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MMA Top 10 Light Heavyweights: Jon Jones Moves to No. 2

Jon JonesThe last time I ranked the Top 10 light heavyweights in mixed martial arts, I wrestled with the question of who's the No. 2 fighter in the weight class: Lyoto Machida, Rampage Jackson or Rashad Evans?

Now I have the answer: None of the above.

Jon Jones put on his fourth consecutive spectacular performance in beating Ryan Bader at UFC 126, and I can no longer put Jones below anyone other than champion Shogun Rua. With just about any other fighter of Jones' age and experience I'd say the UFC is rushing him into a title shot in this situation, but with Jones I can't argue: He has proven that he deserves to be considered the second-best light heavyweight in the sport.

So I've got Shogun and Jones, who will meet in the main event at UFC 128, at 1-2 in our light heavyweight rankings. Find out where the rest of the division stacks up below.

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

1. Shogun Rua (1): The champ is still No. 1, although so many great light heavyweight fights have taken place since the last time Rua stepped into the Octagon that the Top 10 of this division looks a lot different than it did when he won the belt. In March he'll get a chance to show emphatically that he's still the best light heavyweight in the world.

2. Jon Jones (5): It says a lot about the way fans view Jones that he's actually the betting favorite against Rua. I think he'd be the betting favorite against anyone in the world at 205 pounds with the exception of Anderson Silva -- which says a lot about Silva, too.

3. Lyoto Machida (2): Although he's been leapfrogged by Jones, the Dragon stays on top of the Machida-Evans-Jackson triangle because his win over Evans was dominant and his loss to Jackson was, in my view, a bad decision. He'll return to the Octagon in April against Randy Couture.

4. Rashad Evans (3): A knee injury in training will cost Evans his shot at the title. In hindsight, I'm sure he wishes he had taken a fight last fall while Rua was recovering from knee surgery, instead of waiting for a title shot that now won't come. Evans hasn't fought since beating Rampage Jackson in May, and it will be a few more months before he fights again. If Jones wins the title from Rua, Evans is saying he might change weight classes rather than fight a teammate. So we may never see Evans in a light heavyweight title fight again.

5. Rampage Jackson (4): Rampage could have had a title shot if he had wanted to take Shogun on short notice, but he said he wasn't ready. Instead he'll take on Thiago Silva in May as scheduled -- and maybe fight for the title if he wins that.

6. Thiago Silva (7): Silva would certainly be worthy of a title shot if he were to beat Rampage, but I think he's at least two wins away. Unfortunately, he hasn't really caught on as a star, despite an exciting style that he's used to build up a 15-2 record, with 11 wins by knockout or TKO.

7. Forrest Griffin (8): A Griffin-Shogun fight would have made plenty of sense, with Griffin now on a two-fight winning streak, and with Griffin owning a victory over Shogun. But the UFC knows it has a burgeoning star in Jones, and wants to fast-track him to a title shot.

8. Dan Henderson (9): Henderson can solidify his status as the best light heavyweight outside the UFC with a win over Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Rafael Cavalcante in March. Henderson, who won three MMA tournaments in his 20s and two Pride belts in his 30s, will now try to go for a Strikeforce belt at age 40.

9. Ryan Bader (6): I hope people don't write Bader off just because he was trounced by Jones -- at age 27, Bader is the second-youngest fighter on this list, and he has a long career ahead of him. There's no shame in being 12-1, with the one loss coming to Jon Jones.

10. Rafael Cavalcante (10): Feijao is a lethal striker who will give Henderson all he can handle. Win or lose, Feijao is also constitutionally incapable of participating in a boring fight.

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