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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Tracking the championship: UFC light heavyweight division

Originally known as the middleweight division, the UFC's light heavyweight class has been home to many of the world's best 205-pounders and some of mixed martial arts' biggest stars. Follow the path of the light heavyweight belt from 1997 to today.

Frank Shamrock

Successful title defenses: 4 Frank Shamrock won the
Photo Credit: AP / Jeff Chiu

Successful title defenses: 4

Frank Shamrock won the UFC's first 205-pound championship with a 22-second submission of Kevin Jackson at UFC Japan on Dec. 21, 1997. He put together one of the more dominant title reigns in the early days of the UFC, defending the belt four times, including wins over Jeremy Horn and Tito Ortiz. Shamrock vacated the title in November 1999 when he retired because of a lack of competition in the UFC. He returned to MMA in 2000, later winning the Strikeforce middleweight title but never fought in the UFC again.

Tito Ortiz

Successful title defenses: 5 After losing in Frank
Photo Credit: AP

Successful title defenses: 5

After losing in Frank Shamrock's final title defense, Tito Ortiz defeated Wanderlei Silva to claim the vacant title on April 14, 2000, at UFC 25 in Tokyo. Ortiz was untouchable as champion in the early 2000s, successfully defending the belt five times, a divisional record that lasted 10 years. He had three first-round stoppages in that title run.

Randy Couture

Successful title defenses: 0 When Tito Ortiz took
Photo Credit: Associated Press/Neil Davidson

Successful title defenses: 0

When Tito Ortiz took nearly a year off in 2002-03, Randy Couture moved down to light heavyweight to face Chuck Liddell for the interim title. After Couture beat Liddell to become the first man to win a belt in two weight classes, he took Ortiz's undisputed title in a five-round decision at UFC 44 on Sept. 26, 2003.

Vitor Belfort

Successful title defenses: 0 Vitor Belfort had won
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Felipe Dana

Successful title defenses: 0

Vitor Belfort had won the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament in 1997 but was unable to win a championship in his first UFC stint. He returned to the promotion in 2002 and received a title shot against Couture at UFC 46 on Jan. 31, 2004. In the first moments of the fight, Belfort's gloved opened a cut on Couture's eye on his first punch. The fight was stopped after just 49 seconds and Belfort was declared the new champion.

Randy Couture

Successful title defenses: 0 Couture was granted an
Photo Credit: UFC Photo

Successful title defenses: 0

Couture was granted an immediate rematch, and he took advantage at UFC 49 on Aug. 21, 2004. Early in the second round, Couture opened a cut over the right eye of Belfort with a head-butt while engaging in the clinch. The fight continued through the third, but as the fourth round was set to begin, the doctor stopped the fight, giving the belt back to Couture.

Chuck Liddell

Successful title defenses: 4 In a rematch of
Photo Credit: AP / Marlene Karas

Successful title defenses: 4

In a rematch of their interim title fight from UFC 43, Chuck Liddell took the light heavyweight belt from Randy Couture with a first-round knockout on April 16, 2005, at UFC 52. The event was the highest-grossing UFC event at the time with a live gate of more than $2.5 million. Liddell successfully defended the title four times, including wins over Jeremy Horn and Tito Ortiz, as well as a trilogy fight with Couture.

Quinton Jackson

Successful title defenses: 1 Quinton
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Eric Jamison

Successful title defenses: 1

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson had already defeated Chuck Liddell while Jackson was making a name for himself in Pride, but he cemented his legacy when he beat Liddell for the second time and took the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 71 on Sept. 8, 2007. Jackson then unified the UFC and Pride championships with a decision win over Dan Henderson in his first title defense.

Forrest Griffin

Successful title defenses: 0 Forrest Griffin always will
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Eric Jamison

Successful title defenses: 0

Forrest Griffin always will be remembered for his winning run on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," but he added his name to the list of UFC champions with his decision victory over Quinton Jackson at UFC 86 on July 5, 2008.

Rashad Evans

Successful title defenses: 0 It took wins over
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Eric Jamison

Successful title defenses: 0

It took wins over Michael Bisping and Chuck Liddell for Rashad Evans to finally get his title shot at UFC 92 on Dec. 27, 2008, and he made the most of it. While Forrest Griffin was ahead early in his first title defense, Evans was able to take over in the third, catching a kick and taking Griffin to the ground. After controlling Griffin on the ground, Evans was able to posture up and knock out Griffin with punches to take the belt.

Lyoto Machida

Successful title defenses: 1 Karate expert Lyoto Machida
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Eric Jamison

Successful title defenses: 1

Karate expert Lyoto Machida was 14-0 in MMA when he earned his title shot against Rashad Evans at UFC 98 on May 23, 2009. He stayed unbeaten for the time being, swarming Evans with punches in the second round to get the knockout and the title. He defended his title against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 104, winning a controversial decision to retain the title despite taking much more damage than his opponent.

Mauricio Rua

Successful title defenses: 0 With plenty of discussion
Photo Credit: Getty Bradley Kanaris

Successful title defenses: 0

With plenty of discussion around the scorecards at UFC 104, "Shogun" Rua was awarded another fight with Machida at UFC 113 on May 8, 2010. In the rematch, Rua clipped Machida in the first round and took him to the ground, mounting the champion and knocking him out on the ground to take the belt.

Jon Jones

Successful title defenses: 8 With just one controversial
Photo Credit: AP

Successful title defenses: 8

With just one controversial disqualification blemishing his record, Jon Jones began his assault on the light heavyweight division with a TKO of Rua at UFC 128 on March 19, 2011. In his first four title defenses, Jones defeated four former champions in Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort with only Evans able to go the distance. He also defeated top contenders Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira and Daniel Cormier over the course of four-plus years as champion. He was stripped of the title on April 28, 2015 following his arrest for felony hit-and-run.

Daniel Cormier

Successful title defenses: 2 When Jon Jones lost
Photo Credit: AP

Successful title defenses: 2

When Jon Jones lost his title just a few weeks ahead of his next scheduled title defense against Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015, Daniel Cormier took his spot in a battle for the vacant championship. Cormier survived an early knockdown from Johnson to take control of the fight, beating Johnson by rear-naked choke in the third round. In his first title defense, Cormier survived a five-round stand-up war with Alexander Gustaffson to retain the title. He also defended the title against Anthony Johnson and beat Anderson Silva in a non-title fight at UFC 200 when Jones was pulled from the card three days beforehand. When Cormier and Jones finally fought again at UFC 214, Cormer lost the title.

Jon Jones

After more than two years of drama, legal
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Sean M. Haffey

After more than two years of drama, legal issues, rehab and a suspension for a failed drug test, Jon Jones reclaimed his UFC light heavyweight title by knocking out Daniel Cormier in the third round at UFC 214 on July 29, 2017. Jones dropped Cormier with a head kick and finished him with strikes.

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