1. Chris Weidman (10-0)
While many expected the “All-American” to use his wrestling and grappling skills to dethrone Anderson Silva, it was the New Yorker’s hands that ushered in a new era at UFC 162. Unfazed by Silva’s showboating, Weidman pressed forward and dropped the future hall of famer with a left hook in the second round. A series of heavy ground strikes clinched the victory for Weidman, who is now unbeaten in six Octagon appearances. The newly minted champion is open to a rematch with Silva, but if the Brazilian is not interested in such a matchup, there figures to be no shortage of new challengers for the belt.
2. Anderson Silva (33-5)
All good things must come to an end, including the extended reign of a seemingly invincible champion. At UFC 162, Silva met an opponent who was neither afraid of his mystique nor outclassed by his skill, and the results were simultaneously shocking and spectacular. Chris Weidman, driven by Silva’s clowning antics, stopped the Brazilian with a left hook and follow-up punches 1:18 into the second round of their 185-pound title clash. While a rematch is there if he wants it, Silva’s initial plans are to take several months off before plotting his next move.
3. Vitor Belfort (23-10)
Belfort might have locked up “Knockout of the Year” honors for 2013 at UFC on FX 8, where he blasted former Strikeforce 185-pound king Luke Rockhold with a spectacular spinning heel kick in the opening frame of their main-event matchup. While the Brazilian’s recent surge has been clouded by questions regarding his use of testosterone replacement therapy, dominant wins over Rockhold and Michael Bisping this year make it difficult to deny “The Phenom” another shot at middleweight gold.
4. Yushin Okami (29-7)
Japan’s top MMA export scored a major win in front of a partisan crowd on March 3, stifling the dangerous striking of Hector Lombard with two rounds of top control at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in Saitama, Japan. A rumored bout against another veteran of the Japanese MMA scene, Dream vet and former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, has been made official for UFC on Fox Sports 1 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in September.
5. Michael Bisping (24-5)
After having his title hopes dashed by Vitor Belfort in January, “The Count” got right back on track with a victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 159. The bout came to an unfortunate and early end when Bisping caught Belcher with an eye poke in round three, but by then, the Brit had outworked “The Talent” enough to earn a unanimous technical decision and keep his name among the middleweight elite.
6. Mark Munoz (13-3)
A devastating knockout loss to Chris Weidman and a lingering foot injury had Munoz on the figurative ropes for much of the past year, but the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” returned to top form against Tim Boetsch at UFC 162. Utilizing his trademark “Donkey Kong” ground-and-pound, the Reign MMA product battered Boetsch for the better part of three rounds to capture a clear-cut unanimous verdict and return to the ranks of middleweight contenders.
7. Luke Rockhold (10-2)
Rockhold met an abrupt and violent end in his Octagon debut, falling victim to a Vitor Belfort spinning heel kick in the UFC on FX 8 headliner. The loss ended a nine-fight winning streak for the American Kickboxing Academy representative, who had not tasted defeat since 2007.
8. Brian Stann (12-6)
After a September decision loss to perennial top 10 middleweight Michael Bisping, Stann moved up to 205 pounds for a headlining match against Wanderlei Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 8. While the U.S. Marine likely gained fans for his part in a frantic slugfest, it was Silva who ultimately landed the home run shot and handed Stann just the second knockout loss of his career.
9. Costas Philippou (12-2, 1 NC)
Philippou formally announced his presence in the middleweight division with a TKO triumph over Tim Boetsch at UFC 155; it was his fifth consecutive victory in the promotion. Since then, Philippou withdrew from a UFC on FX 8 meeting with Ronaldo Souza and parted ways with the Serra-Longo Fight Team, his longtime camp. A fall showdown with Michael Bisping in Manchester has been rumored, though nothing is official.
10. Ronaldo Souza (18-3, 1 NC)
Since losing his Strikeforce belt to Luke Rockhold, “Jacare” has been on a roll, finishing his next four opponents in dominant fashion. Most recently, Souza put on a grappling clinic against Chris Camozzi in his first UFC outing, submitting the Coloradan with an arm-triangle choke in the first round at UFC on FX 8. A showdown with former No. 1 contender Yushin Okami is on tap for UFC on Fox Sports 1 in Brazil in September.
Other contenders:Tim Boetsch, Francis Carmont, Mamed Khalidov, Hector Lombard, Alexander Shlemenko.
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