1. Junior dos Santos (14-1)
Now that his highly anticipated clash against Alistair Overeem has been scrapped, the UFC heavyweight champion turns his attention toward an entirely different type of challenge. After shocking the world with his 64-second knockout of Cain Velasquez last November, dos Santos locks horns with submission specialist Frank Mir in the UFC 146 main event on May 26.
2. Cain Velasquez (9-1)
The shuffling of the UFC 146 card affected Velasquez as well, as the American Kickboxing Academy product will now face former Strikeforce talent Antonio Silva in the evening’s co-main event. With a victory over “Bigfoot,” Velasquez will likely earn another shot at the heavyweight title that he first captured by defeating Brock Lesnar at UFC 121.
3. Alistair Overeem (36-11, 1 NC)
The future of the hulking Dutchman is in serious limbo. Removed from his UFC 146 title shot against Junior dos Santos a few weeks after failing a random drug test, Overeem will need to plead his case before the Nevada Athletic Commission. In a recent statement, the former Strikeforce, Dream and K-1 World Grand Prix Champion blamed his result on an anti-inflammatory medication that contained testosterone.
4. Fabricio Werdum (15-5-1)
In his last outing, Werdum administered a one-sided beating to the durable Roy Nelson at UFC 143, battering the “TUF 10” alumnus with multiple knees en route to a unanimous decision triumph and a “Fight of the Night” bonus. Since then, Werdum has lobbied hard for a spot on the next Brazilian card. While nothing is official, it is rumored that he will square off with Mike Russow at UFC 147 in June.
5. Shane Carwin (12-2)
Faced with the first two-fight skid of his career after suffering losses to Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos, Carwin was expected to compete at UFC 141 in December. However, the Grudge Training Center product was dealt yet another injury setback in October and will instead undergo back surgery with eyes on a mid-2012 return.
6. Frank Mir (16-5)
Alistair Overeem’s misfortune is Mir’s gain. A former UFC heavyweight champion and interim title holder, Mir gets his fourth shot at championship gold against the heavy-handed Junior dos Santos on May 26. The Las Vegas resident has defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Roy Nelson and Mirko Filipovic in his last three Octagon appearances.
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC)
Long regarded as one of MMA’s finest heavyweight grapplers, Nogueira suffered his first submission loss in more than 40 bouts on Dec. 10 when he had his right arm snapped by a Frank Mir kimura. The 35-year-old underwent surgery on the broken limb at the end of 2011 and is expected to resume training in mid-2012.
8. Josh Barnett (31-5)
After being granted a conditional license by the California State Athletic Commission, the once-suspended Barnett is back on track to compete in the final of Strikeforce’s world heavyweight grand prix. The “Warmaster” is slated to face unbeaten AKA wrestler Daniel Cormier on May 19 in San Jose, Calif.
9. Daniel Cormier (9-0)
Cormier’s breakout win over Antonio Silva came at a cost, as his broken hand delayed his Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix final against Josh Barnett. Now, with the wrestler’s hand healed and his catch-wrestling opponent once again licensed to fight in California, the big men are set to collide on May 19 in San Jose.
10. Antonio Silva (16-3)
The former EliteXC king fell short in his bid to win the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, suffering a first-round knockout loss to Daniel Cormier last September. Originally paired with Roy Nelson at UFC 146, “Pezao” will now face former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez on May 26.
Other contenders:Fedor Emelianenko, Mark Hunt, Ben Rothwell, Mike Russow, Brendan Schaub.
With his April 21 loss to Ben Rothwell, previously 10th-ranked Brendan Schaub falls to the contenders list.
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