He might be out of action for a little while, but that doesn’t prevent Mauricio “Shogun” Rua from owning the top spot on our world light heavyweight rankings.
The injury bug has bitten the UFC champ more than once in his career, but we’re confident he’ll come back strong. See who trails Shogun below.
Note: Heavy MMA rankings are based on how good we feel the fighters are today. Not based off of MMA math.
1. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Matt Brown: Out of action since May, Shogun is rehabbing for a tilt with #1 contender Rashad Evans. From what we hear, best case scenario is early 2011.
Jeremy Botter: It’s been a rough few years health-wise for the reigning UFC champion, and he’ll have a tough test in his first defense as champion. It won’t get any easier from there in the UFC’s stacked light heavyweight division.
2. Lyoto Machida
Matt Brown: Coming off the first loss of his career, the former champ will face another former champ in Rampage Jackson at UFC 123 in November. Machida will certainly be looking to prove that he’s every bit the talent that everyone pegged him to be before the loss to Rua.
Jeremy Botter: Machida presents a bad style matchup for Jackson and should breeze through his UFC 123 main event. Once that happens, he’s back in the mix for a title shot, though Joe Silva will likely toss one more opponent in front of him before he gives him another crack at Rua.
3. Rashad Evans
Matt Brown: As mentioned above, Rashad is just sitting on the sidelines until Shogun is ready to go. His win over Rampage Jackson earned him the title shot way back at UFC 114 in May.
Jeremy Botter: Evans is content to sit on the sidelines and wait for Rua to heal rather than risk his title shot by losing in a fight in the meantime. It means a long layoff for the Greg Jackson product, but it could pay off handsomely in the end.
Matt Brown: Now that all the A-Team hype is over, Rampage can get back to fighting. Not that I think he would have beaten Rashad had the movie not been around, but it certainly didn’t help.
Jeremy Botter: Jackson is in for a tough test with Machida late in November, and a loss could send him spiraling down the contender’s ladder.
5. Ryan Bader
Matt Brown: He’s unbeaten in one of the deepest divisions in all of the sport. His last win over Lil Nog proved that Bader has arrived and is ready to tangle with the big boys. All signs point to a battle with fellow rising star, Jon Jones.
Jeremy Botter: Bader has looked impressive in his UFC run thus far, but he’s about to wade into the deep waters of the UFC’s upper echelon. Getting past Jon Jones would be monumental for his career, but history would seem to indicate that Jones will feast on Bader like he has so many other wrestlers.
6. Jon Jones
Matt Brown: I know he technically has a loss on his record, but he’s undefeated in my eyes. A win in the mega-showdown with Ryan Bader come Super Bowl weekend will certainly catapult Jones from star to superstar.
Jeremy Botter: Dana White says that Jones won’t get a title shot for at least a year, but an impressive win over Bader may change his mind. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before Jones is holding the premier belt in the sport, doesn’t it?
Matt Brown: Another popular light heavyweight that is on the old injured report. Forrest hurt his shoulder but is rumored to be getting back to action on the Super Bowl card versus Rich Franklin.
Jeremy Botter: A win over Franklin could rejuvenate Griffin’s career, but many are beginning to question if Griffin has the heart for the sport any more. It’s a valid point.
8. Randy Couture
Matt Brown: The legend can still scrap. While most men his age are working on their beer bellies, The Natural is perfecting his six pack. He hardly broke a sweat in his ass kicking of James Toney, but unfortunately there is some question as to whether we’ll see Couture back in the cage again.
Jeremy Botter: Couture seems more interested in acting than fighting these days, but that may just be a by-product of a lack of intriguing fights for the Hall of Famer. If the right fight presents itself, I’d wager Couture will be back in the Octagon.
9. Rafael Cavalcante
Matt Brown: All you have to do is watch the King Mo fight and you’ll know why Cavalcante makes the list. There are a few interesting fights for the newly crowned champ in Strikeforce and I’m curious to see how long he can hold on to the belt.
Jeremy Botter: Cavalcante impressed in his victory over King Mo. Unfortunately, given Strikeforce’s penchant for not hyping fights, we have no idea who Cavalcante’s next opponent will be. All signs point towards the winner of Dan Henderson and Babalu Sobral getting the next shot, which means Cavalcante is on the shelf for at least six more months.
10. Gegard Mousasi
Matt Brown: Until getting dominated by King Mo in April, Mousasi was on one of the sickest streaks in all of MMA. He’s bounced back since that loss with two wins in DREAM, bringing his record to 30-3-1.
Jeremy Botter: Mousasi will always be a contender, but he’s going to run into problems with wrestling-based guys like King Mo. Fortunately for him, a striker is currently holding the belt he once owned, meaning he could be back in the mix sooner than later.
In case you missed them, check out our world heavyweight rankings.