UFC 156 Results: Top 10 Light Heavyweights in the UFC
The ever-shifting amoeba that is the UFC light heavyweight division continued to morph on Saturday night during the UFC 156 event which featured a bout between two top-10 stars—Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Evans (-345) came into the bout as the favorite, but was never quite able to get anything going. His typically smooth style wasn't working for him against Nogueira, who played into Evans' perceived strength on the feet and tagged him multiple times throughout the bout.
In the end it was the underdog Nogueira (+265) who came out with the victory by judges' decision.
The fight, of course, changed the course of the UFC light heavyweight division, so let's take a look at the 10 best UFC light heavyweights after Saturday night's UFC 156 event.
10. Gegard Mousasi
MMA Record: 33-3-2
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Mike Kyle at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine
One of the newest additions to the UFC roster is former Strikeforce, Dream and Pride top contender Gegard Mousasi.
Mousasi, who has finished his opponent in 29 of his 33 professional wins, is an absolute killer in the ring. His kickboxing style brings punishment on the feet, but he is also a black belt in judo and can bring the fight to the ground in the blink of an eye.
The major knock on Mousasi, in recent years, has been that he simply hasn't fought top competition. Since losing to "King Mo" Lawal back in April 2010, Mousasi has barely even fought against top-25 opponents. The worst performance he had in that stretch came in a draw against a late replacement opponent, Keith Jardine, in April 2011.
9. Ryan Bader
MMA Record: 15-3
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC on FOX 6
The Ultimate Fighter 8 winner Ryan Bader has to be one of the most hot-and-cold fighters in the sport, but when he's hot, he's an absolute terror to fight against.
Bader, who started his career out on a 12-0 streak, has since dropped three of his past six fights against Jon Jones, Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida. However, wins over Jason Brilz, Rampage Jackson and Vladimir Matyushenko keep him solidly in the top 10 in his weight class.
His most recent victory over Vladimir Matyushenko might've been the most impressive performance of his career as he submitted "The Janitor" with a guillotine choke just 50 seconds into the bout, earning him submission of the night and the record as the UFC's fastest-ever submission winner of a light heavyweight fight.
8. Glover Teixeira
MMA Record: 19-2
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC on Fox 6
There may not be a fighter that other light heavyweights want to go up against less, right now, than Glover Teixeira.
Teixeira has not tasted defeat since March 2006, a streak that includes 18 victories in three countries, including three dominant victories in the UFC.
The only reason Teixeira isn't higher on this list is because he hasn't quite fought the top-level opponents yet. Yes, Rampage Jackson is still a beast and he showed that during moments in their fight, but Jackson also had one foot out the door heading into that bout and it's hard to believe that he really trained to full capacity given his seeming carelessness about the fight itself.
7. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
MMA Record: 21-7
Most Recent Fight: Lost to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 5
Former UFC light heavyweight and Pride middleweight Grand Prix champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has had trouble with consistency over the past couple of years, but still remains one of the most exciting and deadly fighters in the 205-pound division.
What might surprise some is that, despite having some true "fight of the year" candidates during the stretch, Rua actually hasn't won back-to-back fights since early 2009 when he knocked out Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell at UFC 93 and 97.
6. Rashad Evans
MMA Record: 17-3-1
Most Recent Fight: Lost to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156
Many expected Rashad Evans to take a step back toward UFC title contention with a victory over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 on Saturday night. That didn't happen, though, as Evans saw his standup game stifled by the Brazilian in a relatively uneventful fight.
The lack of aggressiveness from Evans was surprising, but it was the second time we've seen it from him in a row, as he also looked very similarly lackadaisical in his previous fight for the title against Jon Jones at UFC 145.
There were rumors of Evans dropping down to 185 pounds to challenge Anderson Silva if he were to beat Nogueira, but the loss likely puts that fight out of consideration and places Evans into the mess that is the UFC light heavyweight division outside the top five.
5. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
MMA Record: 21-5
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Rashad Evans at UFC 156
It's odd to think that a 12-year veteran of the sport who has a 21-5 record is one of the most overlooked fighters in the UFC light heavyweight division, but that has to be true for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Nogueira, who came into Saturday night's UFC 156 card as a large underdog against Rashad Evans, showed up his non-believers by winning a unanimous decision over the former champion.
Despite the fight being rather lackluster overall, Nogueira proved that he is not a one-trick pony who can only utilize his third-degree black belt in jiu-jitsu, but that he also has the ability to stand with just about anyone in the division.
Nogueira has not been finished in a fight since Pride 33 back in February 2007 and has to be considered one of the top five fighters at 205 today.
4. Alexander Gustafsson
MMA Record: 15-1
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Mauricio Rua at UFC on Fox 5
26-year-old Swedish phenom Alexander Gustafsson saw his name shoot up to the top of the rankings in the UFC light heavyweight division with an impressive 2012 campaign which included victories over both Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua.
When you consider that Gustafsson hasn't lost since his second UFC bout against Phil Davis back in 2010, it's easy to see why his six straight victories in the Octagon since that point have some believing that he may be the guy who eventually unseats Jon Jones.
Gustafsson's next opponent is scheduled to be Gegard Mousasi, who himself is on a nice winning streak, so it will be interesting to see if "The Mauler" can continue his dominance in the Octagon.
3. Lyoto Machida
MMA Record: 18-3
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4
Some may disagree with placing a fighter all the way up at No. 3 when he has lost three of his past five fights, but when that fighter is Lyoto Machida, it's not hard to make the argument that he deserves to be up here.
Machida has done it all in the sport, starting off on a 15-fight win streak to begin his career before finally losing his first bout to another legend of the sport, Mauricio Rua, in his first UFC light heavyweight title defense.
He earned another chance at the title back at UFC 140 where he clipped Jon Jones early in the fight which likely earned him a round against the champ. Unfortunately he was unable to follow it up as Jones finished him off with a standing guillotine choke in Round 2.
But it's not the losses that put Machida at No. 3. His brutal knockout victories over Randy Couture and Ryan Bader prove that "The Dragon" is truly one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport today. He will have a chance to move up the rankings again if he can defeat Dan Henderson at UFC 157.
2. Dan Henderson
MMA Record: 29-8
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Mauricio Rua at UFC 139
Like a fine wine, Dan Henderson seems to only get better with age.
The 42-year-old light heavyweight has won seven of his past eight fights, including four straight knockout wins over the likes of "Babalu" Sobral, "Feijao" Cavalcante, Fedor Emelianenko and "Shogun" Rua.
Henderson would've already earned himself a title fight against UFC champion Jon Jones, but a knee injury knocked the former multi-divisional Pride champion out for the entirety of 2012. He has now been bumped down a bit on the card and will fight Lyoto Machida at UFC 156.
If Henderson comes out with a victory in that fight later this February, look for him to get a shot at the UFC title before the end of the year.
1. Jon Jones
MMA Record: 17-1
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Vitor Belfort at UFC 152
The most dominant UFC light heavyweight champion in the history of the company, Jon Jones has all but completely cleared out what has been one of the most stacked divisions in the sport for years.
Jones' victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 gave him his eighth straight victory in the Octagon and brought his record all the way up to 17-1. The only loss came via controversial disqualification against Matt Hamill in a fight he was absolutely dominating back in 2009.
Without an obvious challenger for him at 205, rumors of a temporary move to heavyweight or even a potential superfight with Anderson Silva continue to heat up for 2013.