September 2011 Rankings: Light Heavyweight

jones with 205 lb. belt

Taking a look at the September rankings for the 205-pound division

1. Jon Jones

Jones, who defends his title on Saturday night at UFC 135 against Rampage Jackson, will look to add some validity to the claims that he’s the best young talent in the sport. He probably is, and he’s probably going to wreck Jackson, but he must be considerate of Jackson’s hands. We don’t know how Jones will respond to being punched; then again, we don’t know for sure that he’ll actually be punched by Jackson.

2. Rashad Evans

Evans is waiting patiently on the sidelines for a winner to emerge from the Jones/Jackson bout after defeating Tito Ortiz last month. He’ll be on hand in Denver to step in the cage and challenge the winner for a championship match that will likely take place in early 2012. Many pundits believe Evans has the best chance of presenting Jon Jones with problems in the cage, and he’ll likely get his chance. That’s good for the UFC’s bottom line, because Jones/Evans is a natural story and grudge match that should be one of the UFC’s largest pay per view draws in 2012.

3. Mauricio Rua

Rua dispatched Forrest Griffin in under two minutes last month. For his next trick, he’ll welcome Dan Henderson back to the UFC in the main event of UFC 139. Shogun is likely still a win or two away from a rematch with Jon Jones; if he stays healthy, he has the chance to get back on top of the mountain.

4. Quinton Jackson

Jackson insiders say that he’s more focused for this fight than he’s been for anything in the last five years. He’s gone through an extra-long training camp at the MusclePharm gym in Denver, and appears to be angry and more motivated than ever. While that doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for Jon Jones, it does mean that Jackson is giving himself his best chance to win the fight.

5. Lyoto Machida

Machida, like Rua, has also been linked to a potential bout with Dan Henderson. There aren’t too many interesting options available for Machida at the moment; it’s too early to throw Phil Davis into the deep end and most of the other top light heavyweights are spoken for. A third fight with Rua could be in the offing, but that’s not a truly interesting fight. Henderson remains the best option.

6. Phil Davis

Davis is currently resting and healing his worn-down body, but he should be ready to return to the cage later this year. There are plenty of options available for Davis, but the matchmaking all depends on whether or not you want to throw Davis in against top competition.

7. Dan Henderson

Henderson returns to the UFC in the main event of UFC 139 in December against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. It’s a tough test for the now-former Strikeforce champion, but “Hendo” only wants to face the best at this point in his career.

8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Nogueira will get his date with Tito Ortiz at UFC 140 in December. The pair were expected to face off in March, but an injury to Ortiz scuttled the fight. It seems clear that Nogueira’s best days are behind him, but perhaps big brother Rodrigo can serve as inspiration for the Brazilian striker? He’ll need it. A loss to Ortiz would likely spell the end of his UFC tenure and perhaps his career.

9. Rafael Cavalcante

Cavalcante got back in the win column with a TKO win over Cuban wrestler Yoel Romero. The former Strikeforce champ should be making a transition into the UFC within the next six months; the reality is that there really aren’t too many challenges left for him in Strikeforce. A rematch with King Mo Lawal could happen, but would anyone truly be disappointed if it didn’t?

10. Forrest Griffin

Griffin’s career is at a crossroads. The former champion doesn’t seem all that interested in fighting. He has a new baby at home, and he’s coming off a brutal loss to Shogun Rua. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the popular Ultimate Fighter winner hang up the gloves. Griffin’s tenacity might allow him to get in the cage again, but his days as a top contender are through.