Will Anderson Silva's BJJ be pivotal again in the Chael Sonnen rematch? | Photo: Marcelo Alonso
1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
Already regarded by most as the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter, “The Spider” will have a chance to further cement his legacy come June. Perhaps more importantly, he’ll have a chance to shut the sport’s loudest mouth once and for all. Silva will again put his belt on the line against brash wrestler Chael Sonnen, only this time it will be on the champ’s home turf, an as-yet-unannounced Sao Paulo venue.
2. Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)
Sonnen sealed the deal with a Jan. 28 decision win over Michael Bisping, and now the rematch of the year is on. In June, the trash-talking Oregonian will have the chance to take the belt which he claims his rightfully his, Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight title, when he heads to Sao Paulo to face champion in hostile territory.
3. Yushin Okami (26-6)
Japan’s top MMA export fell well short in his long-awaited August rematch with UFC champ Anderson Silva, succumbing to punches for the first time since 2003. While he had to play visitor to Silva in Rio de Janeiro, Okami will hold home field advantage when he attempts to get back on track against Tim Boetsch at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan.
4. Mark Munoz (12-2)
The former Oklahoma State wrestler notched the biggest win of his career on Nov. 5, stopping Chris Leben between the second and third rounds of their UFC 138 main event. The “Filipino Wrecking Machine” appeared to be on the brink of title contention before an elbow injury took him out of his Jan. 28 meeting with Chael Sonnen.
5. Michael Bisping (22-4)
Once more a step away from a title shot, Bisping had his title dreams snuffed out by Chael Sonnen, who handed the Englishman a narrow decision loss in their January encounter. The defeat halted a four-fight win streak for “The Count” which included stoppage wins over Jason Miller and Jorge Rivera.
6. Vitor Belfort (21-9)
Belfort had two hurdles in place before the year even started. Last month, he cleared the first with a resounding first-round submission of Anthony Johnson in Rio de Janeiro. Next up: a June rematch with old nemesis and fellow Brazilian MMA icon Wanderlei Silva, which will come at the end of the pair’s stint as coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”
7. Nate Marquardt (31-10-2)
After being cut by the UFC in June for issues stemming from testosterone replacement therapy, Marquardt seemed to be on the fast track to competing overseas. However, the former King of Pancrase never got to set foot in the cage of England’s BAMMA before the two sides elected to part ways last month. Marquardt now stands nearly a year removed from his unanimous decision win over Dan Miller.
8. Brian Stann (11-4)
“All-American” Stann is going international for his next bout. Stann will get back into the Octagon against a like-minded striker in Italian Alessio Sakara in front of the Swedish crowd at the UFC on Fuel 2 on April 14 in Stockholm.
9. Luke Rockhold (9-1)
In the first defense of his Strikeforce middleweight title, Luke Rockhold showed the offensive acumen that makes him an interesting up-and-comer in smashing veteran Keith Jardine in the first round. Unfortunately, the oft-injured Rockhold broke his hand, putting the brakes on any discussions his second title defense.
10. Chris Weidman (8-0)
It wasn’t pretty, but Weidman took a chance and wound up propelling himself into the ranks of the 185-pound elite with his Jan. 28 victory against Demian Maia. The “All-American” accepted the bout on just 11 days’ notice when Maia’s original opponent, Michael Bisping, was called up to face Chael Sonnen.
Other contenders: Hector Lombard, Demian Maia, Rousimar Palhares, Jorge Santiago, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
With his Jan. 28 loss to Chris Weidman, previously sixth-ranked Demian Maia falls to the contenders list.
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