1. Cain Velasquez (11-1)
It went the full five rounds, but the outcome of Velasquez’s rematch with Junior dos Santos at UFC 155 was really never in question, as the former Arizona State Sun Devil battered and outwrestled the Brazilian throughout to earn a unanimous decision. With presumptive challenger Alistair Overeem knocked off at UFC 156 by recent Velasquez victim Antonio Silva, the champ’s next defense is currently unclear.
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 that 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. 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.
4. 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 champion Frank Mir, at UFC on Fox 7.
5. Antonio Silva (18-4)
While some observers viewed Silva’s Feb. 2 fight with Alistair Overeem as a prelude to an Overeem-Cain Velasquez title fight, “Bigfoot” proved he is not one to be overlooked. Silva spent two rough rounds standing with Overeem before surging back in the third to score a crushing knockout and make his case for a rematch with Velasquez, who demolished the Brazilian grappler in May.
6. Alistair Overeem (36-12, 1 NC)
Looking to silence some haters in his return from a year-long suspension, it was instead Overeem who was humbled at UFC 156. After two strong rounds against Antonio Silva, the Dutch striker’s overconfidence cost him dearly: the Brazilian big man blitzed Overeem with a stunning, come-from-behind knockout in round three, spoiling plans for an Overeem-Cain Velasquez showdown.
7. Frank Mir (16-6)
There was considerable excitement last fall when it was announced that the former UFC heavyweight champion would meet the 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.
8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-7-1, 1 NC)
Though he was expected to triumph, “Minotauro” nonetheless thrilled the fans inside 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.”
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 the hulking Colorado native suffered a knee injury in training. Instead, the hard-hitting 36-year-old Nelson faced onetime “Ultimate Fighter” castmate Matt Mitrione and punched out “Meathead” inside three minutes. Carwin no longer factors into the future plans of “Big Country,” as Nelson has been booked to face Frenchman Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 on April 27.
Other contenders:Travis Browne, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo, Stefan Struve.
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