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Fightmania MMA Rankings- Light Heavyweights

By on July 29, 2009

The light heavyweight division has always been the marquee division of mixed martial arts, and a quick glance through the rosters of the top promotions in the world still reveals plenty of star power.  With Lyoto Machida holding the UFC title and an undefeated record against impressive opposition, he’s a no-brainer for the top spot, but who will fill the other nine positions?

First, some info on the rankings themselves.  They are all decided solely by yours truly, so direct any and all hate mail in my direction, please.  Also, we will be using North American weight classes, and any fighters from around the world that do not fit into them will be put in the weight classes that they are closest to.  The rankings will reflect not only the results of a fighter’s bouts, but also the quality of competition faced, the way in which they won/lost their fights, and my own assessment of their abilities.  Recent fights will be heavily favored, so please don’t bother to argue that a big win seven years ago means that a fighter should be ranked higher than I have them.

Keep in mind that Wanderlei Silva will be ranked as a middleweight, as he has repeatedly voiced his intention to fight in that division.  For his part, Rich Franklin will be considered a light heavyweight.  Without further ado, your light heavyweight rankings.

1. Lyoto Machida (15-0)

This is a pretty simple pick, right?  Machida has never even looked in any kind of danger in his fights, hardly ever gets hit and has now taken to brutally finishing his opponents as soon as the opportunity arises.  The most tactical fighter in MMA is starting to become one of the most exciting, as well.  Who in the division can give him a good challenge?  Well, his first test as champion will be against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, since the UFC’s number one contender, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will be waiting for yet another season of “The Ultimate Fighter” to air before taking on Rashad Evans.

2. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (30-7)

Jackson may be doing the smart thing in taking his time toward a title shot against Machida.  While Rashad Evans is definitely a threat to Rampage, he won’t be as difficult a matchup as the exceedingly elusive light heavyweight champion is.  Jackson has maintained his status as an elite light heavyweight by winning eight of his last nine fights, including five of his six UFC bouts.  His lone loss, to fellow top ten light heavyweight Forrest Griffin, was razor-thin.  Rampage has possibly the heaviest hands in the division, but Evans will test him with quickness and superior wrestling.

3. Rashad Evans (13-1-1)

Evans will try to shake off the cobwebs after his first career defeat against Machida by coaching opposite of Rampage on “The Ultimate Fighter”.  Rampage will be a tough test for Evans, but Evans matches up surprisingly well with Jackson.  Evans is quicker, a better wrestler, and comes from a camp where fighters are known for great game plans and cardiovascular fitness.  Evans has possibly the most impressive physical attributes of any fighter in the light heavyweight division, but clearly needs to continue polishing his skill set if he wants to be remembered as a great champion one day.

4. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (18-3)

This may be a controversial pick, as I’m ranking Shogun above a man that beat him by a late submission a few fights ago.  However, Rua and those close to him say he wasn’t the same after his many injuries sustained at the end of his Pride tenure, and I believe him.  After all, the Shogun we saw against Griffin and Mark Coleman was definitely not the Shogun that decimated the light heavyweight ranks in Pride.  Against Chuck Liddell, Rua seemed to showcase some of his trademark explosiveness and aggressive style, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and predict a renaissance of sorts for the former Chute Boxe fighter.  Will it be enough to beat Machida?  That’s another story…

5. Forrest Griffin (16-5)

Forrest Griffin seemed like he’d be relegated to a career where he would constantly be just outside the top ten, perhaps sneaking in every now and then after a big win, but then it all changed with a huge decision victory over Shogun.  With a short-lived title reign after a decision victory against Rampage Jackson, and a questionable decision loss to Tito Ortiz on his resume, Griffin has proven that he can not only hang with the big boys, but that he is one of them.  Of course, Griffin has a propensity to get finished when he makes an unfortunate mistake in a fight, since he is not the most physically gifted fighter and relies on a “no mistakes”, fundamentally sound fighting style.  Don’t hold your breath regarding the outcome of his fight against Anderson Silva, though a loss to Silva shouldn’t hurt his reputation too much.

6. Rich Franklin (25-4, 1 NC)

Franklin has been the unfortunate victim of, well, fighting Anderson Silva twice.  Before those two losses, Franklin was rightfully considered as one of the elite fighters in all of MMA.  It’s easy to underrate Franklin, as he is one of those “jack of all trades, master of none” types.  However, Franklin, like Georges St. Pierre but to a lesser extent, has been able to synthesize his different skills in a way that makes him greater than the sum of his parts.  Three of his four career losses come against the best light heavyweight and middleweight in the world, and the other was a very close decision loss to former Pride champ Dan Henderson.

7. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (17-3)

It would seem that “Minotoro” is on the verge of surpassing his brother’s ranking, if he continues to do well against top competition, as he has so far in his career.  Only a 2007 upset loss to Rameu Thierry Sokoudjou sticks out on his resume, as Lil’ Nog avenged his loss to Vladimir Matyushenko at the January Affliction event, and since a loss against Shogun Rua in 2005 is nothing to be ashamed of.  Nogueira has been mentioned as a fighter that the UFC may be interested in at some point, which would add yet another elite fighter to the UFC’s already stacked division.

8. Renato “Babalu” Sobral

It’s too bad that Sobral is most known by casual fans for his two knockout losses at the hands (and shin) of Chuck Liddell.  However, aside from the second Liddell loss (and a head-scratching loss to Jason Lambert), Babalu has not tasted defeat in the last 6 years.  His recent wins include a victory over Mike Whitehead and a submission over Sokoudjou that put the final nail in the coffin of any thoughts of Sokoudjou as a top light heavyweight.  Babalu has a tough test coming up, as his fight with Gegard Mousasi will be taking place in Strikeforce after the demise of Affliction.  It’s unlikely that the UFC will want Babalu back anytime soon, and Tito Ortiz (who was rumored to be fighting Babalu if he were to come to terms with Strikeforce) appears to be UFC-bound again, so this will be the toughest competition Babalu will probably face for awhile.

9. Luis Cane (10-1)

The Cane hype was really getting out of hand for a moment, but a more human-like performance against former WEC champ Steve Cantwell at UFC 97 have brought expectations for “Banha” back down to earth.  Still, Cane is an intriguing prospect with a vicious disposition in the cage and some good wins against the likes of Cantwell, Jason Lambert and Sokoudjou.  Cane wants to step up in competition and even called out Rich Franklin, but that’s not happening yet.

10. Keith Jardine (14-5-1)

Jardine’s record is as strange as his fighting style.  On one hand, he has beaten Brandon Vera, Wilson Gouveia, and former UFC champions Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin.  On the other hand, he was brutally vacated from his senses by Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva.  All this has occurred in his last seven fights!  Still, Jardine showed that he is a top light heavyweight with his impressive performance (even though he lost) against Rampage Jackson at UFC 96.  Jardine is a tough match-up for any fighter, and the UFC has shown that they aren’t going to do the “Dean of Mean” any favors, as they repeatedly give him difficult matchups.  Expect a rematch with Forrest Griffin at some point, and maybe even another bout with Chuck Liddell.  For now, a matchup with recent top ten light heavyweight Thiago Silva looms.

Also in Consideration: Thiago Silva, Jon Jones, Matyushenko.

by Jon Hartley for Fightmania.com

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