Whether you love him or hate him, it's easy to acknowledge that Rashad Evans is one of the best fighters on the planet. As a top pay-per-view draw, the return of the former champion is highly anticipated, and very few opponents have been publicly considered.
After discussing the idea of moving down to middleweight, Evans is now healthy and ready to fight the best competitors in the world. With a collection of elite light heavyweights sitting at the top of the division, there is a group of elite fighters who could find themselves standing in front of the former Ultimate Fighter star.
Here is a look at five potential opponents for Rashad Evans when he returns.
Although it was announced in late August that Chael Sonnen will meet Forrest Griffin at UFC 155, all bets are off after the debacle that took place surrounding UFC 151.
Sonnen volunteered to fight Jon Jones on less than two weeks notice and came out of the situation smelling like a rose. Would the UFC be willing to give the American Gangster a bigger fight for his troubles?
Both men are longtime top contenders of their division, but unfortunately unable to best the reigning champion. With their staredown photo taken last month, it's clear that each trash-talking elitist knows that this fight would be excellent for business.
Imagine the jaw jacking that leads up to this confrontation.
At UFC 153, Rampage Jackson enters the last fight on his current contract. The bout comes against highly touted prospect Glover Teixeira, and takes place in the Brazilian's homeland.
If Rampage finds himself successful against the well-rounded powerhouse, the UFC will likely try to keep the popular star on the roster by offering a lucrative new deal.
Jackson and Evans met in a grudge match at UFC 114 that garnered an incredible 1,000,000 buys on pay-per-view. Evans won the bout via decision in a wrestling-centric battle.
Already having expressed an interest in facing opponents who have previously defeated him, Jackson could be interested in rematching one of the biggest rivals of his career.
If Teixeira pulls out a win against the A-Team star, he will have defeated yet another former UFC champion and should be deemed ready for a bout with Evans.
Lyoto Machida has some history with Rashad Evans. Machida captured the UFC light heavyweight championship from Evans at UFC 98, and Suga certainly hasn't forgotten about the night.
The loss was the first in the career of The Ultimate Fighter winner, and it prevented him from obtaining a successful title defense.
Machida recently knocked out Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4 to earn himself another crack at the belt, but when he turned down a showdown with champion Jon Jones at UFC 152, Dana White announced that The Dragon would need another big win before getting his rematch.
Add Dan Henderson to the list of expected title contenders who have no assurances that they'll get a crack at the belt.
After the cancellation of UFC 151, Dana White stated that Hendo's injury not only cost him his title shot at this event, but he may have to fight again before another opportunity arises.
Evans and Henderson are similar in strengths, as they each possess stellar wrestling and big knockout power in their hands. "Suga" holds a substantial speed advantage, which could make all the difference in this potential clash of former champions.
Far-fetched? Sure. But what happens if Carlos Condit scores a major upset against Georges St-Pierre in November? The Silva versus GSP superfight would be off the table, and with Chris Weidman booked, Anderson Silva's dance card would be seemingly empty.
The biggest question is, at which weight class would this fight take place?
Rashad expressed interest in challenging for the middleweight championship, calling out Silva on Twitter only minutes after the champion defeated Chael Sonnen at UFC 148. However, he now hopes to compete at light heavyweight in his next bout.
In hopes of bailing out the UFC 151 pay-per-view, Silva agreed to fight any light-heavyweight other than Jon Jones. That willingness to compete at 205 shows us that The Spider is not afraid of a stiff challenge.