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. Chad Mendes (14-1)
Mendes scored his third consecutive first-round knockout at UFC on Fox 7, ending the five-fight winning streak of fellow wrestler Darren Elkins in the process. Buoyed by the addition of head coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig to Team Alpha Male, Mendes appears to be on track to eventually securing a rematch with Jose Aldo, the man to whom he lost at UFC 142.
3. Pat Curran (19-4)
Curran solidified himself as one of Bellator’s stalwarts during the promotion’s Season 8 transition to Spike TV with a pair of 145-pound title defenses. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native took a solid five-round verdict over Patricio Freire on Jan. 17 before choking out Shahbulat Shamhalaev at Bellator 95. “Paddy Mike” will likely make his next title defense against Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus.
4. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
After impressive wins over Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch, Lamas was looking for a title shot against Jose Aldo, and rightfully so. Unfortunately for “The Bully” -- but fortunately for lovers of 145-pound violence -- he will first have to get through “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC 162 on July 6.
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 was set to build on that performance against fellow wrestler Chad Mendes at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20 before an injury put him on the shelf.
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; the bout has been rebooked for UFC 162 on July 6.
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. “The Carny” aims for his third straight triumph in his new weight class when he battles Hacran Diaz on May 18.
9. Chan Sung Jung (13-3)
Jung has been out of action since his May 2012 submission win over Dustin Poirier, and “The Korean Zombie” will not get a tune-up fight when he returns in July. At UFC 162, Jung is set to square off against the surging Ricardo Lamas in a bout which could net the winner a featherweight title shot.
10. Cub Swanson (19-5)
Wins over George Roop, Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier have Swanson on the precipice of featherweight title contention. The Jackson’s MMA product has been paired with Dennis Siver for a bout at UFC 162 on July 6.
Other contenders:Darren Elkins, Erik Koch, Diego Nunes, Dustin Poirier, Daniel Straus.
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