Jon Jones Country: Power Ranking the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

Nathan LoweAnalyst IJune 7, 2011

Jon Jones Country: Power Ranking the UFC Light Heavyweight Division

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    The light heavyweight division in mixed-martial arts has long been considered by pundits or hardcore fans its premiere weight class.

    And now, as MMA evolves from its nascent beginnings, Jon Jones has emerged as undoubtedly the most talented and dangerous fighter among the 205 pound ranks.

    In truth, any currently known light heavyweight faces a hopelessly daunting task would they hope to dethrone the young American.

    While Jones' status as the division's best is certain, the order of the nine Zuffa combatants under him in a top ten power ranking can still be debated.

    But only if you're really quite bored. And I hope you are!

    The proceeding rankings are judged with more weight given to a fighter's ability than his accomplishments—anyone can use MMA math and connect dots—but here we'll try and use wisdom as well as knowledge.

11: Dan Henderson

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    Dan Henderson bookends our compilation of Zuffa light heavyweight power rankings.

    'Hendo' knocked out former Strikeforce champion Rafael Feijao during their fight in March. He is currently scheduled to face Fedor Emelianenko in a heavyweight fight in July.

    Henderson is extremely accomplished in several divisions and, with the new diet and training regime explored during his Feijao training camp, could still have a couple years left to trouble mid-tier Zuffa 205'ers.

    The Team Quest co-founder would have little chance beating Jon Jones, though, as the UFC champion's length, athleticism, and wrestling would make for a bad matchup for the "H-Bomb" launcher.

    He is still a very tough fighter, but at his advanced age he is unlikely to improve further, which puts him at the bottom of our subjective list.

10: Rogerio Nogeira

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    Rogerio Nogueira, the younger twin brother to Rodrigo Nogueira, is the 10th-best light heavyweight under Zuffa contract.

    'Lil Nog' is coming off two close losses in recent UFC events, dropping close decisions to prospects Phil Davis in March and Ryan Bader back in September.

    While wrestlers with enough savvy to avoid general submissions appear to be his bane, Nogeira's boxing and bottom-game still warrant inclusion in the elite of the light heavyweight division—for now.

    Nogueira tends to look and fight older than he is. He is unlikely to climb the ladder in such a stacked division with younger, more well-rounded prospects always around the corner.

    However, his abilities and pedigree would still pose a challenge to most guys in the division.

    Lil' Nog is scheduled to fight fellow southpaw Rich Franklin at UFC 133 in August.

    The younger Nogueira twin will prove useful as a gatekeeper into the upper echelon of the division, but probably for only a few more fights.

9: Ryan Bader

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    Ryan Bader comes in at No. 9, but only because he beat Lil Nog recently.

    I don't actually rate Bader that highly. His cardio is horrible and his boxing rudimentary. His wrestling is relatively sloppy for what you'd expect; he doesn't change levels on his double-leg, bending over and reaching instead.

    Frankly, "Darth" Bader was fortunate to get the nod against Lil' Nog. The former Arizona State wrestler has had a lot of camp issues in the last year, leaving Arizona Combat Sports to form his own gym—Power MMA—with fighter friends CB Dolloway and Aaron Simpson.

    It will be difficult for Bader to compete in the 205-lb. division if he continues to basically train himself. He has not improved enough over the course of several fights to warrant any real hope he'll become a serious contender.

    I recommend wagering on Tito Ortiz at +350 and higher when he faces Bader at UFC 132 in July.

    However take caution as the former UFC champion is rumored to be partying instead of training lately as he deals with personal issues stemming with his wife Jenna Jameson.

    Otherwise I think Ortiz could really beat up Bader who I expect to be under-estimating Ortiz already.

8: Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal

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    Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal is No. 8 on this here list.

    His wrestling pedigree and boxing technique, coupled with sheer strength and athleticism, warrant his placement above other fringe light heavyweights like Gegard Mousasi, Roger Gracie or Rafael Feijao.

    King Mo's last fight was a disappointment, losing the 205-pound Strikeforce title after being knocked about by the Brazilian Feijao.

    Feijao was a poor style matchup for Lawal, and King Mo was overconfident and cavalier during his training camp for that fight.

    That fight aside, the former three-time US Senior National Wrestling Champion has the necessary base to make a climb up the light heavyweight charts.

    Lawal is just 30 years old, and, given the right focus and injury-free training camp, can be a force in the division, eventually even against it's current champion Jon Jones.

    King Mo has more than enough upside to justify placing him higher than recent accomplishments across only sparse fights would seem to warrant.

7: Phil Davis

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    Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis is the seventh-best light heavyweight under Zuffa control.

    That statement itself may not be true at present but the former All-American's potential warrants this placement.

    Davis is one of the best pure wrestlers in the sport, but his progress has been stunted by being rushed into bigger and bigger fights before he is ready.

    He was somewhat fortunate to get the decision nod over Rodrigo Nogueira in March.

    Now the Philadelphia native is coming on on fairly short notice to headline against Rashad Evans at UFC 133 in August.

    It's a tough style matchup, really, as Rashad has decent MMA wrestling and far better boxing than the younger former Nittany Lion.

