MMA Power rankings: The Light HeavyweightsPosted on February 10, 2011, 04:49 PM by Evan Holober
Now for what has been the most glorified division in MMA: The Light Heavyweights. From Chuck Liddell to Wanderlei Silva the 186-205lb division has continued to produce some of the best and brightest Mixed Martial Artists in our sports young history. The recent list of fighters is no different:
1. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua-The man simply known as "Shogun" has been looked at as one of the most talented fighters in the world ever since he burst on the scene with his thrashing of perennial top five(er) Quinton "Rampage" Jackson over five years ago. While knee troubles and upset losses spoiled his first couple of years in the UFC he has come back with a vengeance since. Where his wrestling leaves room for improvement, his BJJ and kickboxing skills are among the best in the sport. His cardio did not look the best in his loss to Griffin, but you can be assured that a healthy Shogun will push the pace all day.
2. Jon "Bones" Jones- Each time he takes a step up in competition he makes it look easy. Jonny has little reason to stand with people in fights because he has the best wrestling at LHW, and possibly all of MMA. However, he has a highlight reel full of awkward spinning attacks on the feet, and working daily with Phil Nurse and Mike Winkeljohn can't hurt either. The few times he has had to work from his back were from times when he missed one of his highlight reel throws that he lands more often than not. Jon Jones has looked unstoppable in the cage, but we'll see if Mr. Rua can keep him down on earth when they fight here in a few months. Personally, I don't think he will.
3. Lyoto Machida- The first person to bring Karate to the highest levels of MMA was supposed to be unbeatable. He looked unstoppable beating Sokoudjou, Ortiz, Silva, and Evans while taking little punishment in the process. Then he ran into a roadblock that is Mauricio Rua. Machida was able to escape with a controversial decision in their first fight, but had no such luck in the rematch. His next match proved Karma is probably a real thing when he dropped a controversial decision to Quinton Jackson. Machida uses his karate exceptionally well in fights, while also having good takedowns, a great ground game, and very underrated speed for a LHW. Time will tell if he can make it back to the top.
4. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson- Possibly the most powerful LHW in MMA history. His knockouts of Chuck Liddell, and Ricardo Arona are legendary. Which is interesting in itself because one was from a punch, and the other from a slam. The exciting finishes usually distract people on how good Jackson's boxing has become. He rolls with punches well, and has exceptional defense (which includes good head movement). Sadly these things go out the window when Rampage shows up to fights out of shape (Griffin, Rua), or decides to take a long time off from the cage (Evans). Quittin (as Rashad Evans so eloquently dubbed him) was last seen taking a disputed decision win from Lyoto Machida. He did not look his best , but better than the Evans fight and did enough in the judges eyes to win. The fact remains a focused Quinton Jackson is one of the most dangerous men in MMA.
5. Randy Couture- We all know Randy Couture. He's the Natural. Always comes to fight. He never quits, and the only way he'll stop is if you put him to sleep. While Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland were more accomplished Greco Roman wrestlers on a world scale, Randy is the one who brought it to MMA. He has run clinics through the clinch on fighters such as Vitor Belfort, Gabriel Gonzaga, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and Pedro Rizzo. Randy was last seen taking out James Toney with a John Smith Single leg and a whole lotta pressure on the ground. He's hinted at retirement a few times over the past year, but his desire to compete is still there. He takes on Lyoto Machida in a couple months.
6. Rashad Evans- Wrestling wins fights. Rashad Evans proved that in his last two appearances against Thiago Silva, and Rampage Jackson. While not the most entertaining way to win, it sure is effective. Machida showed some holes in his game when he put Rashad on dream street, but I feel that can be chalked up to a little bravado considering he didn't go for one takedown the entire fight. However, he wasn't actually doing well on the feet with Forrest Griffin before he was able to finish him on the ground either. Rashad had used wins over two highly rated guys in Thiago Silva and the aforementioned Jackson to propel himself to a title shot. Then with a twist of the knee he now will be rooting for his teammate to beat Shogun instead. If Jonny Bones wins against Rua Rashad's progress becomes very cloudy because he has already said he will not fight his friend.
7. Rafael Calvacante- "Feijao" was supposed to be something special. Then he went out and lost to what was thought to be a journeyman in Mike Kyle. After a couple of nice wins he was brought into face Muhammad Lawal as an "opponent". He made a statement by defending well from his back when Mo took him down, and capitalized when the champ started to run out of gas with some nasty knees from the clinch. He has his hands full with 87 year old Dan Henderson next month who's coming off of a big KO win over Babalu. Takedowns seem to be the only aspect of his game we haven't seen yet, and they would come in handy if he has to go up against Gegard Mousasi down the road.
8. Mike Kyle-People can change. Mike "Mack" Kyle is a testimony for that. While a normal list wouldn't have someone like Mike Kyle on there this list is perfect for him. He has shown great skills at both LHW and HW in the past 2 years and his only two losses were against guys competing in the upcoming Strikeforce HW GP. In both of those losses he showed great striking by dropping both guys with big shots, and was only a couple of shots away from finishing Big Foot. At LHW he is undefeated. Having been the first person to derail "Feijao", he has gone onto stop 4 out of his 5 opponents at the new weight class. Time will tell if Kyle can keep the momentum, but with the skills he has shown in stopping Feijao and beating Tony Lopez (who's only loss at LHW before came back in 2005) is his mind.
9. Gegard Mousasi-Take down defense is crucial in MMA. No other person describes that better than Gegard Mousasi in my opinion. He has possibly the best striking at LHW in MMA, and a ground game that has subbed fighters such as Dennis Kang, Jake O'Brien, and Melvin Manhoef. However, in his losses he was thoroughly out positioned on the ground, and gave up way too many takedowns. Gegard's last two fights were pretty anticlimactic considering the level of competition. O'Brien came in out of shape, and Mizuno spoiled what was supposed to be Manhoef-Mousasi two. Striking centric arts seem to be what he has in mind for the future as he crushed Kyotaro on New years eve, and has expressed interest in competing in the Olympics as a boxer.
10. Forrest Griffin- "I'm just a dog, I fight." While quotes like that make you want to root for the guy, and keep him in great fights, it doesn't exactly prove his skill level. Forrest is definitely a well rounded fighter with below average power, decent striking, underrated BJJ, and good takedowns from the clinch. However, outside of the Rua and Rampage fights, he has never been able to put it all together. He was beating the crap out of Rashad until one sloppy kick resulted in a takedown and the beginning of the end of his title reign. He came to fight Anderson with what was probably the worst game plan in the world, and was posterized for it. He's on a two fight wins streak now, but if he can't find that groove/rhythm that brought him the most success in his career he'll be embarrassed again (which pains me greatly to say).
Honorable Mentions: Muhammad Lawal, Thiago Silva, Dan Henderson, Phil Davis