1. Jon Jones (17-1)
After a relatively farcical win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in Toronto, many were expecting Jones to get a do-over date with Dan Henderson or rematch Brazilian former champion Lyoto Machida. Instead, “Bones” will coach opposite Chael Sonnen on the 17th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before defending his UFC light heavyweight title against the brash Oregonian on April 27.
2. Dan Henderson (29-8)
Henderson’s knee injury was the pivotal event in what quickly escalated into one of MMA’s biggest stories of 2012: the cancelation of UFC 151. Many hoped Henderson would finally get a crack at Jon Jones in 2013, but the former two-division Pride titleholder is now taking a backseat to occasional training partner Chael Sonnen and will instead tackle Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 on Feb. 23.
3. Rashad Evans (17-2-1)
Despite wishful talks of fighting Anderson Silva at 185 pounds, Evans will meet Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 on Super Bowl weekend. The former UFC light heavyweight champion has not seen action since his failed title bid against former training partner Jon Jones in April.
4. Lyoto Machida (18-3)
Machida had a chance to challenge Jon Jones for the UFC crown for a second time in September, he but turned it down in hopes of securing a full training camp date down the line. Instead, Chael Sonnen got the call as Jones’ next foe, and the Belem, Brazil, native will be forced to go back to work in the 205-pound division. Next up: a date with Dan Henderson on Feb. 23.
5. Phil Davis (10-1, 1 NC)
Phil Davis was prime for a real breakout, as the former NCAA national champion wrestler was tabbed to take on flagging former UFC champ Forrest Griffin at UFC 155. However, Griffin’s knee injury nixed the fight and there were no other meaningful takers for “Mr. Wonderful” at 205 pounds, putting the Alliance fighter on the sidelines for now.
6. Alexander Gustafsson (15-1)
Is Alexander Gustafsson an imminent UFC title challenger? That will likely depend what the 25-year-old Swede does next, while Jon Jones is busy with Chael Sonnen and “The Ultimate Fighter.” However, in his biggest test to date on Dec. 8, “The Mauler” aced his assignment by dismantling Brazilian legend Mauricio Rua over 15 minutes.
7. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (21-7)
Despite moments of effective fighting, the former Pride GP winner looked like a faded force against young lion Alexander Gustafsson in Seattle. Rua was battered en route to a unanimous decision loss in his second straight appearance on a UFC on Fox bill, leaving “Shogun” without a clear direction at 205 pounds.
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5)
Injury derailed Nogueira’s second UFC main event, which was to come against Swedish up-and-comer Alexander Gustafsson on April 14. Instead, “Minotoro” opted for surgery for an injured patella and watched from the sidelines as Gustafsson went out and cruised past Thiago Silva. The 36-year-old Brazilian will draw perhaps an even tougher assignment in February, when he meets Rashad Evans at UFC 156.
9. Ryan Bader (14-3)
The last time that Ryan Bader was on Fox, he met a nasty knockout end courtesy of Lyoto Machida. “Darth” Bader will look to make his second appearance on a big Fox card a better outing when he meets veteran grinder Vladimir Matyushenko at the UFC on Fox 6 in Chicago on Jan. 26.
10. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-10)
Jackson was slated to fulfill the final bout on his UFC contract against Glover Teixeira in Rio de Janeiro, but an injury took “Rampage” out of the Oct. 13 bout. After running through replacement Fabio Maldonado at UFC 153, Teixeira called for the UFC to rebook his fight with Jackson, and the promotion obliged. The two will lock horns at UFC on Fox 6 on Jan. 26 in Chicago.
Other contenders:Rafael Cavalcante, Forrest Griffin, Attila Vegh, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Glover Teixeira.
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