1. Cain Velasquez (11-1)
Velasquez is back on top of these rankings, having reclaimed his UFC belt and the title of MMA’s top big man with a sterling performance at UFC 155. Though it went the full five rounds, the outcome of Velasquez’s rematch with Junior dos Santos was really never in question, as the former Arizona State Sun Devil battered and outwrestled the Brazilian throughout to earn a unanimous decision. Up next for Velasquez is likely the winner of UFC 156’s Alistair Overeem-Antonio Silva matchup.
2. Junior dos Santos (15-2)
Dos Santos suffered his first loss inside the Octagon and just the second setback of his career in a five-round drubbing at the hands of Cain Velasquez. The proficient boxer who punched his way to the UFC heavyweight title was nowhere to be seen on Dec. 29, as “Cigano” was kept on his back foot and knocked around by the man whom he had punched out 13 months prior.
3. Alistair Overeem (36-11, 1 NC)
The Dutch “Demolition Man” remained suspended through December after failing a random drug test in Nevada with elevated testosterone levels. However, the news has improved for Overeem: the 32-year-old striker will return to the Octagon on Feb. 2, when he meets Antonio Silva at UFC 156.
4. Fabricio Werdum (16-5-1)
In his first fight on home soil in eight years, 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 a little more than two minutes. Werdum now finds himself on the cusp of serious UFC title contention. His next assignment will come in a rematch with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira after the two men coach opposite one another on “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 2.
5. Daniel Cormier (11-0)
Cormier did exactly what was expected of him, as the 33-year-old wrestler dismantled Dutch import Dion Staring inside two rounds at Strikeforce’s final event on Jan. 12. Now, the American Kickboxing Academy standout will take his unblemished record to the Octagon, where he will face the man he was supposed to fight in November, former heavyweight champ Frank Mir, at UFC on Fox 7.
6. Frank Mir (16-6)
There was considerable excitement last fall when it was announced that the former UFC heavyweight champion would meet unbeaten Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce. Their Nov. 3 clash fell apart when Mir injured his knee in September, but with Cormier having triumphed in his final Strikeforce showing, the bout has been rebooked for UFC on Fox 7 in April.
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-7-1, 1 NC)
Though he was expected to triumph, “Minotauro” nonetheless thrilled the fans inside the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 153, easily besting an overmatched Dave Herman on the feet before tapping him with an armbar in the second round. Nogueira may be in the twilight of his career, but as Brazil’s most beloved MMA fighter, the ultra-popular former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder will keep catching marquee fights in the UFC. He will next face Fabricio Werdum in a rematch in June following their stint as opposing coaches on Season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”
8. Antonio Silva (17-4)
Reeling after two crushing defeats to Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez, Silva’s back was against the wall as he entered his Oct. 5 bout with the unbeaten Travis Browne as an underdog. However, “Bigfoot” came through in a big way, popping Browne with punches in the first round and getting his first UFC win. Silva will confront a far more formidable challenge in his next outing, as he squares off with Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 on Feb. 2.
9. Josh Barnett (32-6)
After his eight-fight winning streak was snapped by Daniel Cormier in May, “The Warmaster” had something to prove in his Jan. 12 return. He did exactly that, thoroughly outclassing Nandor Guelmino and exiting Strikeforce with a first-round submission win. Barnett and UFC boss Dana White have since said the 35-year-old’s return to the Octagon seems probable, but nothing has been made official.
10. Roy Nelson (18-7)
Nelson was denied a chance to face rival “Ultimate Fighter” coach Shane Carwin in December when Carwin suffered a knee injury in training. Instead, the hard-hitting 36-year-old faced onetime “Ultimate Fighter” castmate Matt Mitrione and punched out “Meathead” inside three minutes. Afterward, Nelson stated he is no longer interested in facing Carwin, but his next opponent has not yet been named.
Other contenders:Travis Browne, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo, Stefan Struve.
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