Here we are, folks. Part four of my five part series. In part four, we will be going over the light-heavyweight division, or the 205-pounders, if you prefer.
The 205-pound weight class is easily the deepest, most talent-rich division the UFC has to offer, with lightweights coming in a close second.
This is the first division I've gone over so far where the current champion isn't No. 1. He is actually number two, even though this weight class is more like 1A and 1B.
WORTH HONORABLE MENTION: Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Krzysztof Soszynski, Keith Jardine, Brandon Vera, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Now, on to the main event.
Based on Couture's latest foray into the 205-pound division, this is a bit generous. Sure, he is probably one win away from a title shot, but does he deserve it?
Let's analyze in two quick, easy questions.
Question 1) Has he defeated a top five light heavyweight? No.
Question 2) Did he beat said opponent convincingly? Well, considering there hasn't been an opponent of that type, the answer has to be no.
But I'm not here to debate whether or not Couture deserves to be this close after going 1-1 in his.... Oh, I mean 2-0 in his light-heavyweight foray. I'm here to tell you why he is where he is.
And here is why: Couture still can fight the best and win, even though he hasn't been. His strict physical conditioning regimen keeps his old age from catching up to him, and his mastery of Greco-Roman wrestling helps him to dictate where the fight takes place.
The ability to do that should not be overlooked. Just ask Nate Marquardt, or better yet, Chael Sonnen. Couture is probably fighting Rich Franklin at UFC 116.
As a former All-American wrestler at Arizona State University, as well as The Ultimate Fighter 8 season winner, Ryan Bader has been and still is facing monumental expectations.
And he has risen to the occasion, winning all four of his UFC fights, most recently via KO against gatekeeper light-heavyweight Keith Jardine.
Before the fight, commenting on Bader's undefeated record, Jardine said being undefeated is usually the product of not facing the right people.
Jardine, however, again showed off his glass chin, this time losing in the third round instead of the first.
Anyways, Ryan Bader is a lot like former college teammate Cain Velasquez. They are both known for their wrestling, but both showed much improved striking on Saturday night in Australia.
In my eyes, Bader hasn't yet ascended to the top tier, but if he keeps up his rigorous training and gets better standing up, he will get there.
The only thing he needs to work on is his cardio and not telegraphing his takedowns.
Bader is the future of the division. Look for him to show that in his next few fights. His next fight should be against the winner of Jon Jones vs. Brandon Vera.
Matt Hamill was one of the first fighters who really transitioned quickly between wrestling and MMA. His wrestling is very good for someone who only wrestled at the amateur level, Division Three at that.
His striking is among the best of the weight class, with all of his recent fights ending by TKO (even the losses, and except for the Jones fight).
He has real finishing power in his hands, and his high kick is something to watch for.
Matt Hamill is like Keith Jardine 2.0; He can win fights, but he will never win the championship. For the remainder of his career, however, he will prove a tough matchup for almost anyone.
This is probably the first of two picks that will get me beaten up, but I stand by it. Forrest Griffin is a damn good fighter, but he isn't what I would call great.
Sure, he beat Shogun Rua and Rampage, but, in my opinion, neither of those should give him any credibility.
Call me an idiot, which you will, but the Rampage fight was one of the worst jobs by a panel of judges in UFC history. Don't even get me started on his fight with Shogun.
Anyways, Forrest is a good but not great striker, and a good but not great grappler.
However, he can put on good fights, and that is why we love him. He is more of a brawler than a technical striker. His submissions are underrated.
After his fight against Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro Nogueira, a fight against Jon Jones would be awesome. If we can't get Jon Jones, give him Ryan Bader.
Anyone who has ever watched Jon Jones fight knows what a treat UFC fans are in for during the next 15 years.
Jon Jones is one of the best light-heavyweights in the UFC, and he is only 22. That's right. 22 years old.
Jones' background is in wrestling, and that is what he excels at. Using a various combination of shoots, clinch throws, slams, and trips, Jones is the very definition of versatile wrestler.
His mastery of Greco-Roman wrestling is a big key to his success in the octagon.
However, his striking is not to be overlooked. He has popularized a move known as the spinning back elbow, perfected the spinning back kick, and invented a move that I like to call the fake-shoot-spinning-back-elbow, or F.S.S.B.E. for short.
