1. Rafael dos Anjos (24-7)Dos Anjos put on the performance of his career at UFC 185, dominating Anthony Pettis for five rounds to sweep the judges’ scorecards and claim the UFC lightweight title. The 30-year-old Brazilian took a longer path to gold than any other fighter in UFC history, earning the belt in his 18th Octagon appearance. Recovering from an MCL tear, dos Anjos will defend his title against Donald Cerrone on Dec. 19 in the UFC on Fox 17 main event.
2. Anthony Pettis (18-3)The main event of UFC 185 saw Pettis dominated like never before. The former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder lost his belt to Rafael dos Anjos after 25 lopsided minutes in which “Showtime” was forced to fight off his back and never truly looked competitive. The defeat was Pettis’ first since his 2011 Octagon debut, where he was similarly ground out by Clay Guida. The Roufusport fighter was slated for a July 25 showdown with once-beaten Myles Jury in Chicago, but an injury has forced Pettis to the sidelines yet again.
3. Donald Cerrone (28-6, 1 NC)Cerrone did not get the top-10 opponent for which he was hoping, but the UFC’s busiest lightweight nonetheless collected another victory on May 23. “Cowboy” engaged in a standup battle with replacement foe John Makdessi at UFC 187 until late in the second round, where a head kick caused Makdessi to ask out of the bout, giving Cerrone his eighth win in 18 months. With Khabib Nurmagomedov out of the picture for the time being, Cerrone will challenge Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight title at UFC on Fox 17 in December.
4. Benson Henderson (22-5)Less than one month removed from his controversial decision loss to Donald Cerrone, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion made a short-notice move up to 170 pounds to take on Brandon Thatch. “Smooth” overcame a five-inch height disparity and utilized his speed advantage on the feet before taking Thatch to the ground and securing a fourth-round rear-naked choke. Henderson will remain at welterweight for his next assignment, as he draws Thiago Alves in a UFC Fight Night headliner on Nov. 28 in South Korea.
5. Eddie Alvarez (26-4)Alvarez’s trademark grit was on full display at UFC 188, where the former Bellator champ spent rounds two and three of his bout with Gilbert Melendez fighting with his left eye almost completely swollen shut. Alvarez came on strong in the latter frames to earn a split decision, a significant victory to help ease the sting of his disappointing Octagon debut against Donald Cerrone.
6. Will Brooks (16-1)Just two years after joining Bellator MMA as a relative unknown, “Ill Will” has ascended to the throne of the promotion’s lightweight division, compiling an 8-1 record inside the circular cage along the way. Brooks’ latest triumph came in his April 10 title defense against Dave Jansen, who managed to steal round one from the champ but was outworked in all four frames thereafter. The 28-year-old American Top Team fighter’s record includes wins over veteran names like John Alessio and Satoru Kitaoka, as well as a pair of victories against ex-titlist Michael Chandler. Brooks will be back in action at Bellator 145 on Nov. 6, when he faces Polish submission ace Marcin Held in St. Louis.
7. Tony Ferguson (19-3)Ferguson continued to impress on July 15, when he laid a savage, three-round beating on former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson to claim a lopsided unanimous decision. It was the sixth straight victory for “El Cucuy,” who has suffered only one defeat in 10 Octagon outings, a May 2012 decision loss to Michael Johnson. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 hopes to take the next step in his development at “The Ultimate Fighter 22” Finale on Dec. 11, when he meets the returning Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas.
8. Beneil Dariush (12-1)Dariush got his fifth win in 12 months when he nabbed a close and controversial split decision from Michael Johnson on Aug. 8 in Nashville. Though his takedowns were stuffed throughout the 15-minute affair, the Kings MMA product kept busy with leg kicks and came on strong in the final frame to earn the nod from two of the three judges. Dariush’s current hot streak also includes victories against Jim Miller and Daron Cruickshank.
9. Michael Johnson (16-9)Johnson’s fast hands and strong defensive wrestling were not enough to sway the judges, two of whom sided with Beneil Dariush on Aug. 8 in a highly controversial split verdict. The dubious decision broke a four-fight winning streak which had seen Johnson topple such lightweight stalwarts as Gleison Tibau, Joe Lauzon and Edson Barboza. “The Menace” will try to get back on track at UFC on Fox 17, where he will be paired with Nate Diaz on Dec. 19.
10. Al Iaquinta (12-3-1)Iaquinta snatched a highly controversial split decision from Jorge Masvidal in their April encounter, but his previous three wins -- technical knockouts of Joe Lauzon, Ross Pearson and Rodrigo Damm -- were unquestionable. The New Yorker was slated to compete on July 15 in San Diego, but an injury to Bobby Green and a failed drug test from Gilbert Melendez left Iaquinta without an opponent.
Other Contenders: Shinya Aoki, Edson Barboza, Justin Gaethje, Bobby Green, Myles Jury.
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