Anderson Silva (right) will seek redemption against Yushin Okami. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
1. Anderson Silva (28-4)
On Feb. 5, “The Spider” silenced critics with a masterful, first-round knockout of countryman Vitor Belfort. On Aug. 27 in Rio de Janeiro, he will have a chance to avenge the last loss on his ledger when he rematches top contender Yushin Okami, who famously earned a disqualification win over Silva in 2006.
2. Chael Sonnen (25-11-1)
On April 8, Sonnen was sentenced to 24 months’ probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for his role in a 2006 money laundering scheme. With his contract frozen, the fighting future of the one-time UFC middleweight title challenger remains up in the air, but one thing is certain: Sonnen will not be coaching the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Michael Bisping, as previously speculated.
3. Yushin Okami (26-5)
After 10 wins and nearly five years in the UFC, Okami will finally get his second go-around with Anderson Silva on Aug. 27. A November decision against Nate Marquardt put “Thunder” in line for the middleweight title shot, which will come before 18,000 of Silva’s countrymen in Rio de Janeiro.
4. Nate Marquardt (31-10-2)
Marquardt got back on track with a decision win over short-notice opponent Dan Miller on March 19, but “The Great” will not be sticking around at 185 pounds. Instead, the 32-year-old former King of Pancrase will make his welterweight debut against Anthony Johnson on June 26 in Pittsburgh.
5. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (14-2, 1 NC)
The Brazilian gator has turned away all comers in his Strikeforce run, most recently submitting Robbie Lawler in January to retain the promotion’s 185-pound title. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has stated “Jacare” will likely return in July, though one question remains. Who is left to challenge Souza?
6. Demian Maia (14-2)
Since his five-round decision loss to Anderson Silva in April 2010, Maia has won back-to-back unanimous decisions over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Kendall Grove and Mario Miranda. The jiu-jitsu ace will look to make it three in a row when he meets powerful wrestler Mark Munoz on June 11 at UFC 131.
7. Jorge Santiago (23-8)
Sengoku’s former middleweight champion has signed on for a second tour of duty with the UFC. Santiago will make his return to the Octagon at UFC 130 in May, when he challenges one-time WEC titleholder Brian Stann in a fantastic middleweight affair.
8. Vitor Belfort (19-9)
The 34-year-old “Phenom” was unable to capture his second UFC title on Feb. 5, falling to a devastating front kick from seemingly invincible champion Anderson Silva. As one of Brazil’s most famous MMA exports, Belfort was expected to take a spot on the UFC’s summer card in Rio de Janeiro. However, he will instead compete three weeks earlier, on Aug. 6 in Philadelphia, when he tangles with Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama.
9. Michael Bisping (21-3)
Bisping got the last laugh against antagonist Jorge Rivera on Feb. 27, when he stopped “El Conquistador” on second-round punches in their UFC 127 co-headliner. While the Brit’s post-fight actions may not have won him scads of new fans, “The Count” proved himself definitively to be a better and more versatile fighter than Rivera. Where Bisping goes from here remains to be seen, but regardless, he remains a valuable commodity for the UFC’s international outings.
10. Hector Lombard (28-2-1, 1 NC)
The Bellator Fighting Championships 185-pound ruler added another scalp to his collection on March 25, slicing 50-fight veteran Joe Doerksen with punches and elbows to force a first-round doctor stoppage in Sydney, Australia. The hard-hitting judoka will attempt to run his impressive win streak to 18 on May 14, when he meets surging Hawaiian Falaniko Vitale in a non-title Bellator bout.
Other contenders: Alan Belcher, Mamed Khalidov, Robbie Lawler, Mark Munoz, Brian Stann.
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