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MMA Top 10 Light Heavyweights: Yes, Jon Jones Is That Good

When I make my lists of the Top 10 fighters in MMA, I'm trying to strike the right balance between two questions:

1. Who has this fighter already beaten?
2. Who could this fighter beat if given the chance?

In the case of Jon Jones, who beat Brandon Vera Sunday night in the main event at UFC on Versus 1, the answer to the first question isn't all that impressive: Vera is Jones' biggest win, and Jones hasn't beaten anyone in the Top 10. But when I really think about who Jones could beat if given the chance, well, I think the answer is, "almost everyone at 205 pounds." And so in my latest ranking of the top 10 light heavyweights in MMA, I've got Jones higher than you might think.

(Editor's note: The individual fighter's ranking the last time we did light heavyweights are in parentheses)

1. Lyoto Machida (1): The UFC light heavyweight champ has beaten everyone he's ever fought, and in their May rematch I think he will beat Shogun Rua, the man who gave him his toughest test yet.

2. Anderson Silva (2): The UFC middleweight champ is 2-0 when fighting as a light heavyweight, and I would never bet against him at 205 pounds, unless he surprises everyone and agrees to fight his friend, Machida.

3. Shogun Rua (3): In the last four years he's beaten everyone except Machida and Forrest Griffin, he gave Machida the closest fight anyone has given him, and I'd pick him to beat Griffin in a rematch.

4. Rashad Evans (4): He was badly beaten by Machida, but he's beaten two Top 10 opponents in Forrest Griffin and Thiago Silva, and I'd pick him to beat almost anyone else in the Top 10, including Rampage Jackson in May.

5. Jon Jones (NR): Yes, it's true that Jones has yet to defeat a Top 10 opponent. Yes, you can make the case that I'm overrating Jones right now. But I'm just blown away by how badly Jones has dominated Matt Hamill and Brandon Vera in his last two fights, and I'd give Jones a shot against anyone, even including Machida -- I think Jones' phenomenal athleticism and great takedowns give him exactly the kind of style that could give Machida serious trouble. Maybe Jones isn't really a Top 5 fighter yet, and I'll look bad if he loses his next fight. But I really believe Jones is this good, this early in his MMA career.

6. Forrest Griffin (5): Griffin is going to have a very tough time winning his next fight, against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in May. But with wins over Rampage Jackson and Shogun Rua and losses to Anderson Silva and Rashad Evans, I have to give Griffin a lot of credit for fighting the best competition available and coming out on top as often as not.

7. Rampage Jackson (6): We'll find out a lot about Rampage when he steps into the Octagon with Evans. If he's been staying in shape during his yearlong layoff and he beats Evans, he could easily stake a claim as the top contender for the Machida-Shogun winner.

8. Dan Henderson (7): He's fighting at middleweight on April 17, but a light heavyweight showdown with Strikeforce champ Gegard Mousasi looms.

9. Gegard Mousasi (8): You could make a good case that Mousasi, not Jones, is the best young light heavyweight in the sport. Unfortunately, I don't see either King Mo or anyone in the Dream light heavyweight tournament giving him much of a test, and so we'll have to wait until that future match-up with Henderson before we really know what happens when Mousasi takes on a big-time opponent.

10. Thiago Silva (9): His only losses are to Evans and Machida, and he's dominated everyone else he's fought. I hope his next fight is against Jones.

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