After a vintage performance, Anderson Silva will look to further his legacy in 2012.
1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
The world’s best pound-for-pound fighter left little doubt as to who rules the 185-pound ranks with a flawless August performance against Yushin Okami in Rio de Janeiro. All signs now point to a championship rematch with Chael Sonnen in the first quarter of 2012, once “The Spider” rehabs a sore shoulder.
2. Chael Sonnen (26-11-1)
In spite of a year fraught with controversy, Sonnen got back to work on Oct. 8, shutting down the surging Brian Stann en route to a second-round submission win. The Oregonian will look to prove that he is, as he claims, the true middleweight champion when he rematches top-ranked Anderson Silva in 2012.
3. Yushin Okami (26-6)
Japan’s top MMA export fell well short in his long-awaited August rematch with UFC champ Anderson Silva, succumbing to punches for the first time since 2003. While he had to play visitor to Silva in Rio de Janeiro, Okami will hold home field advantage when he attempts to get back on track against Tim Boetsch at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan.
4. Mark Munoz (11-2)
The ever-improving wrestler from Oklahoma State took another big step up the middleweight ladder on Nov. 5, beating the brakes off of tough vet Chris Leben en route to a second-round corner stoppage. Munoz’s UFC record now sits at 7-2, with strong victories over Demian Maia, Aaron Simpson and C.B. Dollaway.
5. Nate Marquardt (31-10-2)
After a testosterone replacement therapy debacle caused Marquardt’s June ouster from the UFC, the Greg Jackson student inked a contract with the London-based British Association of Mixed Martial Arts. Now, Marquardt has his first opponent, fellow UFC vet Yoshiyuki Yoshida, against whom he’ll vie for the vacant BAMMA welterweight title on Feb. 11.
6. Demian Maia (15-3)
After coming up short in a close June decision against Mark Munoz, Maia got back on track with a grinding win over Jorge Santiago on Oct. 8. The decorated grappler has won four of his last six starts, all of which have gone the distance.
7. Brian Stann (11-4)
Stann had no answer for the ground attack of Chael Sonnen at UFC 136, submitting to the former title contender in the second frame. The loss snapped a three-fight winning streak which saw Stann polish off Chris Leben, Jorge Santiago and Mike Massenzio.
8. Michael Bisping (21-3)
Bisping silenced antagonist Jorge Rivera in February with a second-round knockout, but the Englishman will attempt to close an even louder mouth later this year. The winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 3 is currently in Las Vegas serving as a coach for Season 14 of the reality series, the finale of which will see Bisping square off against middleweight wildman and rival coach Jason "Mayhem" Miller.
9. Vitor Belfort (20-9)
On Jan. 14, the 34-year-old “Phenom” will fight in his home country of Brazil for the first time in more than a decade. Belfort will try to build on his August destruction of Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama when he faces former welterweight standout Anthony Johnson at UFC 142.
10. Luke Rockhold (8-1)
Rockhold enters the rankings on the back of his Strikeforce middleweight title win, a razor-thin Sept. 10 decision in which the American Kickboxing Academy fighter handed the Brazilian gator his first stateside defeat.
Other contenders: Tim Kennedy, Hector Lombard, Rousimar Palhares, Jorge Santiago, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
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