1. Chris Weidman (10-0)
The “All-American” shocked the world when he knocked out Anderson Silva in the second round of the UFC 162 headliner. The New Yorker brushed aside Silva’s taunts to drop the future hall of famer with a left hook before finishing the contest with follow-up punches on the ground. Now the newly minted champion must prove he can pull off the improbable twice, as a rematch with “The Spider” has been booked for UFC 168 on Dec. 28.
2. Anderson Silva (33-5)
While Silva’s place as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound greats is already secure, his curious performance in losing the middleweight crown to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 left many feeling unsatisfied. How would “The Spider” fare if he had taken a more serious, respectful approach against the challenger? That answer could come by year’s end, when Silva rematches Weidman at UFC 168 in a bout UFC President Dana White is touting as the biggest of all-time.
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. With dominant wins over Rockhold and Michael Bisping thus far in 2013, “The Phenom” believes he deserves nothing less than a title shot, but those dreams will have to wait until at least 2014. In the meantime, he will lock horns with Dan Henderson in a light heavyweight bout on Nov. 9.
4. Ronaldo Souza (19-3, 1 NC)
Souza was expected to face one of the most difficult tests of his career against Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night 28, but in stopping “Thunder” with a massive overhand right and follow-up strikes inside of a round, the Brazilian made things look remarkably easy. Already recognized as one the premier grapplers in the sport, the burgeoning knockout power of “Jacare” should make him even more of a force to be reckoned with in the division.
5. Yushin Okami (29-8)
Known for his grinding style, Okami was never able to get on track against Ronaldo Souza at UFC Fight Night 28. While Souza’s first-round stoppage of the former middleweight No. 1 contender was certainly surprising, few expected that it would prompt Okami’s release from the UFC. “Thunder” was not a free agent for long, however, as he inked a deal with the Las Vegas-based World Series of Fighting shortly thereafter. Okami’s WSOF debut is likely to come early next year.
6. 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. In an unfortunate turn of events, a detached retina forced Bisping out of proposed showdown with Mark Munoz in Manchester. Though his return date remains unknown, Bisping recently took to Twitter to express interest in a bout with Nick Diaz.
7. Lyoto Machida (20-4)
In his middleweight debut, Machida did his best to erase the memory of a disappointing and controversial loss to Phil Davis at UFC 163. “The Dragon” was brutally efficient in dispatching Mark Munoz with a head kick 3:10 into the opening frame of their UFC Fight Night 30 headliner. The rejuvenated Brazilian figures to face another top 10 opponent upon his return to the Octagon.
8. Mark Munoz (13-4)
After a year away from the cage, Munoz made a triumphant return to action in July with a dominant victory over Tim Boetsch at UFC 162. That momentum was abruptly halted by divisional newcomer Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 30, as “The Dragon” knocked out “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” with a devastating head kick a little more than three minutes into their matchup.
9. Luke Rockhold (10-2)
The injury woes continue for the former Strikeforce 185-pound champion, as a knee injury forced Rockhold to withdraw from a UFC 166 encounter with Tim Boetsch. Rockhold expects to be cleared and ready to fight as early as December, and the American Kickboxing Academy product has already begun angling for a matchup with streaking Tristar Gym standout Francis Carmont.
10. Mamed Khalidov (27-4-2)
In the last three years, Khalidov has added a slew of notable names to his résumé: Matt Lindland, Melvin Manhoef, Kendall Grove and Jesse Taylor all have been submitted by the versatile Chechen. Rumors of negotiations with the UFC and Bellator MMA surface intermittently, but for now, the 33-year-old continues to compete against former big-show fighters in his home promotion, KSW.
Other contenders:Tim Boetsch, Francis Carmont, Tim Kennedy, Costas Philippou, Alexander Shlemenko.
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