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Rankings Spotlight: MMA’s Top 5 Light Heavyweights

(Well, this explains that full rack of “Machida Era” T-shirts at the Montreal Salvation Army. Pic: Knucklepit)

Once long trumpeted as MMA’s marquee weight division, the 205-pound class has had a bit of a rough go in recent years. Call it light heavyweight’s awkward teen phase. The consistency of Tito Ortiz’s early dominance and the glory days of the Chuck vs. Randy trilogy have faded into the uncertain mediocrity of the Rampage-Forrest-Rashad-Machida-Shogun Era. Frankly, what we have here is a division in desperate need of stability. If only someone would come along to restore the 205-pound class to its former awesomeness … someone enormous, with unrivaled athleticism and really, really long arms … someone possessing of unwavering spirituality and wicked Greco throws … someone who could capitalize on the misfortune of his training partners and vault directly into a title shot after just a handful of wins over middling opponents … Anyway, if that guy’s out there somewhere, we can’t possibly imagine who it might be.

Right now, light heavyweight rankings are anybody’s best guess. After the jump, find the current top fives, according to CP’s editorial staff along with our dubious justifications of our crappy opinions. Check out our lists and let us know how badly we screwed them up, would you please …
Chad Dundas:

1. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua: Shogun briefly looked like his old, brain-scrambling self in back-to-back fights against Lyoto Machida during 2009-10 before suffering yet another of the semi-regular knee injuries that have plagued his otherwise stellar career. Historically, rehab and delayed returns have not been good to him, though Dana White assures us Rua’s past problems were largely due to the Brazilian witchdoctors who were tinkering with his knee. This time, the champ had his operation in ’Merica, so we’ll see if he’s at full steam next month at UFC 128. Kind of seems like he better be.

2. Jon Jones: I realize there’s no way for me to say this without looking like an overzealous fanboy, but I have a hunch that Jonny Bones is the best 205-pounder in the division right now. Nobody else has anything close to resembling his physical tools and his unorthodox style must be next to impossible to prepare for. Still, good sense prevails in keeping Jones at No. 2, because he still has to go out and prove it next month. God is good, people! Well, unless your aspirations conflict with those of Jon Jones … then God seems like kind of a vindictive prick.

3. Rashad Evans: In the wake of his own knee injury – again, a sprain that reportedly would take just 6-8 weeks to heal – White (speaking of vindictive pricks) did everything he could to punish Evans besides taking a crowbar to his dad’s Corvette in the middle of the night while yelling, “This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass, Suga!” Anyhoo, the UFC apparently thought Evans was good enough to fight for the title before the injury and, in my opinion, nothing has yet happened to change that status.

4. Lyoto Machida: No, you’re right, it’s hard to logically justify ranking Machida behind Evans (who he beat) and in front of Rampage Jackson (who he lost to), but you know what? This is my list and I’ll do whatever I damn well please with it. Truth is, compiling these rankings has made me realize what a wasteland 205-pounds is right now. Either that, or the UFC’s so-called “glamour division” is just so competitive and the fighters are all so good that nobody can put together a respectable win streak … except, don’t you get the impression that if the UFC middleweight champ really wanted to, he could be an instant Top Five 205-pounder? … so yeah, I’m sticking with wasteland.

5. Quinton Jackson: Which adjective best describes my attitude about including Rampage in the top five? Begrudging. I look at this guy’s record over last five years and all I see is smoke and mirrors, but if not him, then who? Feijao? Thiago Silva? FoGriff? I’m not crazy about any of those options, either. The crappiest part is that Jackson is probably going to beat Matt Hamill at UFC 130, thereby depriving me the opportunity to relegate him any further. Seriously, though, how awesome would it be if Hamill beat Jackson and Randy Couture beat Machida at UFC 129? Then we could really start having some fun with these meaningless lists.

