1. Jose Aldo (22-1)
Try as they might, challengers keep coming up short in their quest to dethrone the Brazilian prince atop the featherweight division. Aldo’s active and precise striking faded in the championship rounds of his latest title defense at UFC 156, but by the time Frankie Edgar really got going, the champion had already racked up enough points to earn a unanimous nod. Next up for Aldo is another 155-pound crossover: former WEC lightweight titlist Anthony Pettis.
2. Pat Curran (18-4)
Curran kicked off Bellator’s Season 8 debut on Spike with a solid five-round verdict over Patricio Freire on Jan. 17. Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus was next in line to face the Crystal Lake, Ill., native before breaking his hand. Curran will now battle Season 7 champion Shahbulat Shamhalaev at Bellator 95 on April 4.
3. Chad Mendes (13-1)
A late injury withdrawal by Manny Gamburyan left Mendes without an opponent at UFC 157, but the Team Alpha Male product will not have too long to dwell on his misfortune. “Money” returns to the Octagon on April 20, when he faces former lightweight staple Clay Guida at UFC on Fox 7.
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 Jose Aldo’s UFC belt, but with other contenders waiting in the wings, “The Bully” may need a few more victims.
5. Clay Guida (30-13)
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 on Jan. 26 in Chicago. Guida will look to build on that performance against fellow wrestler Chad Mendes at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20.
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, as 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 the 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 in May 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. Cub Swanson (19-5)
The hits just keep on coming for Swanson, who has seemingly put a run of injury-plagued misfortune behind him since signing with the UFC. The Jackson’s MMA member gave an action-packed effort in earning a unanimous decision victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel TV 7, scoring his fourth consecutive win inside the Octagon.
Other contenders:Darren Elkins, Erik Koch, Diego Nunes, Dustin Poirier, Daniel Straus.
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