1. Anderson Silva (33-4)
If the champion himself is to be believed, Silva is going to spend much of 2013 on the sidelines. However, we should get a better picture of what plans “The Spider” really has early next year, as the outcome of January’s Michael Bisping-Vitor Belfort fight could put the fire to Silva’s feet.
2. Chael Sonnen (27-12-1)
Sonnen nearly sneaked his way into a UFC 151 title shot against light heavyweight king Jon Jones, but the champion balked at the fight on short notice. However, after Jones dispatched Vitor Belfort, the ever-talkative Sonnen managed to gab his way into a coaching spot on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 and a shot against “Bones” in April. Not bad for a guy who has not fought at 205 pounds in more than six years.
3. Chris Weidman (9-0)
Weidman had an ideal fight set for UFC 155 against potent veteran Tim Boetsch, a man who was unbeaten at middleweight. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury took the Serra-Longo Fight Team representative off of the Dec. 29 bill. That left Costantinos Philippou to face Boetsch and “The All-American” waiting until next year to build on his growing hype at 185 pounds.
4. Michael Bisping (23-4)
At UFC 152 in Toronto, Bisping was in the driver’s seat for most of his bout with Brian Stann, dictating the action en route to a unanimous decision. However, despite having 13 official UFC wins, “The Count” will still need at least one more bout to secure a date with Anderson Silva in the suddenly packed 185-pound division. He draws Vitor Belfort in the UFC on FX 7 main event in January.
5. Mark Munoz (12-3)
Munoz appeared on the brink of contention after four straight wins against Chris Leben, Demian Maia, C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson. The title talk came to a screeching halt on July 11, however, when the former Oklahoma State University wrestler was dealt a bloody knockout at the hands of unbeaten up-and-comer Chris Weidman.
6. Vitor Belfort (21-10)
Despite getting battered and submitted at UFC 152, the opportunistic Belfort surprised many onlookers by locking up an armbar on Jon Jones. That good grace should equate to some fan excitement when Belfort returns to 185 pounds for his main event matchup with Michael Bisping on Jan. 19.
7. Yushin Okami (28-7)
Okami did what Okami does at UFC 155. Japan’s top MMA export was back in fine form in his rematch with Alan Belcher, running a grappling clinic against the muay Thai stylist and securing a unanimous decision after three rounds.
8. Luke Rockhold (10-1)
Rockhold was scheduled to defend his Strikeforce middleweight title against Lorenz Larkin on Jan. 12, but, once again, the bout was nixed. This time, it was a wrist injury that put the champion on the sideline. Fortunately for Rockhold, it gives him time to heal before an inevitable UFC debut.
9. Brian Stann (12-5)
Stann came up short against Michael Bisping in September, but the Silver Star recipient’s high profile and action-oriented style will always keep him in big fights. Up next, Stann meets one of the most exciting fighters in MMA history, Wanderlei Silva, at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for UFC on Fuel TV 8 on March 3.
10. Constantinos Philippou (12-2, 1 NC)
Philippou enters the rankings after recording the most significant win of his career at UFC 155. Despite a strong start by opponent Tim Boetsch, Philippou stormed back in the latter periods, taking full advantage of a hand injury and vision-impairing cut on the forehead of “The Barbarian” to eventually punch out Boetsch in round three.
Other contenders:Tim Boetsch, Hector Lombard, Jake Shields, Alexander Shlemenko, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
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