1. Jose Aldo (21-1)
Though Jose Aldo has been a brilliant featherweight kingpin thus far, the Brazilian dynamo has had his injury woes. With the injury epidemic in MMA as of late, perhaps it is no surprise that “Scarface” got hit again. This time, a left thigh injury canceled Aldo’s slated July 21 title defense against Erik Koch, which figures to be rescheduled when Aldo heals up.
2. Hatsu Hioki (26-4-2)
The true top contender to Jose Aldo’s throne looked good in his February win over Bart Palaszewski, but it seems the timing wasn’t right for a title shot just yet. Instead, the “Son of Shooto” will go against unranked Ricardo Lamas on June 22 at UFC on FX 4.
3. Pat Curran (17-4)
One of the featherweight class’ hottest commodities finally has a date for his first Bellator title defense. Curran will look to follow up on his scintillating knockouts of Joe Warren and Marlon Sandro on Aug. 24 when he takes on fourth-season tournament winner Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.
4. Chad Mendes (11-1)
Mendes caught his first loss when he was out-struck and knocked flat by Jose Aldo in an ill-fated January title bid. The opponent will be much different next time out, as Mendes will have to concern himself with the signature guillotine of “TUF” alum Cody McKenzie at UFC 148.
5. Dennis Siver (20-8)
Dennis Siver looked pretty desperate on the scale before his featherweight debut against Diego Nunes at UFC on Fuel 2. However, a day later in Stockholm, the Russian-born, German-based fighter looked like his regular self, using sharp kicks and heavy hooks to pound out a unanimous verdict against crafty Brazilian Diego Nunes and announcing his arrival at 145 pounds.
6. Diego Nunes (17-3)
At UFC on Fuel 2 on April 14, Diego Nunes was once again called upon to test another notable lightweight cutting to 145 pounds, taking on Dennis Siver. In a hotly competitive, back-and-forth battle, Nunes came up just short against Siver, asserting himself as one of the featherweight division’s toughest fighters to compete against, regardless of the outcome.
7. Erik Koch (13-1)
The MMA gods giveth, but they taketh away just as fast. Erik Koch was granted a surprise title shot against Jose Aldo, slated for UFC 149 on July 21. However, with Aldo’s subsequent leg injury canceling the bout, Koch has stated he will wait on the sidelines until the Brazilian heals up.
8. Chan Sung Jung (13-3)
The “Korean Zombie” lived up to his name by walking through everything Dustin Poirier had to offer on May 15, then relieving the American of his consciousness with a fourth-round brabo choke. With his third straight win, Jung put himself into legitimate featherweight contention, emerging as more than just an “action fighter.”
9. Dustin Poirier (12-2)
The young man from Lafayette, La, was pegged as a future contender when he burst into the Octagon with an upset victory over Josh Grispi last January, and Poirier’s next three wins only served to reaffirm that notion. However, one win from a title shot, the “Diamond” proved a bit too rough, as Poirier succumbed to a fourth-round brabo choke from Chan Sung Jung in their May 15 encounter.
10. Daniel Straus (20-4)
One of MMA’s truest spoilers, Daniel Straus used his patented rough-and-tumble, grinding style to win Bellator’s Season 6 featherweight tournament, upsetting Marlon Sandro in the May 11 final. Now, the Cincinnati native can enjoy his summer as he waits to see whom he will challenge for the Bellator 145-pound title after champ Pat Curran and challenger Patricio Freire square off on Aug. 24.
Having announced his retirement from MMA, previously fifth-ranked Kenny Florian exits the top 10.
Other contenders:Iuri Alcantara, Patricio Freire, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Bart Palaszewski, Marlon Sandro.
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