His unpredictability is in every fight he participates in, but it is also what makes him so hard to gameplan for. His next fight is against Brandon Vera on March 21, on UFC On Versus One.
After that it is unknown, but a fight pitting him against the loser of Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson has been discussed, and I have personally been lobbying for a Bones vs. Griffin fight.
The most likely path, however, would be him fighting Ryan Bader if he wins.
Thiago Silva is a good fighter that just needs a little polishing. He is 1-2 in his last three (obviously), but his one win is against glass-jawed Keith Jardine, and his two losses are against the current 205 champ and the former 205 champ.
Silva is as dangerous as they come, mostly because of his very dangerous striking game.
He is one of the most technical strikers in the sport, and that term isn't thrown around lightly (unless you name is Rogan and your watching old highlights of Paul Daley).
Silva holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but in his career he hasn't had to use it much.
His next fight should be against someone who can see how good he is, and whether he has improved since his close loss against Rashad Evans.
Many people think that if Silva's energy wasn't so low, he might have finished that fight. Anyway, on to the next guy.
Former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion. Former PRIDE superstar. Rampage Jackson brings alot to the table for whatever promotion he fights for.
He brings his humor, his honesty, his powerful striking, his underrated wrestling, not to mention his drawing power, and of course, his almost unmentionable legal issues.
Rampage Jackson has finishing power in both his right and left hands, and even has finishing power in his powerful body slams. See Ricardo Arona.
Rampage uses what Jens Pulver liked to call sprawl n brawl, or wrestling in reverse. Instead of wasting his great skills on ground n' pound, Pulver would use his great wrestling background and force opponents to stand and trade with him.
Chuck Liddell was the one who really made it what it is today, and Rampage is an avid user of it. However, when he is forced to wrestle, Rampage has shown that he can, outwrestling the Olympian Dan Henderson in their fight.
His next fight is against Rashad Evans. That fight will be for title contention.
Rashad Evans, like three others on this list, is the former 205 lb. division champion. His base is in wrestling, and it is a very strong base, making his job today a lot easier.
His striking isn't to be overlooked either, with KO wins over Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin (note: the Griffin win was actually the result of some vicious ground n pound).
Due to Rashad training with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, he always comes in prepared and with a good gameplan, which has come a long way towards making him so successful.
For example: While there he has a choice of training with Shane Carwin, Jon Jones, Keith Jardine, Joe Stevenson, and sometimes GSP among others. That is a great fight team.
His next fight is against Rampage Jackson at UFC 114. It will be for title contention. Also, to explain the picture, I am an obvious Rampage fan.
This pick surprise anyone? If so, that's to be expected. Machida is the current champion, and should be ranked No. 1. Right? Wrong.
Anyone who saw the fight against Shogun (And let's be honest; By now, who hasn't?) saw Machida get outfought by the vast underdog.
Shogun beat him to almost every punch, and kept the fight even throughout. But, as is the beauty of MMA, Machida will get a second chance.
Machida brings his complete mastery of karate with him into the octagon, along with a savage determination to win, and win convincingly.
He is one of the best counter-strikers in MMA, as seen by his stall-then-pounce tactics in his most recent fights.
His ground game is underrated also. His next fight will be against Mauricio Rua at UFC 113, for the title.
And finally, we get to No. 1. After No. 2, no one will be surprised to see Shogun at this spot. By all rights, he should be the UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion.
His striking is probably second-best in the division, behind only Machida. In the clinch, he is as dangerous as Wandy in his prime, and from there can pull guard if needed, or prolong the assault.
His chin is rivaled by very few. Not many people can say they have never been knocked out, and Shogun has faced heavy hitters such as Quinton Jackson, Chuck Liddell, and Kevin Randleman.
His submissions are very slick as well. A good example of how durable he is is when he had Randleman in a heel hook for about two minutes, without ever giving up position, or even letting it go.
His fight with Lyoto Machida should be a great one.
Thank you for reading guys. If you have been with me from the beginning of the series, and are still with me, thank you.
If you don't agree with my picks, which many of you won't, leave me a comment. Part five of this series, Top 10 UFC Heavyweight Fighters, should be out late this week/early next week.