Ben Goldstein:

1. Jon Jones: Okay, let me explain. I know you’re supposed to automatically give the champion the No. 1 spot in these sorts of exercises, but consider the level of dominance that Jon Jones has displayed while battling contenders like Ryan Bader, Vladimir Matyushenko and Matt Hamill. Meanwhile, Mauricio Rua‘s first-round blitz of Lyoto Machida in their rematch at UFC 113 represents his only victory in the Octagon over an opponent who wasn’t a past-his-prime shell. When you add them up, Bones’ accomplishments over the last two years have been far more impressive than Rua’s (in my opinion, anyway). Jones has more weapons as a fighter, undeniable physical advantages and scary momentum. He’s the favorite against Shogun for good reason.

2. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua: See above. When Rua and Jones meet at UFC 128 next month, Shogun could very well kick Jones’ ass and I’ll look like a moron for ranking the veteran killer below the young contender — but that’s just not the way I see it going down.

3. Rashad Evans: Evans, Quinton Jackson, and Lyoto Machida have this weird little recursive loop going between themselves — Evans beat Jackson, who beat Machida, who beat Evans — which makes ranking them a somewhat complicated task. Of the three, Evans is the only guy who has won his last two fights (Thiago Silva and Jackson). That’s enough for me to give him the edge.

4. Quinton Jackson: During the short-lived Machida Era, the general consensus was that Rampage would get absolutely wrecked by the finesse counter-attacks of the Dragon. Jackson surprised everybody by actually fighting smart. It wasn’t really a decisive victory, but it proves that he’s still an elite 205′er — who might be able to learn from past mistakes.

5. Lyoto Machida: Machida’s dramatic fall from having his own MMA era named after him to being one fight away from being canned has been nothing short of shocking. But while there are several other fighters currently closing in on the top five, I think Machida’s past accomplishments justify him hanging in the top 5 for one more fight.

Mike Russell:

1. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua: A healthy, focused Shogun is a dangerous Shogun. Just ask Machida.

2. Rashad Evans: Rashad has beaten *most* of the top guys in the division (including Rampage, Forrest and Thiago Silva) and he sent Michael Bisping scrambling to the middleweight division after a smothering loss. He probably would have picked up a few more wins if he hadn’t decided to wait for a year on the sidelines for his promised shot at Shogun and gotten injured as soon as he trained full bore for the first time in a long time.

3. Jon Jones: Jones has a very good shot at beating Shogun and becoming the UFC light heavyweight champion, just not yet. With a bit more seasoning and a lot less attitude, he’ll be a viable contender.

4. Lyoto Machida: Machida could work his way back on top, but Captain Gameplan … er… America is likely going to drive him into the fence for three rounds in April and quite possibly push him out of the UFC.

5. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante: “Feijao” beat King Mo, who beat Gegard Mousasi, who was on the top of everyone’s 205-pound rankings a year ago. Sure, he lost to Mike Kyle, but Kyle’s a heavyweight and being undefeated in MMA is like winning the lottery; you get a bunch of people claiming to be your friends and advisers coming out of the wood work to fuck up your career, steal your money, make ludicrous contract demands and … Wait. That’s Fedor… or Mike Tyson.

Cagepotato Comments

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MrMcmachoman- February 24, 2011 at 8:35 am
1. Shogun: Cuz he has yet to undoubtedly loose in UFC & he defeated Machida considerably 2x in a row.

2. Lyoto Machida: for his defeat of Rashad to win the belt. Nevermind that awful controversial L to Rampage

3. Rashad Evans: For only having lost to Machida

4. Forrest Griffin: For once beating Jackson and recently beating Franklin.

5. Quinton Jackson: ????
Dagnut- February 24, 2011 at 5:00 am
Rankings are supposed to reflect what the fighter has achieved not what you hoping they will achieve.
stopdrinkingpee- February 24, 2011 at 1:25 am
These are disappointingly sane lists, and I don't have major beef with any of them.

Chad's is probably closest to mine, except that I'd flip Rashad and Lyoto. People keep justifying, "Yeah, but Machida lost to Rampage." No offense, but that's retarded. If MMA had any qualified judges, Machida wins that fight. This was a Leonard Garcia loss. I think that term should be standard MMA lexicon, btw.

Leonard Garcia loss (n.): a bullshit decision loss handed down by incompetent judges.

Leonard Garcia win (n.): a gift decision win turned in by incompetent judges.

I am open to substituting "Cecil Peoples" for Garcia.

