1. Johny Hendricks (16-2)Hendricks battled tooth-and-nail for five rounds with Robbie Lawler at UFC 171, where the Oklahoman’s determination and conditioning earned him the vacant UFC welterweight title. “Bigg Rigg” has now won seven of eight fights in the last three years, his lone loss coming against absent ruler Georges St. Pierre. The new king does not yet have a top contender, but that could change after Lawler and Matt Brown collide on July 26.
2. Robbie Lawler (23-10, 1 NC)Two months after coming within minutes of earning the welterweight crown, Lawler reminded everyone why he remains a top contender at 170 pounds. “Ruthless” displayed a diverse and powerful striking arsenal, as he put away Jake Ellenberger via TKO 3:06 into the third round at UFC 173. In wake of the emphatic victory, the American Top Team star will move on to face Matt Brown in the UFC on Fox 12 main event on July 26.
3. Rory MacDonald (17-2)After drawing criticism for his conservative performances in recent fights, MacDonald roared back with a sensational showing at UFC 174. “Ares” pitched a virtual shutout against Tyron Woodley, forcing the powerful wrestler to fight with his back to the fence while MacDonald picked him apart with jabs and kicks.
4. Tyron Woodley (13-3)Woodley was angling for a title shot before UFC 174, but he may have overlooked one thing: Rory MacDonald. The former University of Missouri wrestler had no answer for MacDonald’s striking on June 14 in Vancouver, and the result was a unanimous decision defeat which halted Woodley’s two-fight winning streak against top-tier competition. “The Chosen One” will get a quick turnaround, however, as he recently agreed to replace the injured Hector Lombard against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC Fight Night in Macau on Aug. 23.
5. Carlos Condit (29-8)Condit missed out on a December bout with Matt Brown and then was handed an equally tough task in Tyron Woodley at UFC 171. Despite an exciting start to the fight, Condit’s leg gave out after a Woodley low kick midway through the second round, putting an end to any immediate title hopes and giving Condit his third defeat in four fights. “The Natural Born Killer” has since undergone surgery to repair a torn ACL sustained in the bout.
6. Hector Lombard (34-4-1, 1 NC)The blistering speed and powerful punches for which Lombard is known were on full display in the first round of his bout with Jake Shields at UFC 171. As the fight wore on, however, the judo specialist implemented throws, trips and submission defense to outwork Shields in a 15-minute unanimous decision. An injury forced “Lightning” to withdraw from a pivotal clash against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC Fight Night in Macau on Aug. 23.
7. Matt Brown (19-11)A spectacular third-round TKO triumph over Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night in Cincinnati brought “The Immortal’s” winning streak inside the Octagon to seven fights. Brown believes he is ready for a welterweight title shot; however, he will first confront Robbie Lawler in the UFC on Fox 12 headliner in July.
8. Ben Askren (12-0)After a dominant run as Bellator’s welterweight king, Askren’s season of free agency left many scratching their heads. Spurned by Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney and UFC President Dana White, the “Funky” one elected to take his talents to Asia to compete for the One Fighting Championship promotion. Although he was initially expected to receive a title shot in his promotional debut, Askren instead squared off with Bakhtiyar Abbasov in the One FC 16 headliner on May 30, submitting him with a first-round arm-triangle choke.
9. Jake Shields (29-7-1, 1 NC)It did not take the World Series of Fighting long to make Shields an offer after the grappling ace was surprisingly released from his UFC contract in March. Shields was supposed to make his promotional debut against Jon Fitch at WSOF 11, but an injury to the former Strikeforce champion ruined those plans.
10. Demian Maia (19-6)Maia got his up-and-down run in the UFC welterweight division back on track with a one-sided victory against Alexander Yakovlev at “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3” Finale. The grappling ace from Wand Fight Team dominated his Russian opponent for 15 minutes to snap a two-fight losing skid and keep his spot amongst the 170-pound elite.
Other Contenders: Jake Ellenberger, Martin Kampmann, Dong Hyun Kim, Douglas Lima, Tarec Saffiedine.
Continue Reading » Lightweight