1. Lyoto Machida (15-0)
Fresh off his May 23 blowout of Rashad Evans, it appeared as though Machida would soon start preparing for a challenge from former light heavyweight ruler Quinton Jackson. However, with Jackson opting for a second coaching stint on “The Ultimate Fighter,” Machida’s first title defense is expected to come in October against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104.
2. Quinton Jackson (30-7)
Jackson was handed a title shot against Lyoto Machida, but he opted to settle his beef with Rashad Evans instead. The pair will coach opposite each other on the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
3. Rashad Evans (13-1-1)
After his first career loss -- and a brutal loss no less -- Evans is not taking it easy. “The Ultimate Fighter 2” winner will return to the show on which he first made his name, coaching against rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The two light heavyweights will meet later this year.
4. Forrest Griffin (16-5)
Coming off of a deflating loss to Rashad Evans in December, many fighters would've opted for a tune-up bout. Forrest Griffin initially was tabbed to meet Brazilian banger Thiago Silva at UFC 101. That was before Griffin decided that a bout with the sport's pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva sounded more appealing on Aug. 8.
5. Mauricio Rua (18-3)
Fortune has smiled upon Rua. Following UFC 98, it looked as if “Shogun” was a fight or more away from challenging for the UFC title. Now, however, the consensus 2005 “Fighter of the Year” could have a chance to regain light heavyweight supremacy at UFC 104 in October, should his anticipated bout with Lyoto Machida come to fruition.
6. Luis Arthur Cane (10-1)
It was his toughest test to date, but “Banha” showed poise in toughing out an entertaining decision in his April 18 bout with former WEC champion Steve Cantwell. It should be onward and upward for the hot prospect in the 205-pound division.
7. Rich Franklin (25-4, 1 NC)
Franklin felt he was robbed in his split decision loss to Dan Henderson in January. At UFC 99, "Ace" got back into the win column with his unanimous decision over Wanderlei Silva, putting the former UFC middleweight champion's light heavyweight run back on track.
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (17-3)
Though an appearance on Affliction's Aug. 1 "Trilogy" card won’t materialize for Nogueira, "Minotoro" is not settling for inactivity. Having had his MMA debut in his native Brazil in May, Nogueira will go for seconds when he takes on "The Brazilian Killa" Alex Stiebling under the Bitetti Combat banner on Sept. 12.
9. Keith Jardine (14-5-1)
With his up-and-down performances, Jardine's place in the light heavyweight division has been hard to peg. However, "The Dean of Mean" will get the chance to prove where he stacks up when he takes on Brazilian brawler Thiago Silva at UFC 102 on Aug. 29.
10. Wanderlei Silva (32-10-1, 1 NC)
Though Silva dropped a unanimous verdict to Rich Franklin at UFC 99, "The Axe Murderer" fought gamely throughout and many thought he deserved the decision. His days at 205 pounds seem numbered, but his performance against Franklin has at least kept him relevant for a middleweight run.
Other contenders: Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell, Vladimir Matyushenko, Thiago Silva, Renato Sobral.