1. Georges St. Pierre (24-2)
GSP made good on his well-publicized promise to put a beating on Nick Diaz at UFC 158, neutralizing the Californian’s boxing with relentless takedowns, top control and ground-and-pound across 25 minutes. St. Pierre’s next UFC title defense will be against brick-fisted wrestler Johny Hendricks at UFC 167.
2. Johny Hendricks (15-1)
Hendricks never could put away the notoriously durable Carlos Condit during their 15-minute encounter at UFC 158, but the former Oklahoma State University wrestling stud landed more than enough of his trademark left hands to secure a unanimous decision. Next, Hendricks will get his desired title shot against Georges St. Pierre in the fall.
3. Carlos Condit (28-7)
Condit had a disappointing Octagon debut, falling to Martin Kampmann via split decision at UFC Fight Night 18 in 2009. More than four years later, “The Natural Born Killer” gets his opportunity for revenge against the Dane at the UFC’s second Fox Sports 1 event on Aug. 28.
4. Nick Diaz (26-9, 1 ND)
Since failing in his attempt to wrest the welterweight strap from Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158, Diaz has elected to try his hand as an MMA promoter. His first event, War MMA 1, took place on June 22 in Stockton, Calif., and received mostly positive reviews. There is no hint as to whether the Cesar Gracie understudy will emerge from retirement to compete in the Octagon again, however.
5. Demian Maia (18-4)
Suffice it to say that Maia could be a problem for the rest of the welterweight division. The former middleweight standout is now 3-0 at 170 pounds after running a grappling clinic on perennial top 10 entrant Jon Fitch en route to a unanimous decision at UFC 156. Next, Maia faces another decorated wrestler in Josh Koscheck at UFC 163.
6. Martin Kampmann (20-6)
After 12 months spent clawing his way into contention with three straight wins over quality welterweights, Kampmann’s title hopes were dashed in less than a minute by the heavy left hand of Johny Hendricks at UFC 154. The Danish “Hitman” looks to get back into the win column -- and go 2-for-2 against Carlos Condit in the process -- at UFC on Fox Sports 1 in Indianapolis on Aug. 28.
7. Jake Ellenberger (29-6)
Ellenberger gave former UFC middleweight contender and Strikeforce welterweight titlist Nate Marquardt a rude welcome in Marquardt’s return to the Octagon, disposing of “The Great” with a brutal barrage of punches in exactly three minutes at UFC 158. The Nebraskan will next lock horns with one of the division’s most promising talents, Rory MacDonald, at UFC on Fox 8.
8. Ben Askren (11-0)
Askren quieted some of his critics on Jan. 24 by finally finishing a challenger to his Bellator MMA title inside the scheduled five rounds. The “Funky” wrestler from the University of Missouri spent three rounds grounding, pounding and battering Karl Amoussou before the cageside physician put an end to the Frenchman’s suffering. Next up for Askren is a title defense against seventh-season tournament winner Andrey Koreshkov on July 31.
9. Rory MacDonald (14-1)
A neck injury derailed MacDonald’s plans for avenging a UFC 115 loss to Carlos Condit in March. Instead of squaring off with the “Natural Born Killer,” the Tristar Gym representative gets a different top 10 foe -- the heavy-handed Jake Ellenberger -- at UFC on Fox 8 on July 27.
10. Josh Burkman (26-9)
Burkman has been on a roll since parting ways with the UFC after a loss to Pete Sell in 2008. The Pit Elevated Fight Team product has won eight of his last nine bouts -- and he seems to be getting better with age. “The People’s Warrior” has knocked off UFC veterans Gerald Harris, Aaron Simpson and Jon Fitch in three World Series of Fighting appearances, polishing off Simpson and Fitch in a combined 3:45.
Other contenders:Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Robbie Lawler, Mike Pierce, Tarec Saffiedine.
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