1. Chris Weidman (12-0)Weidman’s first title defense since back-to-back bouts with Anderson Silva could hardly have gone better. In fighting a full 25 minutes with former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, the Serra-Longo Fight Team product showcased not only his potent striking and takedowns but also a gritty resolve, as he weathered a fifth-round surge from the challenger. Weidman will take on yet another Brazilian challenger when he faces Vitor Belfort, though the bout has been pushed from December to February due to a hand injury suffered by the champion.
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. “The Spider” recently took another major step towards a return to the Octagon, as he was booked for a showdown with Nick Diaz in January.
3. Vitor Belfort (24-10)Belfort will get his shot at UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman -- only six months after it was originally scheduled. The surging “Phenom” withdrew from UFC 173 after the Nevada Athletic Commission instituted a ban on testosterone replacement therapy. Now finished with TRT, Belfort has been granted a provisional license by the NAC which will allow him to meet Weidman in February.
4. Ronaldo Souza (21-3, 1 NC)Souza avenged his 2008 loss to Gegard Mousasi with a third-round guillotine choke submission on Sept. 5 at a UFC Fight Night event in Connecticut. Unbeaten through four UFC appearances and currently riding a seven-fight winning streak, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace is angling for a chance at the middleweight crown, though UFC President Dana White stated that Souza will likely fight again before a potential title shot.
5. Luke Rockhold (13-2)The former Strikeforce middleweight champ silenced Michael Bisping in style on Nov. 7, dazing the Englishman with a head kick before finishing the fight with a one-arm, topside guillotine choke. In becoming the first man to submit the 10-year veteran, Rockhold made a strong case for placement in a future title eliminator bout.
6. Lyoto Machida (21-5)By the time “The Dragon” got fired up in his July 5 title bout against Chris Weidman, it was already too late. Machida dropped three rounds to the UFC middleweight champ before turning up the heat in rounds four and five, ultimately falling short on the judges’ scorecards. It was the former light heavyweight titlist’s first defeat at 185 pounds, having previously taken out Gegard Mousasi and Mark Munoz. Machida will try to get back on track on home soil against C.B. Dollaway on Dec. 20 in Brazil.
7. Yoel Romero (9-1)While Romero’s apparent inability to answer the bell for round three of his UFC 178 meeting with Tim Kennedy remains a controversial topic, what happened when the final round got under way is indisputable. Beaten to within inches of a stoppage only moments before, Romero clobbered Kennedy with a right hand and drubbed the American on the floor to force a stoppage less than one minute into the last frame. The former Olympic wrestler is now 5-0 in the UFC, with four wins by way of knockout.
8. Tim Kennedy (18-5)Kennedy’s first Octagon defeat could hardly have come under more controversial circumstances, but it was a defeat nonetheless. After being walloped by Yoel Romero in the first round of their UFC 178 encounter and then coming back to hurt the “Soldier of God” in round two, Kennedy met his end under a hailstorm of punches just 58 seconds into the final frame. The loss derails the Jackson-Wink MMA product, who began his UFC run with three straight victories.
9. Gegard Mousasi (35-5-2)A lot can change in six years, and Mousasi found that out the hard way when he rematched Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Sept. 5. Souza, the man the Dutchman knocked out to win the 2008 Dream middleweight grand prix, rolled over “The Dreamcatcher” en route to a third-round submission, bringing Mousasi’s Octagon record to 2-2.
10. Yushin Okami (30-8)Okami’s debut with the World Series of Fighting went about as one might expect. Matched with the relatively unknown Svetlozar Savov at WSOF 9, the former UFC title contender dominated his overmatched foe before finishing the contest with an arm-triangle choke in the second round. Okami will go for WSOF gold when he challenges champion David Branch on Nov. 15.
Other Contenders: Michael Bisping, C.B. Dollaway, Brandon Halsey, Mamed Khalidov, Thales Leites.
Continue Reading » Welterweight