    Davis is the rightful underdog in the fight. Should he lose against "Suga", he would still have far more long-term potential than his opponent moving forward.

    Mr. Wonderful will have to show more improvement than he did against Lil' Nog to have a decent shot at decisioning or possibly submitting the former light heavyweight champion.

6: Forrest Griffin

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    Forrest Griffin ranks No. 6 on this subjective list of Zuffa light heavyweights.

    Griffin used his size to control an out-of-shape Rich Franklin during their fight at UFC 126 in Feburary.

    Prior to that, the former champion split-decisioned Tito Ortiz way back at UFC 106.

    Griffin isn't particularly outstanding at anything. but his huge frame and above-average jiu-jitsu help mask his boxing and wrestling deficiencies.

    Griffin faces Shogun Rua in Brazil this summer in a rematch of the Brazilian's first UFC fight which Griffin won by a third-round rear-naked-choke.

    If Shogun comes into the fight in good shape—hopefully having trained more and more at Kings MMA in Southern California—then it should be a very competative fight.

    However if Rua is anywhere near the condition he was against Jon Jones in April then it'll be another long night for the Brazilian and another victory for Griffin.

5: Lyoto Machida

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    Machida is the fifth-best light heavyweight in the world of mixed-martial arts.

    'The Dragon' recently defeated legend Randy Couture last month with a nasty crane kick—a la 'The Karate Kid'.

    Prior to that he was unfairly decisioned by Rampage Jackson at UFC 123 in November.

    Machida's unique karate base and resulting style pose interesting stylistic matchups for most other light heavyweights.

    By this token he could be one of few fighters capable of usurping Jon Jones, if only temporarily.

    Machida also has a strong sumo base which contributes to defensive MMA wrestling. However, his top game on the ground appeared quite lacklustre against Shogun Rua, despite Machida's pedigree in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

    The Machida Karate fighter doesn't have another fight lined up yet, but there's no doubt he's "in the mix" for the forseeable future.

4: Mauricio Rua

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    Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua slots in at No. 4 of the 10 best light heavyweights in the world.

    The former champion lost his belt two months ago to Jon Jones; you'd hardly blame the Brazilian.

    However, he did come in well out of shape for the fight, leading many to wonder if a move down to middleweight would befit the somewhat doughy striker.

    In hindsight, Shogun's epic five-round war with Machida last year was a great style matchup for the former Chute Box veteran.

    Fighting Forest Griffin in July will really test just how much Shogun has left in his tank.

    Earlier last month he trained for two weeks at Kings MMA in Southern California.

    Hopefully he uses former trainer Rafael Cordeiro and the slew of elite MMA fighters at that gym.

    He needs to be trained properly and having a small cabal of friends train him in Brazil will not cut it going forward.

    There is virtually no way Shogun ever beats Jon Jones, but he could sure still lamp some other fools as long as he's training right.

3: Rampage Jackson

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    Rampage Jackson is somewhere around the third-best light heavyweight around.

    His recent defeat of Matt Hamil was pedestrian at best, but Rampage, when properly trained and motivated, still has a slick combination of boxing and defensive wrestling to give most fighters problems.

    A rematch with Shogun Rua will hopefully be on the cards within the next season, but in the meantime Jackson has his eyes on beating Jon Jones.

    Although it is not official yet, reports indicate Rampage could be next to face the champion.

    Rampage has the power to knock out 'Bones', but could easily get ragdolled by Jones' reach, athleticism, slick wrestling, and outstanding muay thai.

2: Rashad Evans

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    'Suga' Rashad Evans is arguably the second-best light heavyweight currently donning eight-ounce gloves.

    He took advantage of a poorly trained Rampage Jackson last year to establish himself at the top of the division.

    However, foolish career decisions has seen Rashad go almost a year without a fight.

    He was supposed to face Jones for the title, but the champion dropped out with a dubious injury, causing Zuffa brass to scramble and pit Evans against Phil Davis next month.

    Rashad has a good style to defeat Davis and should get his title shot sometime after that.

    However, it's hard to see any scenario where 'Suga' has anything for the young champion.

1: Jonny Jones

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    No one really likes Jon Jones.

    The backroom consensus seems that he is, for the most part, a somewhat pretentious, young egoist.

    But he is undoubtedly the most feared fighter at 205 pounds.

    'Bones' freakish reach and athleticism promote an outstanding wrestling ability and striking offense. He is extremely flexible with a strong core. Jones has superb balance, and nasty muay thai and taekwondo augmented by evidently improving boxing.

    The 23-year-old has no known weaknesses, though perhaps his chin hasn't been as tested as it could be.

    The Jackson's MMA fighter has a very good chance of becoming the pound-for-pound best across all weight classes if he isn't already.

    Frankly, the diversity and array of tools at his disposal at such a young age is immensely frightening.

    His dramatic heel-turn after defeating Shogun Rua means a lot of people will be rooting for his block getting knocked off but, unfortunately, we may have to wait a long time.

    It's hard to envision any current premier 205'er giving Jones a great run for his money. However, down the road, guys like Machida, Davis, or Lawal probably have the best shot out of any.

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