Georges St. Pierre | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
1. Georges St. Pierre (21-2)
St. Pierre has proven sterling in Montreal, where he has bashed Matt Serra and Josh Koscheck. Next for “Rush” will be Toronto on April 30, when he will defend his welterweight crown against Jake Shields in the main event of UFC 129 in front of what figures to be a massive crowd at the Rogers Centre.
2. Jon Fitch (23-3, 1 NC)
After besting Thiago Alves for a second time, Fitch was hopeful he would get another crack at the UFC welterweight crown. That opportunity will be going to Jake Shields. Instead of another title shot, Fitch draws former two-division champion B.J. Penn at UFC 127 on Feb. 27 in Sydney, Australia.
3. Thiago Alves (18-7)
Alves did not have much time to savor his win over John Howard at UFC 124 before his name was right back on the UFC docket. “Pitbull” is scheduled for a return in May, when he expects to meet surging welterweight contender Rick Story in a high-stakes bout at 170 pounds.
4. Jake Shields (26-4-1)
Shields made the jump from Strikeforce to the UFC because he felt it was the best way for him to prove his mettle against the world’s best fighters. He will get the ultimate chance to do just that on April 30, when he challenges Georges St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight crown at UFC 129 in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
5. Josh Koscheck (15-5)
It was 25 long, hard minutes for Koscheck at UFC 124 in Montreal. Georges St. Pierre crushed him with his jab for the balance of the five-round encounter. Koscheck suffered a break to his orbital bone, which required surgery after the bout and will keep him out of the cage for at least the first quarter of 2011.
6. Martin Kampmann (17-4)
In October, Kampmann earned props from the MMA world for his split decision loss to Jake Shields in a fight many feel he won. MMA’s foremost Dane has been rewarded with a major bout, as he will meet Diego Sanchez in a welterweight tilt at UFC Live 3 on March 3 in Louisville, Ky.
7. Carlos Condit (26-5)
Condit’s resurgent 2010 campaign has earned him an all-action fight to kick off 2011. At UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia, the “Natural Born Killer” will take on free-swinging veteran Chris Lytle in a fight that promises wild action and bears welterweight contender consequences.
8. Dan Hardy (23-8, 1 NC)
After ripping off four straight wins to begin his tenure in the Octagon, Hardy was bested in both of his 2010 outings. “The Outlaw” will look to start 2011 off on a more productive note come March 26, when he welcomes back serious hitter Anthony Johnson at UFC Fight Night 24.
9. Nick Diaz (23-7, 1 ND)
It is not exactly the fight for which fans were clamoring. However, Diaz will return to action and defend his Strikeforce welterweight crown in San Jose, Calif., on Jan. 29, when he takes on Brazilian brawler Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in a fight that should provide fireworks while it lasts.
10. Paul Daley (26-9-2)
On Dec. 4, Daley blew away Scott Smith with one of the year’s most vicious knockouts. Immediately after the fight, he called out K.J. Noons, in hopes of getting another striking-oriented matchup that would help him jump forward into a potential Strikeforce welterweight title fight in 2011.
Other contenders: Ben Askren, Jake Ellenberger, John Hathaway, Jay Hieron, Mike Pyle.
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