With the year half over, and the next UFC card still a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to take a look at what is going on in the five different divisions.
This article will attempt to give a good impression of how the divisional title pictures look, and how different fighters factor into the equation.
The Big Four : Mauricio Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, and Quinton Jackson have separated themselves away from the rest of the pack, both in terms of skills, and fight records. While prospects may make inroads, at present, it's the big four, and then everybody else.
The Champ: Mauricio Rua stopped Lyoto Machida to earn the UFC light heavyweight belt, but he's now recovering after undergoing knee surgery on his ACL.
Blessed with a strong chin, good striking, and excellent submission skills, many feel as if Shogun has the skills to reign over the division for a long time.
Because of Rua's injury, he'll stay on top of the rankings until his return, but given how he's looked in fights immediately following injuries, his future remains very much uncertain.
The No. 1 Contender: Rashad Evans earned a second title shot by defeating Quinton Jackson in a bout where he showed that he was the faster, and more well-rounded fighter.
Many people doubt Evans' chances against Rua, but Rua's conditioning following an injury may still be in doubt, and Evans should be able to score points with his wrestling if he can stay out of trouble on the floor.
He'll also have plenty of time to prepare, as Rua will likely be out of action until at least February.
The Other Super-Elites: At the present moment, Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida stand as the other two super-elite guys in the division.
Dana White has suggested the possibility of the two fighters fighting each other, but given that they are both coming off losses, that may not be the best option, unless Dana White wants to bury one name for the sake of the other.
Despite losing to Rua, Machida remains a tough task for anybody in the division. He already owns a win over the current No. 1 contender, Evans.
Although some people say that Machida's style has been solved, the truth is that even if it has been, there are very few people with the skill set of Rua who could exploit Machida's perceived weaknesses.
Even though he lost to Rua, many still feel that Machida has the best skill set to deal with the rest of the division, so if Rua falls off, Machida may yet regain his title.
Jackson fell off a bit by losing to Evans, but his combination of wrestling and boxing is still a tough matchup for many in the division. He's still only a win or two away from another title shot.
The Wild Card: Anderson Silva is currently fighting at middleweight, but should he be successful against Chael Sonnen and perhaps one more middleweight contender, a move to light heavyweight seems a near certainty.
If he does make the permanent move up, he could be one of the best suited to defeat Rua, if he even wants the belt. Due to his friendship with Machida, some speculate as to whether or not Silva would move on any light heavyweight title aspirations.
The Well-Known Veterans: Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva and Brandon Vera all have good skills, but at the present time can't be considered to be in the same stratosphere as the big four, or Anderson Silva for that matter.
Despite probably not being on that level as contenders, they'll fight each other in interesting matchups, and otherwise will serve as good tests for the elite four, or as gatekeepers to the future stars.
The Veteran Veteran: Randy Couture is still a great fighter for a 40 something year old. That said, if his desire to fight James Toney is any indication, it doesn't seem as if fighting the elites is his primary motivation at this time.
It remains to be seen whether he'll test himself against the super-elites again, or if he'll be satisfied fighting lucrative bouts where the danger is not so great.
The Prospects : Jon Jones, Phil Davis, and Ryan Bader have separated themselves from the rest of the pack of prospects, and they will all soon be tested against the veterans of the division.
Although Phil Davis may have the best wrestling pedigree, Jones is seen by many as the brightest prospect due to his age, and the way he has quickly picked up new skills.
Although he's not truly a prospect, Jason Brilz also deserves mention here for upsetting the applecart for the established veteran, Nogueira.
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