Can we all agree that Bones would ruin Evans and 'Page? Ok, good. Now, can we all agree that a fight between Jones and Machida would be really fucking intriguing? Ok, great. All on the same page, then.
ghostboner- February 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm
FBF with a solid point. And considering they are all separated by 3 degrees (of Kevin Bacon) or less, it could be argued til the end of time with no real resolution.
fatbellyfrank- February 23, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Main thing for me with these lists, you look at the guys on em, this one particulary, and any one of these guys could beat any other of them on any given night,( except Jones reallistically), Rampage, Evans, Rua, Machida, whilst possessing diferent games all have the ability to take each other out, and i'm hoping Shogun can show that Jones is beatable, as for Thiago in there instead of rampage,cant make my mind up there
ghostboner- February 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm
@Turd Ferg - While we may disagree on Paul Harris, I am glad that we can now link arms and frolic together as brothers, united by our distaste for Jon Jones. The Bader win makes him legit, I will give him that, but still, screw that guy.

And munche, Nate Marquardt is awesome. Just because Anderson clowned him doesn't mean he isn't awesome. Remember how he beat the shit out of Chael from his back? Ya he might have lost the decision, but Chael definitely lost the fight. And Maia, he has lost to Silva and Marquardt. Seems pretty legit to me.
Turd Furgeson- February 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Yeah, I've been wonderin who they're gonna put behind Palhares too.
RSparrow- February 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm
Anderson Silva can beat anyone on the list at LHW (arguably)
Johnny Bones
Thiago Silva even though he got beat my Machida, I think everyone's figured out the Machida puzzle by now
Rampage is hit or miss, don't know where his heart is.
snicket916- February 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm
shogun is a beast but it's going to be hard to put any money on him coming off of this knee cause i think jones is all hype and a healthy shogun would put this lil snitch in check
Endless Soldier- February 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm
The glass jaw thing was just for fun. I hate it when people take everything so seriously, especially the intentional fooling around in CP.
Can't wait for the Middleweight rankings though. There's an obvious #1 but who'll get the other four spots?
macreadysshack- February 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm
Doh! I hate it when I'm being insulting, make a grammatical error and then there's NO GODDAMN EDIT button anymore. It probably feels a lot like being Cecil Peoples.
macreadysshack- February 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm
@KidDinomite - I didn't read your pro-Machida post before I wrote my own. + What you said, too.

And Praise Jesus, I almost read a BossNasty post but was able, through sheer force of will, turn my head away from the gruesome car wreck that it undoubtedly is.
Smitty- February 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm
You guys are so bogus!!! YESTERDAY, you were saying that Evans had a glass jaw. TODAY, you're ALL saying that he is one of the top 3 LHW's in the world. Way to make yourselves look dumb guys!
LordCoSaX- February 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm
Ranking Jones above Shogun BEFORE he beats him is just retarded. He has the potential to one day be the best LHW on the planet for sure but victories over the like of Bonnar, Matyushenko and Bader shouldnt even qualify for the top5. On potential alone I agree that he is top5 though.
macreadysshack- February 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm
4. Lyoto Machida: Machida could work his way back on top, but Captain Gameplan … er… America is likely going to drive him into the fence for three rounds in April and quite possibly push him out of the UFC.

Machida won't get stuck against the fence for long. His balance from sumo, ability to slide out and fight smarts won't crumble to Couture's favorite hobby.

The last couple of times I remember guys having Machida against the fence were T. Silva (got thrown like a spun top and brutally KO'd) and Sokodoju (got tossed on his ass and arm triangled into the land of nod). That's just off the top of my head . . . Does anybody remember Machida getting stuck on the fence? Ever? Randy is awesome but he's getting ko'd in the first or second.

