B/R Official Rankings for September: The Top 10 Light Heayvweights in MMA
There was huge movement and news in the light heavyweight division this month.
There are two fighters moving up from middleweight and three top 10 fighters who fought. There would have been more, but unfortunately, UFC 151 was cancelled due to a knee injury from Dan Henderson, and Jon Jones refusal to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice.
Instead, Vitor Belfort will move up from middleweight to fight Jones at UFC 152 and make his return to the UFC light heavyweight division for the first time in seven years.
Let's take a look at where Belfort, Sonnen and the rest of the division sits after a crazy month.
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No. 10: Vitor Belfort
Most Recent Fight: Submission victory over Anthony Johnson at UFC 142
Next Fight: Jon Jones at UFC 152
Previous Ranking: N/A
One of two new entries to this list is the former champion, Vitor Belfort. Belfort has stepped up on short notice to fight the champ, Jon Jones, at UFC 152 for the light heavyweight title.
Belfort last fought in the UFC at light heavyweight in 2005 when he lost a split decision to Tito Ortiz.
He will make his return at UFC 152 on September 22.
No. 9: Ryan Bader
Most Recent Fight: Knockout loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC on Fox 4
Next Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 8
Ryan Bader is looking more and more like a gatekeeper these days. In his last five fights, he has gone 2-3 and has lost to Jon Jones, Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida.
His victories have been over Jason Brilz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
Bader is a talented fighter, but he needs to change something up if he ever wants to make a run at the title.
No. 8: Chael Sonnen
Most Recent Fight: TKO loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 148
Next Fight: Forrest Griffin at UFC 155
Previous Ranking: N/A
The second new entry to the light heavyweight division is Chael Sonnen.
When this whole Jon Jones and UFC 151 fiasco started, Sonnen was very close to stepping in to fight Jones on eight days notice, but then Jones said no.
With all that in mind, it's easy to forget that Sonnen was already scheduled to fight Forrest Griffin at UFC 155 in a light heavyweight bout.
Maybe he'll get his shot at Jones eventually.
No. 7: Phil Davis
Record: 9-1 [1 NC]
Most Recent Fight: NC vs. Wagner Prado at UFC on Fox 4
Next Fight: Wagner Prado at UFC 153
Previous Ranking: 7
Phil Davis remains one of the hottest young prospects in MMA, but his progress was temporarily stunted after an unfortunate eye poke ended his fight against Wagner Prado.
Prior to that, Davis had lost a unanimous decision to Rashad Evans.
He will now have a rematch with Prado at UFC 153 and will look to regain his momentum towards the top of the light heavyweight division.
No. 6: Alexander Gustafsson
Most Recent Fight: Unanimous decision victory over Thiago Silva
Next Fight: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC on Fox 5
Previous Ranking: 6
Alexander Gustafsson, like Phil Davis, is one of the hottest prospects in the division.
Gustafsson's only loss came at the hands of Davis, but Gustafsson also has the more impressive victories overall, as he has beaten Thiago Silva, Vladimir Matyushenko and Matt Hamill.
Gustafsson gets his chance to—potentially—earn a title shot when he faces Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC on Fox 5.
No. 5: Mauricio Rua
Most Recent Fight: TKO victory over Brandon Vera at UFC on Fox 4
Next Fight: Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 5
Previous Ranking: 5
Originally, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua was fighting Brandon Vera with a title shot on the line, but then Dana White changed his mind, and the title shot was open to any of the top four fighters on the card.
Lyoto Machida won most impressively, and he earned the shot, leaving Shogun to fight again before earning his title shot.
In a possible No. 1 contender fight, Shogun will fight Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 5.
No. 4: Rashad Evans
Most Recent Fight: Unanimous decision loss to Jon Jones at UFC 145
Next Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 4
For a long time, Rashad Evans was considered the No. 2 light heavyweight in the world. With recent events though, the division seems to have settled out so we clearly know where everybody stands.
After dropping a unanimous decision to Jon Jones for the title at UFC 145, Evans teased a move to middleweight, but for now, remains at light heavyweight.
His next fight will probably be before the end of this year, perhaps against Ryan Bader or Dan Henderson—depending on when Jones is ready to fight again.
No. 3: Lyoto Machida
Most Recent Fight: Knockout victory over Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4
Next Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 3
Lyoto Machida hit a rough patch, but with his knockout win over Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4, he showed that he is still one of the best light heavyweights on the planet.
Machida has several impressive victories, not the least of which is his knockout over Rashad Evans to earn the light heavyweight title.
Machida was offered a shot to fight Jon Jones at UFC 151 and 152, but he turned down both, so his next fight is still up in the air.
No. 2: Dan Henderson
Most Recent Fight: Unanimous decision victory over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139
Next Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 2
Dan Henderson suffered a knee injury that forced him to pull out of UFC 151, unfortunately, it ended up causing the card to be cancelled as a whole.
Henderson is looking to return by the end of the year and will hopefully be fighting Jon Jones upon his return, because everybody wants to see that fight.
No. 1: Jon Jones
Most Recent Fight: Unanimous decision victory over Rashad Evans at UFC 145
Next Fight: Vitor Belfort at UFC 152
Previous Ranking: 1
You probably hate him, you probably hope he loses to Vitor Belfort, but the fact of the matter is, Jon Jones is the best light heavyweight in the world.
Jones has beaten four former champions in a row and has three straight title defenses.
He will fight his fifth straight former champion when he faces Vitor Belfort at UFC 152.
Tim McTiernan is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. For the latest news on everything MMA, follow him on Twitter @TimMcTiernan.
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