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 former champion Lyoto Machida. Instead, “Bones” is coaching 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 cancellation 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, but he 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)
Davis was primed for a real breakout, as the former NCAA wrestling champion was tabbed to take on flagging former UFC titleholder 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 MMA fighter on the sidelines for now.
6. Alexander Gustafsson (15-1)
While many observers thought his December dismantling of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would be enough to merit a title shot, Gustafsson will have another hurdle to clear. While champ Jon Jones and challenger Chael Sonnen handle their “Ultimate Fighter” business, the up-and-coming Swede will take on former Strikeforce ace Gegard Mousasi in an April 6 showdown that seems likely to serve as a No. 1 contender bout.
7. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (21-7)
Despite moments of effective fighting, the former Pride grand prix 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. Glover Teixeira (20-2)
Teixeira makes his long-anticipated debut in these rankings after recording the highest-profile victory of his 10-year career -- a Jan. 26 unanimous decision over durable veteran Quinton Jackson. The one-sided win moved Teixeira’s winning streak to 18 in a row, including three in the UFC, but with champ Jon Jones occupied, the Brazilian may have to add a few more before he is “in the mix.”
9. Ryan Bader (15-3)
Bader painted over the memory of his last Fox appearance -- a nasty KO loss to Lyoto Machida in August -- with his most recent one. The former Arizona State University Sun Devil needed just 50 seconds to knock down and guillotine Vladimir Matyushenko, a veteran with nearly twice Bader’s fight experience who had never before been submitted.
10. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5)
Injury derailed Nogueira’s second UFC main event, which was to come against Alexander Gustafsson in April. 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 on Feb. 2, when he meets Rashad Evans at UFC 156.
Other contenders:Rafael Cavalcante, Forrest Griffin, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Gegard Mousasi, Attila Vegh.
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