1. Cain Velasquez (11-1)
It went the full five rounds, but the outcome of Velasquez’s rematch with Junior dos Santos at UFC 155 was really never in question, as the former Arizona State Sun Devil battered and outwrestled the Brazilian throughout to earn a unanimous decision. Next, the champion looks to author a reprisal to last year’s one-sided beatdown of Antonio Silva at UFC 160 in May.
2. Junior dos Santos (15-2)
Known for his crisp, powerful boxing, dos Santos was never able to find a rhythm in a lopsided loss to Cain Velasquez in December. The Brazilian’s quest for a third meeting with the champion begins at UFC 160 on May 25, when he squares off with unlikely contender Mark Hunt, a replacement for the injured Alistair Overeem.
3. Fabricio Werdum (16-5-1)
In his first fight on home soil in eight years, Werdum was sensational at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. “Vai Cavalo” stormed Mike Russow out of the gate, knocking him down and out in a little more than two minutes. Werdum now finds himself on the cusp of serious UFC title contention. His next assignment will come in a rematch with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira after the two men coach opposite one another on “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 2.
4. Daniel Cormier (12-0)
It might not have been the most spectacular of beginnings, but Cormier dominated former heavyweight king Frank Mir from bell to bell in his Octagon debut at UFC on Fox 7. If American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez continues his reign in the division, Cormier could target an eventual move to 205 pounds.
5. Antonio Silva (18-4)
While some observers viewed Silva’s Feb. 2 fight with Alistair Overeem as a prelude to an Overeem-Cain Velasquez title fight, “Bigfoot” proved he is not one to be overlooked. Silva spent two rough rounds standing with Overeem before surging back in the third to score a crushing knockout. That upset earned Silva a rematch with Velasquez -- who demolished the Brazilian grappler last May -- at UFC 160.
6. Alistair Overeem (36-12, 1 NC)
After returning to the Octagon from a year-long suspension, Overeem’s arrogance led to his demise in the form of a third-round knockout loss to Antonio Silva at UFC 156. The former Strikeforce heavyweight champion was set for another marquee matchup against Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 before an injury led to the Dutchman’s withdrawal.
7. Frank Mir (16-7)
Mir relocated his camp to Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts prior to facing Daniel Cormier at UFC on Fox 7. Despite the change, the Las Vegas resident struggled to mount anything in the way of meaningful offense against the Strikeforce import, as Cormier controlled much of the bout in the clinch. On the heels of back-to-back losses to two of the division’s best -- Cormier and Junior dos Santos -- Mir’s next move is uncertain, but he has stated that he will continue to train at the Albuquerque, N.M.-based camp.
8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-7-1, 1 NC)
Though he was expected to triumph, “Minotauro” nonetheless thrilled the fans inside HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 153, easily besting an overmatched Dave Herman on the feet before tapping him with an armbar in the second round. Nogueira may be in the twilight of his career, but as Brazil’s most beloved MMA fighter, the ultra-popular former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder will keep catching marquee fights in the UFC. He will next face Fabricio Werdum in a rematch in June following their stint as opposing coaches on Season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”
9. Josh Barnett (32-6)
After his eight-fight winning streak was snapped by Daniel Cormier in May, “The Warmaster” had something to prove in his Jan. 12 return. He did exactly that, thoroughly outclassing Nandor Guelmino and exiting Strikeforce with a first-round submission win. Barnett has since rejected a contract offer from the UFC, and his next destination remains unknown.
10. Mark Hunt (9-7)
Pride and K-1 veteran Hunt seemed like an afterthought when he entered the UFC on a five-fight skid in September 2010 and was promptly submitted by Sean McCorkle. Since then, the 38-year-old “Super Samoan” has rattled off four wins in a row -- the longest current winning streak in the UFC heavyweight division. Hunt will look to make his name as a true contender when he meets former champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 on May 25.
Other contenders:Travis Browne, Gabriel Gonzaga, Stipe Miocic, Roy Nelson, Stefan Struve.
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