UFC 160 Results: Top 10 Light Heavyweights in the UFC

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2013

UFC 160 Results: Top 10 Light Heavyweights in the UFC

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    When you look at the UFC's lightweight division, it is intensely difficult to figure out who should actually be considered a “top 10” fighter. Seriously, check out the rankings.

    Weighing who should be on that list is incredibly difficult, and on the individual panelist rankings, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Evan Dunham, Joe Lauzon and Jamie Varner all pop up.

    That said, there is little trouble sorting out tiers, as Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and Gray Maynard find themselves squarely below the champ, followed by Josh Thomson, Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone, while other possible entries get slotted in from there.

    On the flip side, though, is the light heavyweight division. There is truly, honestly, no difficulty in selecting the top 10 fighters in that division, but sorting them out in any satisfying way is intensely difficult.

    So, we may as well just try our best. Here we go!

No. 10: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

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    Antonio Rogerio Nogueira surged back onto many rankings, and actually sits in fifth on the official rankings. That, however, is absolutely foolish.

    Nogueira is the same fighter that lost soundly to Phil Davis and Ryan Bader. The ugly victory he got over Rashad Evans, few will disagree, was far more a poor showing by Evans than anything impressive from Nogueira.

    Ultimately, though, two back-to-back wins over former champions mean something. I guess it means just enough to end up inside the top 10 of UFC's light heavyweight division.

    Kind of sad, isn't it? The division is so shallow that a win that ugly will get you into the top five.

No. 9: Ryan Bader

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    The TUF8 light heavyweight winner is still an unknown commodity in many ways, as he flip-flops between emphatic wins and devastating losses. Either way, he finds himself among the light heavyweight top 10, partly by default and partly because he has the tools to win, but just doesn't seem to be able to do so.

    He sports a resume with victories over some serious fighters, including Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. That said, he has suffered three ugly stoppage losses in his last six fights at the hands of Jon Jones, Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida.

    Bader has some potent wrestling, and some serious pop in his hands, but he needs to start showing that consistently if he wants to climb further up these rankings.

No. 8- Mauricio Rua

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    The Pride legend and former UFC light heavyweight champion has fallen on some hard times lately. In his last five fights, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has gone 2-3 and has looked older and older with each entry into the cage.

    If you buy into pre-fight hype, his cardio is downright legendary, but in his two most recent fights against Brandon Vera and Alexander Gustafsson, we have seen Rua start wilting early in the second rounds. That said, Rua may be poised to jump back up this list.

    We have seen many veteran fighters coast towards retirement after getting knocked off the top of the mountain, a la Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and, to some degree, BJ Penn. That is not the case with Rua, however, who has retooled his training regimen and coaching staff.

    With another win or two, he could find himself right back in the thick of title contention. Another loss, however, could prove disastrous for him.

No. 7: Phil Davis

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    Phil Davis sports an impressive 11-1 record fighting against some really stiff competition. However, that one loss on his record came in devastating fashion to Rashad Evans about a year ago.

    In many ways, “Mr. Wonderful” is still reeling from that loss. Regardless, he is still a downright fearsome wrestler with ever-improving stand-up skills.

    Unlike other on-the-rise fighters on this list, Davis already has a pair of wins over currently top-10 opponents, choking out Alexander Gustafsson in 2010, and taking a unanimous decision from Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in 2011.

    Those are in addition to big wins over current middleweights Tim Boetsch and Brian Stann and, most recently, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu magician Vinny Magalhaes.

    He could actually reasonably be slotted higher on this list, but is instead poised to explode up the list if he can get one more big win over a name-brand fighter.

No. 6: Glover Teixeira

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    So what do we know about Glover Teixeira?

    He has big hands. He has under-appreciated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He cures lepers, redeems our sins and walks on water (at least according to Joe Rogan).

    What do we not know?

    How good is his takedown defense? How good is he from his back? How good is his gas tank? Teixeira didn't really answer any of those questions with his quick, handy win over an out-of-his-league James Te-Huna.

    Teixeira hasn't faced a true test if he is contender material quite yet. Ideally, his next fight will be just that.

    For now, he's slotted in here on a combination of the light heavyweight division being incredibly short on talent, and the fact that he hasn't yet suffered a devastating loss, unlike the other folks further down this list.

