1. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)
The welterweight division’s French Canadian king managed only one Octagon appearance in 2011, a five-round decision win over Jake Shields in April. While there’s still no solid timeline for his return, GSP has stated that rehabilitation on his reconstructed ACL is “ahead of schedule,” possibly putting him in line for a late-2012 meeting with interim champ Carlos Condit.
2. Carlos Condit (28-5)
Nearly five years after becoming the final WEC welterweight champ, Condit has captured UFC gold. The “Natural Born Killer” used a perfectly executed game plan on Feb. 4 to steer clear of Nick Diaz and rack up points for a unanimous decision win. Now, Condit is playing the waiting game as champion Georges St. Pierre continues to heal up from his knee injury.
3. Nick Diaz (26-8, 1 ND)
Although it has been months since Diaz dropped a contentious decision to Carlos Condit at UFC 143, the Stockton, Calif., native has remained in the news, and not only for the one-year suspension he received from the Nevada Athletic Commission on May 21. A week earlier, Diaz generated more controversy by no-showing for a pay-per-view grappling match with BJJ star Braulio Estima at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo.
4. Johny Hendricks (13-1)
Bronchitis? Mononucleosis? No problem for Hendricks, who battled through both illnesses in the final stages of his training camp and still beat out Josh Koscheck in their May 5 affair. After his fourth straight win, Hendricks was vocal in his desire for a title shot, but it seems that may have to wait until the situation atop the division is resolved.
5. Jon Fitch (23-4-1, 1 NC)
Fitch will have to wait longer to erase the bitter memory of his 12-second knockout loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141. A knee injury suffered in training forced the former welterweight title challenger to withdraw from his upcoming bout with Aaron Simpson at UFC on Fuel TV 4; no timetable is set for his return.
6. Martin Kampmann (20-5)
The “Hitman” just keeps on coming. Just two months after Kampmann stunned Thiago Alves with a last-minute guillotine choke, the never-say-die Dane rallied to TKO Jake Ellenberger at “The Ultimate Fighter 15” Finale. Up next: a title eliminator showdown with Johny Hendricks at UFC 154.
7. Jake Ellenberger (27-6)
For six straight UFC bouts, Ellenberger lived up to his “Juggernaut” moniker, overcoming opponents with a dangerous blend of heavy hands and wrestling ability. Ellenberger’s bid for the No. 1 contender spot came up short at the “TUF 15” Finale, however, as he suffered a TKO loss to Martin Kampmann
8. Josh Koscheck (17-6)
Koscheck narrowly edged Mike Pierce in February but could not do the same to Johny Hendricks in May, coming up on the short end of a split decision against his fellow wrestler. Weeks later, Koscheck announced that he’d been offered a fight against B.J. Penn, but the Hawaiian quickly shot down any rumors of his coming out of retirement.
9. Jake Shields (27-6-1)
Shields may not be long for this page of the rankings, as the Californian is headed back to middleweight, the division in which he held Strikeforce gold. He’ll make his 185-pound Octagon debut against fellow submission specialist Ed Herman at UFC 150 in August.
10. Ben Askren (10-0)
It wasn’t flashy, but Askren wrestled his way to another dominating win over perhaps his most dangerous opponent to date with an April 6 routing of Douglas Lima. Now a perfect 10-0, Bellator’s welterweight ace awaits the winner of the company’s ongoing Season 6 tournament, which will end this summer when finalists Karl Amoussou and Bryan Baker square off.
Other contenders:Rory MacDonald, B.J. Penn, Mike Pierce, Erick Silva, Tyron Woodley.
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