By now, you would think Chael Sonnen is tired of tasting Rashad Evans’ boot.
The self-proclaimed “Oregon Gangster” licked Evans’ boot on national television in February on UFC Tonight after losing out on a bet, and at UFC 167, he was kicked in the backside after being dominated by Sonnen.
Like always, he took his beating like a man and offered no excuses at the post-fight press conference:
I had one significant problem, which is I took on a better fighter tonight, said Sonnen, who was stopped in the first round by TKO. I got mauled, and when he got in that top position there, I just couldn’t go anywhere. I got the fence on one side. I got a world champion on the other side, and I was trying but he hit me so hard and then he did it again and again.
While a loss still stings, this fight was nothing more than a pickup bout for Sonnen on paper. The former middleweight contender is already slated to return to 185 pounds and fight his arch nemesis Wanderlei Silva in 2014.
Evans, on the other hand, once again finds himself inching closer toward a title shot. How close is he?
Let’s take a look at the top 10 light heavyweights in the UFC.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
The drop-off from UFC champion to end-of-the-line top-10 light heavyweight has all been rather sudden for Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
He was once considered the best 205-pounder on the planet about two years ago. That just goes to show how quickly things can change in MMA.
Since losing the UFC title to Jon Jones, Rua has been about as consistent as a checkerboard. Despite only being 31 years old, his body has the mileage of a fighter in his late 30s or early 40s.
At this point, the UFC is attempting to squeeze every last drop of excitement out of Rua, a surefire Hall of Famer and MMA all-time great.
A slight turn of events could have pitted Gegard Mousasi instead of Alexander Gustafsson against Jon Jones at UFC 165.
The former Strikeforce and Dream light heavyweight champ was slated to fight Gustafsson in April, but the Swede had to pull out after suffering a cut in training.
A win over a fighter of Gustafsson’s caliber would have been a tall task for Mousasi, who recently decided to return to the middleweight division. He is slated to fight Lyoto Machida in Brazil on February 8.
This one went to the good guy.
At UFC 167, Chael Sonnen was soundly defeated in his bid for bragging rights against UFC Tonight colleague Rashad Evans.
Still, one has to wonder how important this bout was to Sonnen, who knew he would be returning back to middleweight heading into the fight.
A highly anticipated grudge match against Wanderlei Silva is next up.
Dan Henderson’s UFC return hasn’t gone according to plan.
Since winning a close decision over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, the MMA legend has dropped his last three fights. He suffered his first-ever knockout loss earlier this month in his long-awaited rematch with Vitor Belfort.
Fighters like Henderson and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture are appreciated for their ability to defy logic and still compete at a high level into their 40s, but eventually, Father Time has his way with everyone.
At 43 years old, Henderson’s career could be nearing its end.
At this point, it seems all Glover Teixeira knows how to do is win.
The Brazilian knockout artist has emerged the victor in 20 straight fights, and he is next in line to challenge Jon Jones for the UFC title.
Some might scoff at his placement on this list, but despite Teixeira’s stunning consistency, he has yet to defeat a Top 10 opponent in the light heavyweight division.
He’ll have an opportunity to put all doubt to rest in a bout with Jones.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
A lingering back injury has hampered Antonio Rogerio Nogueira’s progression in the light heavyweight division.
The former Pride star has pulled out of his last two fights. He recently re-established himself as a contender by taking a decision win over Rashad Evans at UFC 156. At 37 years of age, he may not have much left in the tank.
His world-class skills remain intact, but his body appears to be suffering from excessive mileage caused by years of fighting.
Phil Davis’ name often gets lost in the long list of light heavyweight contenders.
The NCAA Division I All-American wrestler is coming off three consecutive wins, including his most recent one over former UFC champ Lyoto Machida. Some feel that the UFC overlooked Davis when it offered the next title shot to Glover Teixeira.
While Teixeira is on an incredible winning streak, he has yet to defeat a Top 10 light heavyweight in his professional career. Davis, on the other hand, has key wins over Machida and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
After defeating his buddy Chael Sonnen at UFC 167, Rashad Evans finally returns to familiar territory at the top of the light heavyweight division.
For “Suga,” there’s nothing sweeter than the taste of victory, especially for a man who had consecutive losses recently. The former UFC champ has rebounded from back-to-back defeats with two straight wins over Sonnen and Dan Henderson.
One more victory could put him in line for another crack at UFC gold.
To some, Alexander Gustafsson is the uncrowned champion in the light heavyweight division.
The Swedish boxer became the first challenger to take Jon Jones out of his comfort zone in their unforgettable title bout at UFC 165.
Before the fight, people considered him a legitimate contender, but few perceived his deep talent.
Gustafsson isn’t just some run-of-the-mill contender. He has proved himself to be the man who could finally defeat Jones. His next fight is slated for March against undefeated striker Jimi Manuwa.
Currently listed as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Jon Jones continues to shine like Leroy Green from The Last Dragon.
At UFC 165, he broke Tito Ortiz’s longstanding record for most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses in UFC history. Unfortunately, he had a run-in with “The Mauler” to do it.
Jones defeated Alexander Gustafsson in one of MMA’s all-time great title fights. He still remains on the sidelines, nursing his injuries from the September bout.