No. 5: Dan Henderson

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    The former two-division champion Pride champ remains relevant near the top of the UFC's light heavyweight division. That said, anyone who isn't one of Dan Henderson's holdover fans knows his best fighting days are very, very long past.

    Henderson's lack of cardio has been his Achilles' heel for a long while now, and his spotty takedown defense is perplexing, given his Olympic pedigree. He also lacks the size to compete with most modern light heavyweights directly, but does not have the pure speed of Lyoto Machida or Rashad Evans to make up for it.

    A dynamite-loaded right hand and steely chin has brought him this far, but it likely won't bring him much further. He is an all-time great, sure, but there are just too many areas where he finds himself at a disadvantage when put side by side with other top light heavyweights.

    He faces Rashad Evans in the main event at UFC 161. If Evans steps into the cage in the same shape he was in for any fight before his loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, it should be a handy win for Evans.

    Henderson is sitting in the fifth spot on this list but, honestly, that is an homage to his many career accomplishments, rather than an accurate appraisal of his odds against other fighters in the division.

No. 4: Rashad Evans

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    A huge portion of MMA fans and media immediately brushed off Evans following his loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156.

    To some degree, it's hard to blame them. Evans looked really, really bad against Nogueira as he sputtered to a unanimous decision loss where he couldn't take down a guy who was out-grappled by Phil Davis, Ryan Bader and, arguably, Jason Brilz.

    Still, when “Suga” is on his game, he is possibly the best light heavyweight in MMA outside the champ. He has the striking to knock out anybody, possibly the best wrestling in the division, and a well-honed game that lets him hang with anybody, anywhere.

    What led to the terrible effort he put forward against Nogueira is a mystery (though he is 0-2 since the reportedly ugly divorce from his ex-wife). Regardless, if Evans looks like even a shadow of his former self, he is going to have everyone wondering why they were so quick to dismiss him, and guys like me bragging that we knew it all along.

No. 3: Alexander Gustafsson

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    Alexander Gustafsson has a six-fight winning streak right now, and that on its own is good enough to put him among the best in the division. Whether that means he's actually better than the other fighters on this list, however, remains to be seen.

    Against the other fighters on this list, Gustafsson beat Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in December, but tapped to Phil Davis back in 2010. He has some solid striking, but is not nearly as technically proficient as Lyoto Machida, and has some decent grappling, but simply isn't up to snuff with the powerful wrestlers of the division like Davis, Ryan Bader or Rashad Evans.

    While he beat Rua thoroughly, it was not an especially great showing by the former champ. “Shogun” wilted early in the fight, and Gustafsson spent a good 10 minutes slapping the veteran around. Whether he could repeat that effort against another established light heavyweight is a question that will be answered soon enough.

    Ultimately, though, Gustafsson has wins. Other fighters on this list don't. That is enough to be considered the third-best light heavyweight in the UFC these days.  

No. 2: Lyoto Machida

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    Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida is basically the only light heavyweight that has been fighting since 2008 who hasn't aged terribly, or outright retired. His advanced striking skills combined with some of MMA's best takedown defense will keep him relevant for as long as his body can hold up.

    While he finds himself in the second-place spot on this list, he has a humble 3-3 record in his last six (and would be 3-4 in his last seven if it wasn't for his controversial decision win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua).

    Still, he is the only former champion that still has cardio, and he matches up favorably against almost every other fighter on this list. That is more than enough to put him behind only he-who-will-be-named-shortly.

    Machida may or may not find himself fighting for the belt some time later this year, as the win over Dan Henderson theoretically makes him the undisputed top contender. Whether things pan out that way, however, remains to be seen.

No. 1: Jon Jones

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    No surprise here.

    Jon Jones is the most dominant champion in light heavyweight MMA history, and already ranks among the greatest of all time at a fairly early stage in his career.

    He has run through basically every previous champion of this generation, and it is hard to reasonably see anyone giving him a legitimate challenge, never even mind beating him.

    He is among the best in every area of the sport, be it striking, wrestling, submission offense, submission defense or clinch work. Basically the only area where you can't reasonably argue that Jon Jones is the best at 205 pounds is striking, and even then the only man he falls short of is Lyoto Machida.

    It's up in the air to some degree who Jones will fight after wrecking Chael Sonnen, but fights with Machida, Gustafsson, Daniel Cormier and Anderson Silva all seem to be on the table. 

    Regardless of who he fights, it's hard to imagine Jones doing anything other than winning in convincing fashion.