1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
The build-up to perhaps the biggest fight of 2012 is on in full force, as Anderson Silva has called Chael Sonnen “a criminal” and has promised to forcibly extract his teeth. “The Spider” renews his rivalry with Sonnen July 7 at UFC 148 with all the middleweight marbles on the line.
2. Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)
Chael Sonnen’s antagonism of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has gotten so profound that he’s forced the 185-pound ace into some serious trash talk. If nothing else, Sonnen’s pro-wrestling antics have helped turn UFC 148 into the biggest UFC event of the year and his rematch with “The Spider” one of the most anticipated in the sport’s history.
3. Mark Munoz (12-2)
Munoz got injured before he could face Chael Sonnen back in January, but the wait yielded another high-profile matchup for the fringe contender from Oklahoma State. Against fellow wrestler Chris Weidman, Munoz will headline his second straight show, this time July 11 on Fuel TV.
4. Michael Bisping (22-4)
Bisping was to have provided the red-hot Tim Boetsch with the toughest test of his career to date. Instead, “The Count” underwent surgery on June 13 for a torn meniscus and “two floating bodies” in his knee. He expects to resume training approximately a month after the procedure.
5. Vitor Belfort (21-9)
UFC 147 came and went, with Vitor Belfort sidelined by hand injury. In his stead, his former victim Rich Franklin stepped up and bested his “Ultimate Fighter Brazil” rival coach Wanderlei Silva. Despite the outcome, the UFC is still banking on Belfort-Silva 2 at some point in the coming months.
6. Tim Boetsch (15-4)
Changing weight classes has proven to be a smart career move for Boetsch, who is 3-0 since moving to middleweight. Boetsch will attempt to continue his ascent up the divisional ladder at UFC 149 -- only instead of facing Michael Bisping, “The Barbarian” gets former Bellator 185-pound kingpin Hector Lombard.
7. Yushin Okami (26-7)
Yushin Okami was expecting to face Brazilian Luiz Cane at UFC 150 on Aug. 11. With “Banha” out due to injury, Okami will instead face one of Cane’s countrymen in powerhouse leglock specialist Rousimar Palhares when the Octagon heads back to Denver.
8. Brian Stann (12-4)
Brian Stann (12-4) Stann could very well have been the marketable main event star that Fox executives were looking for, but alas, a separated shoulder knocked him out of his UFC on Fox 4 headlining gig against Hector Lombard. With victories in four of his last five outings, Stann figures to warrant another high-profile matchup once he recovers.
9. Luke Rockhold (9-1)
Having rehabilitated the hand that he broke on Keith Jardine’s face in January, Strikeforce’s middleweight champ is ready to mount his second defense this summer. The 27-year-old from American Kickboxing Academy will tangle with Tim Kennedy on July 14 in Portland, Ore.
10. Chris Weidman (8-0)
To keep his perfect record intact, Weidman had to grind out a January win over Demian Maia in a match which the “All-American” accepted on 11 days’ notice. Weidman will have significantly more time to prepare for his next bout, a July 11 headlining slot against Mark Munoz in San Jose, Calif.
Other contenders:Alan Belcher, Hector Lombard, Rousimar Palhares, Alexander Shlemenko, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
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