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 Edgar at UFC 156 on Feb. 2.
2. Pat Curran (18-4)
The last time Curran fought for 25 minutes, it was at 155 pounds, in a gritty but ultimately unsuccessful 2011 performance against Eddie Alvarez. This time, Curran was defending his Bellator 145-pound title, and his Jan. 17 five-rounder against Patricio Freire was an impressive one. The Illinois native used sharp boxing to batter Freire and retain his title, clearing the way for Curran’s next defense against Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus.
3. Chad Mendes (13-1)
Though originally scheduled for more meaningful action against Nova Uniao product Hacran Dias at UFC on FX 6, Mendes made the best of things with a first-round knockout of late replacement Yaotzin Meza. Next up for “Money” is a UFC 157 showdown with fellow WEC import Manny Gamburyan.
4. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
Perhaps Lamas should consider changing his nickname to “The Spoiler.” After taking out touted Japanese standout Hatsu Hioki in June, Lamas blasted through another featherweight contender on Jan. 26, this time mauling Erik Koch with elbows in a gruesome second-round stoppage. Afterward, Lamas asked for a shot at the UFC belt, but with Jose Aldo currently occupied and more contenders waiting in the wings, “The Bully” may need a few more victims.
5. Clay Guida (30-13)
Meet the new Clay Guida, same as the old Clay Guida. A drop to 145 pounds seemed to have no effect on the frenetic “Carpenter,” who repeatedly grounded and occasionally pounded Hatsu Hioki in a controversial, three-round split decision Jan. 26 in Chicago.
6. Hatsu Hioki (26-6-2)
Hioki’s active guard work was not enough to sway the judges in a three-round split decision loss to Clay Guida on Jan. 26. After debuting in the UFC with back-to-back wins, the “Son of Shooto” has fallen from the rank of top contender with consecutive decision defeats to Guida and Ricardo Lamas.
7. Dennis Siver (21-8)
In his second 145-pound outing, Siver was simply overwhelming. The German-based Russian pulverized Nam Phan at UFC on Fox 5. Siver was expected to meet Cub Swanson in February but withdrew for unknown reasons and was replaced by Dustin Poirier.
8. Nik Lentz (23-5-2, 1 NC)
Lentz continues to impress at 145 pounds. On Jan. 19, in his second featherweight outing, the American Top Team representative used stifling wrestling and grinding ground-and-pound to neutralize previously ranked Diego Nunes at UFC on FX 7.
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. Erik Koch (13-2)
After multiple missed meetings with featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo in 2012, Koch found himself standing across the cage from Ricardo Lamas on Jan. 26. Things did not go well for the Roufusport youngster, who was bloodied and beaten by a series of second-round elbows that effectively ended Koch’s title hopes for the time being.
Other contenders:Darren Elkins, Diego Nunes, Dustin Poirier, Daniel Straus, Cub Swanson.
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