Seriously, do you believe Couture could hold Thiago against the cage and stall him with his standing lay and pray, er, sorry, dirty boxing? What do you think Rashad would do to Randy, at this point? What did Machida do to those guys? This has the makings of a very tough and probably extremely crappy night for Randy Couture, game plan notwithstanding. Randy's chin is completely compromised and Machida will find it through Randy's 'boxing nun' style within the first two minutes.
Jonny5- February 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm
Shogun-19-4 UFC Champ and has wins over most of these other guys
Sugar-15-1-1- Only ever lost once to Machida and is coming off
two wins in a row against Jackson and Silva
Rampage-31-8-Veteran who just showed he can fight smart
Dragon-16-2- Unless loses to Couture still deserves to be here
Bones-12-1-Will not rank the rookie of my list higher b4 Mar. 19
Turd Furgeson- February 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm
Thiago Silva

I know.... Bones Jones isn't on my list. That's because he's a fag. I don't care how good he is at beating non contenders, I don't like him.

Let me write a guest column on over rated fighters, so I can learn you folks a thing or two.
BossNasty- February 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm
@ kid dynomite
C'mon son, get the fuck outta here with that shit. Though you can't sleep on Randy, he might as well be retired. His time is done and for anyone on this list to beat him would just add a hall of famer to their list that wouldn't be some huge win to show your dominance in the division.
I think your point is valid though you left Belfort off of Silva's list and everyone said he was the future of the middleweight division and the one to end Silva's reign. GSP does get props for beating Hughes, AFTER Hughes beat him. Beating Serra was proof anyone can get a lucky punch in (their first fight). Penn definately a formidable opponent at 155 but much to light in the pants to take the upper crust of the 170 division. Since he's beat Fitch you might as well say he's already beat Shields, same boring get a woody on your leg style. Kos, was a very good fight for GSP and the result showed that GSP can handle the more dangerous fighters in his weight class, but when you start throwing in the fact that Silva went to 205 and DESTROYED the people he faced, whether they were the best up there or not you have to consider the fact that fighting at 205 is a much more difficult task then fighting at 170
RwilsonR- February 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm
Ryan Bader should be on the list long before Feijao.
RwilsonR- February 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm
...And Feijao? Come on, Mike. Dundas hates Rampage, and he stil recognized that he belongs on this list.
RwilsonR- February 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm
These lists are hilarious! Last week MRuss and Chad put Overeem way to high on their lists based on hopes, dreams, and anticipated dominance that hadn't yet occured. Now Ben does the same with Jonny Bones Jones. Except Ben actually justifies his opinion much better based on actual wins, so his makes a little more sense. Other than switching Shogun and Jones, I think Ben's list is best. And if I did switch them around, I'd have to switch them back to Ben's list in a few weeks.
cecils_pupils- February 23, 2011 at 11:59 am
Also, can someone please explain to me HOW to put a line-break in my comment? jimbo did it in an earlier thread but just hitting enter does not do it. Even excessive spacebar action doesn't help!

Also, is it possible to get an EDIT feature for the comments?
cecils_pupils- February 23, 2011 at 11:57 am
I'm with Ben on this one - Jon Jones is the #1 LHW IMO.
MRuss' comment about being undefeated in MMA is a truism:
being undefeated in MMA is like winning the lottery; you get a bunch of people claiming to be your friends and advisers coming out of the wood work to fuck up your career, steal your money, make ludicrous contract demands and … Wait. That’s Fedor… or Mike Tyson.
munche- February 23, 2011 at 11:53 am
"on’t you get the impression that if the UFC middleweight champ really wanted to, he could be an instant Top Five 205-pounder?"

This brings up a point that people always seem to take for granted. Anderson Silva is the big fish in a small pond in one of the weakest divisions in MMA. If he moved up to 205, he'd probably be winning some and losing some like all the other top guys. Same with 170.

If you're under 5'10 or so, you can typically make 170. If you're over that height, you can generally make a good 205er. People stay at 185 because the competition is lighter and they can't hack it at the other divisions. Fact is, there are no real stars at 185, and while Anderson has beaten all the best the division has to offer, that's not saying much. I find it funny that people consider him the SUPER ULTRA AMAZING BEST IN THE WORLD for beating up on guys like Lietes, Maia, Sonnen and Marquardt but GSP doesn't get credit for beating guys like Hughes, Penn, Serra, Koscheck, Fitch and soon Shields.

205 and 170 are murderer's rows of competition. So why move up or down when you can become the king of middleweight.
a platypus- February 23, 2011 at 11:49 am
Phil Davis will be on this list before long, probably deserves a spot after he beats lil nog