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MMA Top 10 Light Heavyweights: Shogun Moves to the Top

It's been a long road to the top for Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. He was one of the UFC's most celebrated acquisitions in 2007, but he lost his only fight in the Octagon that year, to Forrest Griffin. Then he sat out all of 2008 with a knee injury, and his 2009 started with a victory over Mark Coleman that was derided by many fans because he ran out of steam late in the fight, and ended with a controversial loss to Lyoto Machida.

Now, in 2010, he has knocked Machida out, earning the UFC light heavyweight belt in his fifth fight in the Octagon. He has also earned the top spot in our latest ranking of the Top 10 light heavyweights in MMA, which is below.

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

1. Shogun Rua (3): The 28-year-old Rua should still have at least a few good years left in him, and before he's done we'll be talking about where Rua ranks among the all-time great fighters in the history of mixed martial arts. In addition to being a UFC champion, he was the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion, and his list of victims includes many of the sport's top fighters, including Machida, Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem (twice), Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Kevin Randleman and Coleman. He's gone 19-4 while fighting the best of the best.

2. Anderson Silva (2): The single toughest test the UFC could give Shogun at 205 pounds is a bout with Silva, the 185-pound champion. But that won't happen any time soon, as the UFC plans to give Silva at least two more fights at middleweight, against Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort, before he moves up to light heavyweight again. Still, Shogun said on ESPN's MMA Live that he'd love to fight Silva. It won't happen this year, but I hope it happens in 2011.

3. Lyoto Machida (1): It will be interesting to see who they give Machida next. Shogun has taken away his aura of invincibility, but he'd still be favored to beat anyone else in the light heavyweight division.

4. Rashad Evans (4): If he beats Rampage Jackson this month, he'll likely get Shogun, and another shot at the light heavyweight title. Evans has to be pleased that Shogun beat Machida.

5. Jon Jones (5): He'll face Vladimir Matyushenko next; I'd prefer to see Jones fight someone in the Top 10.

6. Rampage Jackson (7): Jackson lost to Shogun in the first round of that great Pride Grand Prix in 2005. If he beats Evans, he'll get a shot at a rematch.

7. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (10): He shouldn't have any trouble beating Jason Brilz at UFC 114. After that it would be great to see Nogueira fight someone who can provide him with more of a threat. Maybe Machida.

8. Muhammed Lawal (8): King Mo is the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, but Strikeforce doesn't have much of a light heavyweight division to challenge him. Strikeforce boss Scott Coker has suggested that Lawal could move up to heavyweight to get a tougher test -- maybe even against Fedor Emelianenko.

9. Thiago Silva (10): After losing two of his last three (to Evans and Machida, no shame in that), Silva should get back on track by beating Tim Boetsch at UFC 117 in August.

10. Forrest Griffin (6): It's tough to say where Griffin should be ranked. On the one hand, he has wins over his record against Shogun and Rampage. It doesn't get much better than that. On the other hand, he's lost two of his last three and didn't look all that impressive in the fight he won, over Tito Ortiz. And with a shoulder injury that's going to keep him out of action for a while, it's tough to justify having him any higher than 10th. Still, if Griffin gets healthy and gets an impressive win, he might just get a shot at the title. I know Shogun would love a rematch.

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