While his coaching career on this season of The Ultimate Fighter has gotten off to a rocky start, Jon “Bones” Jones is still the king of the light heavyweight division.
The 25-year old has an April meeting with Chael Sonnen in his future and should he pass the test (when he passes the test), his next opponent will likely be the winner of Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida’s bout later this month.
Behind those four, there’s an unfamiliar void thanks to Rashad Evans’s unanimous decision loss to Antonio “Minotoro” Nogueira last week. While he has only lost three professional bouts and was inches from a title shot against Anderson Silva, he’s now off the UFC Ladder.
Also moving onto the Ladder since its last update, Glover Teixeira and Phil Davis.
Champion: Jon Jones
Jon Jones has been flirting with a move to heavyweight, and who can blame him? Outside of an armbar attempt from Vitor Belfort in his last fight, he’s coasted through some of the sport’s greatest fighters. He needs tough matchups and Chael Sonnen isn’t one of them.
Contenders: Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida
But regardless, Chael will get his chance to dethrone the light heavyweight champ at UFC 159. Sonnen is coming off of a loss in his rematch to middleweight king Silva and hasn’t fought at 205 since 2003. But the fight, coupled with his coaching stint on TUF, should net him a decent PPV draw.
Meanwhile, Dan Henderson is looking to earn the title shot that he lost out on due to injury late last year. To do it, he’ll have to get past Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, who is vying for a rematch with Jones. In their first fight, Jones finished the Brazilian via standing guillotine in the 2nd round. Also notable is the fact that Henderson hasn’t fought since his Fight of the Year clash with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139…in 2011. Ring rust could be a factor.
In The Discussion: Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis
With his ladder-climbing win over “Shogun” this past December, Gustafsson is now riding a six-fight win streak in the UFC. Next up, he’ll return to his home country to fight Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi in April. Should he get past Mousasi, he could be one fight away from a title shot.
“Mr. Wonderful” has been flying under the radar since his loss to Rashad Evans, but he’s rebounded quite nicely with two solid performances against Wagner Prado. Should he beat Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159, he’ll surely be matched up against another top light heavyweight.
On The Rise: Glover Teixeira, James Te Huna
While his win against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has some throwing Glover Teixeira’s name in the discussion for the title, he’s not quite ready yet. Even against a washed up Jackson, Teixeira looked far from impressive. While I agree that his next bout should be against a fighter in their prime, he’s still a few wins away from legitimate contention.
James Te Huna is in a similar position for his fight later this month. Should he beat the highly-touted Ryan Jimmo convincingly, he could find himself moving up the ladder. But a loss could clear the way for Jimmo, who’s coming off a seven-second knockout of Anthony Perosh.
James Te Huna vs. Ryan Jimmo – UFC on Fuel 7 (February 16)
Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida – UFC 157 (February 23)
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi – UFC on Fuel TV 9 (April 6)
Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes – UFC 159 (April 27)
Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen – UFC 159 (April 27)