In the fourth installment of my UFC divisional rankings we arrive at the Light Heavyweight division. What we see is the division that is definitely the most competitive in the UFC at the current moment in time and the one that is arguably the most exciting.
With a history of champions such as Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, the light heavyweight division has continually been responsible for bringing the fans and attention to the sport.
Lately the 205 lb division has seen a revolving door in regards to its champions. After Quinton "Rampage" Jackson halted Chuck Liddell's title reign, he lost the belt to Forrest Griffin (albeit controversially) after just one title defense.
Griffin didn't fare any better. In his first title defense, fellow TUF alum Rashad Evans took the strap immediately away from him only to subsequently hand it on over to the Brazilian Lyoto Machida five months later.
Now the Machida Era has begun but with another controversial decision in the rear view mirror, it isn't as stable as many thought it would be. "Shogun" Rua in particular -- who has a chance at redemption in May -- poses a serious threat to the current champion.
In 2010, we will see how the division evolve.
Champion: Lyoto Machida
No. 1 contender: Shogun Rua, Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans
Two wins away (5-10): Thiago Silva, Randy Couture, Brandon Vera, Jon Jones, Mark Coleman, Antonio Rogerio Noguiera
Three wins away (11-16): Forrest Griffin, Luiz Cane, Rich Franklin, Keith Jardine, Matt, Hamill, Chuck Liddell
Bottom tier (17+): Ryan Bader, Tito Ortiz, Krzysztof Soszynski, James Irvin, Mark Munoz, Eric Schafer, Stephan Bonnar, Brian Stann, Eliot Marshall
Analysis: The 205 lb division remains the most competitive in the UFC promotion so entering the year of 2010 the same will be expected.
Currently, I see three fighters worthy of a championship fight and while one of those is scheduled to get his opportunity in May, some further clarification of the title picture will come when the other two -- Jackson and Evans -- fight each other potentially at the same event. The winners should face off later in the summer.
Beyond that, there are multiple fights between fighters on that next tier (two wins away) that are set to take place in the next few months which will go a long way to decide the future No. 1 contenders.
In the meantime, keep an eye on prospects Jon Jones (9-1), Luiz Cane (11-2-1) and Ryan Bader (11-0). All are emerging fighters, still growing who have the talent to go far.