1. Benson Henderson (17-2)
The second go-around with Frankie Edgar was even more contentious than the first, but Henderson managed to get his hand raised by split decision in Denver and retain the UFC lightweight title. The 155-pound king is slotted in to main-event UFC on Fox 5 on Dec. 8 against dangerous challenger Nate Diaz.
2. Frankie Edgar (14-3-1)
Edgar’s 145-pound debut was delayed when injuries from a motorcycle accident forced reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo out of their UFC 153 scrap. Assuming both parties stay healthy, the highly anticipated confrontation will now take place on Super Bowl weekend in the UFC 156 headliner.
3. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)
It is no secret that “El Nino” has been waiting for the day when he could test the waters of the UFC’s loaded lightweight division. After one final Strikeforce title defense against Pat Healy on Jan. 12, the promotion will close up shop for good. Then Melendez will finally get that opportunity.
4. Gray Maynard (11-1-1, 1 NC)
Maynard re-established himself as a 155-pound contender with a somewhat frustrating victory over Clay Guida in June. His road to a third UFC lightweight title shot hit an unexpected bump, however, when a knee injury forced the Xtreme Couture representative to withdraw from a UFC 155 clash against Joe Lauzon.
5. Nate Diaz (16-7)
Diaz’s decision to wait for the winner of Benson Henderson-Frankie Edgar 2 proved wise. With Henderson getting his hand raised at UFC 150, he is now signed on to defend his UFC lightweight title against Diaz, who will make his second headlining appearance on network television at UFC on Fox 5 on Dec. 8.
6. Jim Miller (21-4)
After going more than two years between losses, the younger of New Jersey’s fighting Miller brothers has dropped two of his last three starts. Miller will step in on short notice for the injured Gray Maynard and attempt to end his mini-slump against Joe Lauzon at UFC 155 on Dec. 29.
7. Clay Guida (29-13)
After a solid run at 155 pounds in the UFC, Guida has elected to try his hand at featherweight. “The Carpenter” will not get to ease his way into the division, however, as he faces the world-ranked Hatsu Hioki at UFC on Fox 6 in Guida’s hometown of Chicago.
8. Anthony Pettis (15-2)
After a lengthy layoff due to a shoulder injury, business is picking up for the flashy WEC veteran. Pettis has become a part owner of longtime training home Roufusport, and he will finally get the chance to settle his feud with Donald Cerrone on Jan. 26 at UFC on Fox 6.
9. Donald Cerrone (19-4, 1 NC)
Cerrone had plenty of hostile words for Anthony Pettis as a shoulder injury kept “Showtime”on the shelf. The verbal sparring will end on Jan. 26, as Cerrone locks horns with Pettis at UFC on Fox 6 in a bout with No. 1 contender implications.
10 Michael Chandler (10-0)
Bellator’s lightweight ace did exactly what was expected of him in his May 5 non-title bout, sending Japanese vet Akihiro Gono into retirement with a 56-second demolition. Chandler will get a much stiffer test in his as-yet-unscheduled first title defense, which will see the NCAA wrestling standout clash with Olympic judoka and sixth-season tournament winner Rick Hawn.
Other contenders:Shinya Aoki, Eddie Alvarez, Rick Hawn, Pat Healy, Joe Lauzon.
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