1. Junior dos Santos (15-1)
Dos Santos proved why he’s the best big man around by doing exactly what most expected him to: decimating ex-champ Frank Mir with a second-round stoppage at UFC 146. The next man to try for the Brazilian’s UFC belt seems likely to be the man “Cigano” beat to win it, Cain Velasquez.
2. Cain Velasquez (10-1)
Following the first loss of his career, Velasquez made a statement in his return bout, and that statement was, “Maybe you shouldn’t fight Cain Velasquez.” With his first-round thrashing of Antonio Silva at UFC 146, the American Kickboxing Academy representative may well have put himself in line for a rematch with Junior dos Santos.
3. Alistair Overeem (36-11, 1 NC)
The “Demolition Man” remains suspended through December after failing a random drug test in Nevada with elevated testosterone levels, but the news isn’t all bad for Overeem. UFC President Dana White recently stated that when the Dutchman does return to the Octagon, he’ll likely do so as a top contender.
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 and will square off with Mike Russow at UFC 147 in June 22.
5. Daniel Cormier (10-0)
Cormier’s Cinderella story in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix concluded May 19 with a gritty, five-round victory over the far more experienced Josh Barnett. While the win has many calling for the two-time U.S. Olympic wrestler to join the UFC, Cormier will likely be sidelined until the fall after breaking his hand for the third time in eight months.
6. 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.
7. Frank Mir (16-6)
The former UFC heavyweight champ took a chance when Alistair Overeem dropped out of the main event of UFC 146, giving Mir the chance to challenge for the belt once again. Unfortunately for Mir, reigning champ Junior dos Santos proved too much to handle, and a second-round TKO stoppage snapped Mir’s three-fight winning streak.
8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC)
Having healed his broken right arm with a Wolverine-like quickness, “Big Nog” is set to return to the Octagon in July to face Cheick Kongo at UFC 149. In the meantime, the 35-year-old fan favorite is getting back in the swing of things by competing on the Brazilian version of “Dancing with the Stars.”
9. Josh Barnett (31-6)
Despite entering the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix final with four times his opponent’s MMA experience, Barnett had little answer for the wrestling attack of Daniel Cormier. The five-round decision loss was Barnett’s first taste of defeat since 2006, marking the end of an eight-fight win streak.
10. Antonio Silva (16-4)
The onetime EliteXC champ was handed a tough assignment for his UFC debut, a matchup with once-beaten Cain Velasquez. Things did not go well at UFC 146 for the Brazilian “Bigfoot,” who suffered a gruesome cut and a first-round TKO, marking the first two-fight skid of Silva’s career.
Other contenders:Fedor Emelianenko, Cole Konrad, Mark Hunt, Ben Rothwell, Mike Russow.
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