Cain Velasquez (top) | Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com
1. Cain Velasquez (9-0)
The hope was that Velasquez would make the first defense of his UFC heavyweight title in April or May against Junior dos Santos. However, rehab did not mend his torn rotator cuff, and surgery became a necessity. Therefore, the first defense of the new champion will likely come in the summer -- or later.
2. Brock Lesnar (5-2)
Following his lopsided loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121 in October, the next step for Lesnar remains unclear. UFC President Dana White started laying the groundwork for a rubber match with rival Frank Mir in the media, but fans and pundits alike were quick to skewer the bout, forcing White to publicly rethink the matchup. For now, Lesnar remains without a dance partner.
3. Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1)
On Aug. 18, Werdum underwent surgery and had 27 loose bone fragments removed from his left elbow. Now physically cleared to resume his training, the author of last year’s most significant upset now targets a return to action in the first quarter of 2011. He hopes to secure a fight outside of Strikeforce before meeting either Alistair Overeem or Fedor Emelianenko in a rematch.
4. Fedor Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC)
With just a few minor hitches to clear, Emelianenko should be good to go for a Feb. 12 bout against Antonio Silva that will kick off Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament in East Rutherford, N.J. It would end months of renegotiations between Emelianenko’s promoter, M-1 Global, Strikeforce and Showtime.
5. Junior dos Santos (12-1)
Cain Velasquez’s shoulder injury means dos Santos will have to wait for a crack at the UFC title. However, “Cigano” has expressed his desire to say active and fight for an interim title while Velasquez mends over the first half of 2011.
6. Shane Carwin (12-1)
Carwin was scheduled to face “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson at UFC 125 on Jan. 1. However, due to ongoing spinal problems, he opted for surgery. After a successful procedure, the Colorado native looks to get back into training sometime in early 2011.
7. Frank Mir (14-5)
At UFC 119, Mir and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic underwhelmed the Indianapolis crowd for 14 minutes with a dreadful exhibition of aimless clinching. Finally, with just 58 ticks left in the fight, Mir landed a colossal knee that crushed the Croat, notching one of the least impressive highlight-reel KOs in recent memory. A rumored bout with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub appears to have fallen through, leaving Mir’s next step uncertain.
8. Alistair Overeem (34-11, 1 NC)
The MMA world expected Overeem to have little trouble dealing with UFC veteran Todd Duffee on New Year’s Eve. However, few realized how short and brutal it would be. It took Overeem a knee to the body, two hooks and just 19 seconds to lay waste to Duffee and pick up Dream’s interim heavyweight title.
9. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1, 1 NC)
“Minotauro” continues to mend from the hip surgery that took him out of a rematch with Frank Mir in September. Nogueira now targets August’s UFC show in Rio de Janeiro as his desired comeback date, which would be a fitting return for one of Brazil’s greatest MMA idols.
10. Antonio Silva (15-2)
A slated Feb. 12 bout with Fedor Emelianenko appears to be all but official now. The bout, set to take place in East Rutherford, N.J., would help kick off the heavyweight tournament with which Strikeforce hopes to anchor its cards in the first half of 2011.
Other contenders: Josh Barnett, Cole Konrad, Roy Nelson, Ben Rothwell, Brendan Schaub.
Continue Reading » Page Three: Light Heavyweight Rankings