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1. Jon Jones (24-1)It wasn’t his most thrilling triumph to date, but Jones maintained his spot atop the division with relative ease thanks to a suspenseless five-round drubbing of Anthony Smith in the UFC 235 headliner. While potentially attractive opponents await at heavyweight, “Bones” seems more interested in clearing out the competition at 205 pounds. Jones, who is unbeaten in his last 16 outings, will continue to try and work his way through the division when he meets Thiago Santos in the UFC 239 headliner on July 6.
2. Daniel Cormier (22-1)The best thing you can say about Cormier’s effort at UFC 230 was that it was predictable. “DC” landed multiple takedowns on underdog Derrick Lewis before securing a tapout with a rear-naked choke at the 2:14 mark of the second stanza. Cormier became the first fighter to defend titles from two divisions in UFC history. Cormier previously set March 20 as a retirement date, but he will now fight beyond his 40th birthday when he faces Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight championship rematch at UFC 241.
3. Anthony Smith (32-14)If you thought Smith was going to fade into also-ran status following his loss to Jon Jones at UFC 235, think again. “Lionheart” rebounded in a big way at UFC Stockholm, submitting Alexander Gustafsson with a rear-naked choke at the 2:38 mark of the fourth round in the evening’s headliner. Smith, a proven finisher, has won four of his five Octagon appearances since moving to 205 pounds – taking out Gustafsson, Volkan Oezdemir, Mauricio Rua and Rashad Evans inside the distance.
4. Alexander Gustafsson (18-6)Gustafsson suffered a disappointing loss on home soil in the UFC Stockholm headliner, falling to Anthony Smith via rear-naked choke in the fourth frame. “The Mauler” left his gloves in the Octagon following the defeat, announcing to the crowd at Ericsson Globe, “The show is over, guys.” Gustafsson further clarified his decision in later post-fight interviews, and it seems like, at least for now, that the Swedish star is intent on following through with retirement. After falling short in three title bouts – twice against Jon Jones, it’s quite possible that he stays true to his word. However, Gustafsson is only 32, and retirements often don’t stick in MMA.
5. Ryan Bader (27-5)Bader etched himself into history when he knocked out Fedor Emelianenko in the Bellator 214 headliner to become the first two-division champion in promotion history. After vanquishing “The Last Emperor,” Matt Mitrione and Muhammed Lawal to claim the vacant heavyweight crown, Bader, also the reigning 205-pound king, must decide which belt he is going to defend first. Bader already has a heavyweight challenger lined up after Cheick Kongo outpointed Vitaly Minakov in a title eliminator bout at Bellator 216.
6. Thiago Santos (21-6)Santos continues to excel since moving to 205 pounds. Faced with fellow contender Jan Blachowicz in the UFC Prague main event, “Marreta” dropped his foe with a counter left hook and polished off his victory with a barrage of hammerfists 39 seconds into the third round of their bout. The 35-year-old Brazilian is 3-0 at light heavyweight and has won his last four UFC appearances overall. That good work has earned Santos a shot at reigning 205-pound king Jon Jones in the UFC 239 headliner.
7. Corey Anderson (12-4)Anderson’s superior conditioning and pressure won the day at UFC 232, as he outworked fellow contender Ilir Latifi to win a unanimous decision. After a brief slump saw him lose three of four fights from 2016 to 2017, “Overtime has authored a three-fight winning streak that also includes triumphs over Glover Teixeira and Patrick Cummins.
8. Jan Blachowicz (23-8)Blachowicz’s unlikely run to light heavyweight contention hit a brick wall at UFC Prague, where he fell to converted middleweight Thiago Santos via third-round technical knockout in the evening’s main event. Prior to that setback, the 35-year-old Pole had compiled a four-bout winning streak that included wins over Nikita Krylov, Jimi Manuwa and Jared Cannonier. Blachowicz will welcome former UFC and Strikeforce 185-pound champion Luke Rockhold to the light heavyweight division at UFC 239 on July 6.
9. Dominick Reyes (11-0)Reyes passed his most significant test to date at UFC London, taking a split decision over Volkan Oezdemir in a featured light heavyweight bout. While Reyes did enough to get the win, he doesn’t appear ready to threaten Jon Jones’ title reign just yet. Still, as an unbeaten 29-year-old fighter with plenty of athleticism to spare, “The Devastator” will remain a person of interest in the division as long as he continues to develop his skills.
10. Volkan Oezdemir (15-4)Oezdemir suddenly seems far removed from his meteoric rise to No. 1 contender in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. After being dominated by Daniel Cormier in a title bout at UFC 220, “No Time” has been submitted by Anthony Smith at UFC Moncton and most recently, dropped a lackluster split decision to Dominick Reyes at UFC London. Quick finishes of Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov rocketed the 28-year-old Swiss fighter to title contention in 2017, but now the 28-year-old Swiss fighter must prove that he isn’t a flash in the pan. Oezdemir will have to wait longer to bounce back after a proposed opponent Ilir Latifi withdrew from their UFC Stockholm clash due to injury.
Other Contenders: Ilir Latifi, Aleksandar Rakic, Johnny Walker, Vadim Nemkov, Nikita Krylov.
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