1. Junior dos Santos (15-1)
Junior dos Santos’ next UFC heavyweight title challenger isn’t in question, only the date. It originally looked like dos Santos would rematch the man he took the title from, Cain Velasquez, at UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22. However, the bout hasn’t materialized as quickly as hoped, and the bout is seeking a home later this fall.
2. Cain Velasquez (10-1)
It initially appeared that Cain Velasquez’s chance for redemption against Junior dos Santos would come in Toronto at UFC 152. However, both men won’t be ready for the Sept. 22 date, meaning that Velasquez will need to wait until later this year for his crack to recapture the UFC heavyweight title he lost last November.
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 (16-5-1)
In his first fight on home soil in eight years, Fabricio Werdum was sensational at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. “Vai Cavalo” stormed Mike Russow out of the gate, knocking him down and out in just over two minutes. Almost four years after exiting the UFC, Werdum is on the cusp of serious UFC title contention.
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. 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.
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC)
Ever the competitor, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira hoped to return to action at UFC 149 on July 21 in Calgary against Cheick Kongo. Instead, more “Dancing with the Stars” in Brazil is all he’ll get, as his arm that Frank Mir broke last December hasn’t made the necessary progress for “Minotauro” to train as he’d like in order to fight. The Brazilian great hopes to return before the year is out.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Mike Russow (15-2, 1 NC)
Mike Russow got the A-list opponent he was looking for at UFC 147, however, the Chicago policeman looked out of his depth in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It took less than half of the first round for former BJJ world champion Fabricio Werdum to drop Russow standing and punctuate the bout on the canvas for a quick-and-dirty first-round knockout win.
Other contenders:Travis Browne, Cheick Kongo, Cole Konrad, Mark Hunt, Ben Rothwell.
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