1. Jose Aldo (21-1)
After his Jan. 14 knockout of Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo was the king of Rio de Janeiro for a moment. Come July, “Scarface” will have the chance to win over the fighting faithful of another country, as Aldo will travel to Calgary, Alberta, to meet a yet-to-be-named challenger in the headliner of UFC 149.
2. Hatsu Hioki (26-4-2)
Following a lackluster performance in his UFC debut, the “Son of Shooto” showed what he was capable of in his sophomore outing. Fighting on his home turf at UFC 144, Hioki took a hard-fought victory over tough veteran Bart Palaszewski, all but confirming his status as the true No. 1 contender to Jose Aldo’s throne.
3. Pat Curran (17-4)
You thought his knockout of Marlon Sandro last August was brutal? On March 9, Pat Curran destroyed Joe Warren in eye-popping, jaw-dropping fashion, as the 24-year-old brutally assaulted “The Baddest Man on the Planet” with furious punches while referee Jeff Malott stood by idly. The result? Curran took home the Bellator featherweight crown, and a frontrunner for “Knockout of the Year” and “Beatdown of the Year.”
4. Chad Mendes (11-1)
Chad Mendes might be one of the world’s best featherweights, but as he found out at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro, that tends not to matter against Jose Aldo. Mendes came to fight, but still wound up unconscious with one second to go in the first round, and losing his unbeaten record, to boot.
5. Marlon Sandro (22-3)
Since his August loss to Pat Curran in the Bellator “Summer Series” featherweight tournament final, Sandro has quietly been pounding out quality win after quality win. After tapping Rafael Dias and Roberto Vargas in the first round, Sandro took a well-deserved split decision over talented fellow Brazilian Alexandre Bezerra on April 6. The win advanced Sandro to the finals of Bellator’s Season 6 featherweight tournament, where he’ll meet the gritty Daniel Straus on May 11 with another shot at Pat Curran -- and a shot at the Bellator featherweight title -- on the line.
6. Kenny Florian (14-6)
After falling short in his third UFC title bout -- this time an October decision loss to featherweight ace Jose Aldo -- Florian decided to take some time off to reassess his career. While his fighting future remains uncertain, the hiatus has led the former lightweight contender back to the commentary booth, where he has become part of the UFC’s broadcasting “B Team” on FX.
7. Dustin Poirier (12-1)
In just over one year, Poirier has moved from WEC unknown to one step away from UFC contendership. “The Diamond” will have a chance to cement his status as Jose Aldo’s next challenger come May 15, when he’ll meet Korean star Chan Sung Jung at UFC on Fuel TV 3.
8. Dennis Siver (20-8)
Dennis Siver looked pretty desperate on the scale before his featherweight debut against Diego Nunes at UFC on Fuel 2. However, a day later in Stockholm, the Russian-born, German-based fighter looked like his regular self, using sharp kicks and heavy hooks to pound out a unanimous verdict against crafty Brazilian Diego Nunes and announcing his arrival at 145 pounds.
9. Diego Nunes (17-3)
At UFC on Fuel 2 on April 14, Diego Nunes was once again called upon to test another notable lightweight cutting to 145 pounds, taking on Dennis Siver. In a hotly competitive, back-and-forth battle, Nunes came up just short against Siver, asserting himself as one of the featherweight division’s toughest fighters to compete against, regardless of the outcome.
10. Bart Palaszewski (36-15)
In his second outing at featherweight, “Bartimus” ran into a roadblock. Though he rallied back from a brutal opening round, Palaszewski could not close the gap and fell via unanimous decision to Japanese standout Hatsu Hioki at UFC 144.
Other contenders:Iuri Alcantara, Patricio Freire, Tyson Griffin, Erik Koch, Joe Warren.
With the entry of Dennis Siver and his March 9 loss to Pat Curran, previously 10th-ranked Joe Warren falls to the contenders list.
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