1. Jose Aldo (21-1)
Injuries derailed planned Aldo fights against Erik Koch and Frankie Edgar in the second half of 2012. Barring any unforeseen setback, the UFC’s 145-pound ruler will put his 14-fight winning streak on the line against former lightweight king Frankie Edgar at UFC 156 on Feb. 2.
2. Pat Curran (17-4)
It seems like there is always tough luck for Bellator’s 145-pound division. The latest rash of unfortunate circumstances comes courtesy of incumbent champion Curran, who suffered a broken orbital bone two weeks out from his slated Aug. 24 title defense against Patricio Freire, putting yet another Bellator 145-pound title fight on ice for the time being.
3. Chad Mendes (12-1)
Mendes’ first post-Jose Aldo bout was a gimme, as he socked Cody McKenzie in a mere 31 seconds. The next outing for “Money” is a much tougher assignment, however, as he meets once-beaten Nova Uniao standout Hacran Dias at UFC on FX 6 on Dec. 15 in Australia.
4. Ricardo Lamas (12-2)
Lamas earned the biggest victory of his career at UFC on FX 4, where he took a unanimous decision over the highly regarded Hatsu Hioki. The Chicagoan will attempt to continue his ascent up the divisional ladder against fellow title hopeful Erik Koch at UFC on Fox 6 at Chicago’s United Center.
5. Hatsu Hioki (26-5-2)
The former Shooto world champion appeared to be on the brink of challenging Jose Aldo before an upset loss to Ricardo Lamas in June knocked him from his perch as the No. 2 featherweight in the world. The Japanese fighter will welcome Clay Guida to 145 pounds at UFC on Fox 6.
6. Dennis Siver (20-8)
After a successful 145-pound debut against Diego Nunes in April, Siver was penciled in for UFC 151 action against Eddie Yagin in September. With the card’s cancellation, the Russian-born German’s bout with “The Filipino Phenom” was rescheduled for the UFC on Fox 5 bill. However, Yagin withdrew from the Dec. 8 bout, so Siver will instead face “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 alumnus Nam Phan.
7. Diego Nunes (18-3)
In his Oct. 5 outing against Bart Palaszewski, “The Gun” showed his heaviest artillery to date, absolutely destroying the battle-tested veteran with a bevy of knockdowns and spinning strikes. The Brazilian will try to build upon that performance in his home country when he squares off with Nik Lentz at UFC on FX 7.
8. Erik Koch (13-1)
Koch was to have faced Jose Aldo twice in 2012: at UFC 149 and at UFC 153. Of course, the injury gods had other ideas, and now “New Breed” will have to earn his way back to the No. 1 contender’s spot, beginning with a pivotal bout against Ricardo Lamas at UFC on Fox 6 in January.
9. 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 before 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.”
10. Dustin Poirier (12-2)
Poirier saw a five-fight winning streak come to a screeching halt in May, when Chan Sung Jung submitted the Louisiana native with a fourth-round brabo choke at UFC on Fuel TV 3. “The Diamond” will try to return to his winning ways against “The Ultimate Fighter 12” winner Jonathan Brookins at the “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale on Dec. 15.
Other contenders:Iuri Alcantara, Hacran Dias, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Daniel Straus, Cub Swanson.
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