Just because the light heavyweight division has finally found another dominant man at the top, it doesn’t make it any less crowded.
Look at the guys who didn’t make the list: Phil Davis, Forrest Griffin, and Lil Nog are all nowhere to be found. And with the exception of Davis, they’re all another loss away from “gatekeeper” status.
Meanwhile some fighters are a win away from entering the ladder. If Chael Sonnen impresses against Forrest Griffin in December, he could smoothly transition from the 185 to 205 ladder. Griffin could even make it himself. And what if Stephan Bonnar knocks off Anderson Silva this month in Brazil? It would be tough to argue against him earning a spot for the November ladder.
But nonetheless, this weight class is still the most entertaining in the UFC and some fighters did actually make it.
Champion: Jon Jones
After a month to forget for the champion (following another month to forget), Jon Jones finally stepped back into the Octagon against Vitor Belfort, of all people. And despite a deep armbar in the first round, Jones was never in any danger.
It’s the second fight in a row in which Jon Jones has at least been troubled, but his opponents have yet to sustain that momentum. For now, Jones will likely take the year off as he nurses a shoulder injury suffered during the fight. And with the way that the division has looked lately, there’s no telling who he’ll face next.
Contenders: Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida
41 years old and coming off of wins against Fedor and Shogun? I want to say that this is Henderson’s last chance at UFC gold (which hes’s surprisingly never held), but he’s built his career by proving fans wrong.
After a nearly flawless performance against Ryan Bader in August, Machida could be a win away from facing Jones. Now is a great time for a scrap between these two.
In The Discussion: Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Rashad’s coming off of a loss to the champion and is flirting with a move down to 185. Regardless of those, his 17-2 record keeps him in the discussion.
Shogun is 2-2 in his last four fights and seems to start every fight gassed. He makes the ladder, but just barely.
On The Rise: Alexander Gustafsson, James Te Huna
Gustafsson is 205’s hottest prospect right now, rattling off five straight UFC victories. He’s proven that he’s ready for a step up in competition and he may be granted one before the year ends.
James Te Huna has bounced back nicely since being submitted by Gustafsson last year. The Australian is on a three-fight win streak, but may be on the shelf for the remainder of the year as he recovers from a broken hand.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson – UFC on FOX 5 (December 8)