1. Chris Weidman (11-0)Weidman cemented his spot atop the middleweight division with a second consecutive triumph over Anderson Silva in the UFC 168 main event. After nearly finishing “The Spider” in the opening frame, the Serra-Longo Fight Team standout checked a kick which would result in a gruesomely fractured leg for Silva, ending the bout 1:16 into the second round. Weidman is expected to make his second title defense against Vitor Belfort in Las Vegas in May or July.
2. Anderson Silva (33-6)Nobody wanted to see Anderson Silva’s night end the way it did at UFC 168, as the longtime pound-for-pound king suffered a broken left leg when Chris Weidman checked a kick during the second round of their headlining matchup. The Brazilian underwent emergency surgery following the bout and is expected to make a full recovery. Whether that includes an eventual return to the Octagon is currently unknown.
3. Vitor Belfort (24-10)When he is on his game, there may be no more frightening fighter than Belfort, who garnered a trio of highlight-reel head kick knockouts in 2013. Even with the controversy regarding his use of testosterone replacement therapy swirling around him, dominant wins over Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson have earned “The Phenom” a shot at reigning middleweight champion Chris Weidman. The bout is expect to take place in Las Vegas in May or July.
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. “Jacare” will look to continue his climb up the middleweight ranks when he squares off with Francis Carmont at UFC Fight Night 36.
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 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 sometime early this year, perhaps when the promotion heads to Japan.
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. As usual, there will be no shortage of foes looking to make a name against Bisping when he does return.
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 will next square off with former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi on Feb. 8.
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. The American Kickboxing Academy standout has been booked for a Jan. 15 return in Atlanta, where he will face Costas Philippou in the UFC Fight Night 35 headliner.
10. Mamed Khalidov (28-4-2)In the last three years, Khalidov has added a slew of notable names to his resume: 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. Most recently, Khalidov submitted Ryuta Sakurai at KSW 25 on Dec. 7.
Other Contenders: Tim Boetsch, Francis Carmont, Tim Kennedy, Costas Philippou, Alexander Shlemenko.
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