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 13-1

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 141

    Next Scheduled Fight: Thiago Silva at UFC on Fuel 2

    Previous Ranking: 9

    Now that Phil Davis has finally taken the leap into the shark pool that is the top of the light heavyweight division, Alexander Gustafsson is next in line to try and make a name for himself at 205.

    Gustafsson is riding a ton of momentum right now following four consecutive stoppage wins, and he now gets to headline his first UFC main event in his native Sweden.

    His opponent is former top contender Thiago Silva, who is coming off a year-long suspension, but a win over Silva would give Gustafsson a marquee name to add to his resume.

8. Forrest Griffin

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 18-7

    Most Recent Fight: Loss to Shogun Rua at UFC 134

    Next Scheduled Fight: Tito Ortiz at UFC 148

    Previous Ranking: 8

    One of the most beloved and well-known fighters in the sport, Forrest Griffin has been one of the poster boys for the UFC since he won the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2005.

    Griffin holds big wins over Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson in his career, but since dropping the belt to Rashad Evans back in 2008, he has been a very inconsistent fighter and has suffered in the rankings because of it.

    A trilogy bout with Tito Ortiz is next on the horizon for Griffin, and the result could very well dictate his future in the sport.

7. Ryan Bader

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 14-2

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Rampage Jackson at UFC 144

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Previous Ranking: 7

    Fighting Rampage Jackson is never easy, but to fight the former UFC champion in Japan takes a lot of guts.

    Ryan Bader didn’t hesitate to fight the former Pride superstar at UFC 144, and once the opening bell rang, he went out and executed his game plan to perfection, taking Jackson down and controlling him to earn a decision win.

    The win was the biggest of Bader’s career, and now that he’s riding a two-fight win streak, he can finally forget about the first half of last year that saw him drop consecutive bouts to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz.

6. Phil Davis

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    Record: 9-1

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

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Previous Ranking: 6

    One of the best prospects in the division, Phil Davis recently took a step up in competition for the first time when he fought Rashad Evans at UFC on FOX 2.

    “Mr. Wonderful” didn’t quite fight up to expectations, and after losing an extremely one-sided decision, he’ll be forced back to the drawing board to prepare for his next fight.

    Despite losing to Evans, Davis still is one of the top young fighters in the division, and he has plenty of time to get back on track and climb back into the title picture at 205.

5. Lyoto Machida

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 17-3

    Most Recent Fight: Loss to Jon Jones at UFC 140

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Previous Ranking: 5

    Lyoto Machida was on top of the world just two years ago, but after losing three of his last four fights, he’s in desperate need of a victory.

    Machida’s recent loss to Jon Jones saw him give the champion more trouble than anyone else before him, and he’s still one of the top light heavyweights in the world despite his recent slump.

    As of now, there is no set opponent for Machida’s next fight, but “The Dragon” has been fighting the best the UFC has to offer for over two years now, and it’s doubtful that he’ll be given an easy matchup in his return.

4. Shogun Rua

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 20-6

    Most Recent Fight: Loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 139

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Previous Ranking: 4

    Coming off one of the greatest fights in UFC history, Shogun Rua’s stock didn’t take much of a hit despite losing a decision to Dan Henderson at UFC 139.

    The fight between Rua and Henderson was an instant classic, and it looked like the UFC was ready to set up another blockbuster fight between Rua and Rampage Jackson.

    An injury to Jackson forced the rematch to be postponed for the time being, but it looks like Rua is looking to return sometime this summer, possibly in Brazil.

3. Dan Henderson

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 29-8

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Shogun Rua at UFC 139

    Next Scheduled Fight: N/A

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Dan Henderson is one of the best fighters in the history of the sport, but the one major accomplishment that has eluded him is a UFC title.

    Henderson has had two title fights in his UFC career, but he fell to Anderson Silva and Rampage Jackson in his first two Octagon bouts, and he’s been unable to earn another shot since.

    After smashing Strikeforce’s light heavyweight division and back-to-back wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Shogun Rua, Henderson is on one of the greatest runs of his career and is next in line for a shot at the winner of the Jones-Evans bout this month.

2. Rashad Evans

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 17-1-1

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

    Next Scheduled Fight: Jon Jones at UFC 145

    Previous Ranking: 2

    After waiting nearly two full years for a shot at regaining his title, Rashad Evans will finally get his chance this month.

    Evans was originally set to get a shot after taking out Rampage Jackson at UFC 114, but a rash of injuries to both himself and the champions he was set to challenge forced him to take a fight with Tito Ortiz just to remain active.

    Evans needs this victory over Jones far more than any other fight in his career, and a win would give him a rare second run with the 205 lb. title.

1. Jon Jones

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    Promotion: UFC

    Record: 15-1

    Most Recent Fight: Defeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 140

    Next Scheduled Fight: Rashad Evans at UFC 145

    Previous Ranking: 1

    The man that many have called the future of MMA has made quite a name for himself over the last year.

    Jon Jones had one of the best years in the history of MMA in 2011, defeating former champions Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida in rapid succession.

    Now with one of the biggest fanbases in the sport and a wave of momentum on his side, Jones has one more obstacle in his path to solidify his spot as one of the best in the world.

    If Jones is able to take out Rashad Evans this month, he’ll be put on the short list of the greatest champions in UFC history, but a loss will send his hype crashing back down to Earth.

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