1. Jose Aldo (24-1)Aldo’s featherweight title defense at UFC 169 was far from dramatic, which is a testament to his dominance as champion. The Nova Uniao standout had his way with Ricardo Lamas for four rounds, landing multiple punching and kicking combinations, as well as a pair of late takedowns. A final salvo from Lamas in round five was not nearly enough, as Aldo had his hand raised for the 17th consecutive time.
2. Chad Mendes (16-1)It was not as spectacular as some of his recent work, but “Money” nonetheless emerged with his fifth straight victory at UFC on Fox 9, as he earned a unanimous decision over fellow wrestler Nik Lentz. The long-term goal remains the same for Mendes: a chance to avenge the only loss of his professional career against reigning featherweight king Jose Aldo.
3. Ricardo Lamas (13-3)It was a case of too little, too late for Lamas at UFC 169, as the Chicagoan’s furious fifth-round barrage of ground-and-pound against Jose Aldo did little to alter the outcome of their featherweight title clash. That was because Aldo pitched a shutout on the scorecards for the first four frames, racing out to an advantage that Lamas had no hope of overcoming. It was still a game effort from “The Bully,” who will remain a difficult out for most anyone in the division.
4. Cub Swanson (20-5)Swanson was in attendance for the featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169, but his future still remains unclear. Despite a five-fight winning streak, a title shot is no guarantee for the Jackson’s MMA standout. Swanson would undoubtedly like to return to action soon, as he has not competed since July.
5. Frankie Edgar (16-4-1)Footwork and accurate punching combinations allowed Edgar to secure his first featherweight victory against a game Charles Oliveira at UFC 162. The “Fight of the Night”-winning performance came in the New Jersey export’s first non-title bout since 2009. The Toms River, N.J., native will turn back the clock when he squares off with B.J. Penn -- the man he defeated to first capture lightweight gold -- for a third time in 2014. First, the rivals will coach opposing teams on “The Ultimate Fighter 19.”
6. Jeremy Stephens (23-9)A move from lightweight to featherweight has proven fruitful for Stephens, who is 3-0 since changing divisions. “Lil’ Heathen” earned his most significant 145-pound triumph on Jan. 26, outpointing Darren Elkins at UFC on Fox 10 in Chicago. Stephens was 7-8 in UFC bouts contested at 155 pounds.
7. Nik Lentz (24-6-2, 1 NC)Lentz’s grind-it-out approach carried him to three victories in as many 145-pound outings, but he found the going tougher against Chad Mendes at UFC on Fox 9. Although the Minnesotan survived a ferocious volley of power punches in round one, he was unable to mount enough offense in the final two frames to get the nod from the cageside judges.
8. Chan Sung Jung (13-4)The popular “Korean Zombie” returned after more than a year-long absence to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title at UFC 163. While it was surgery on Jung’s left shoulder that had sidelined him since his pivotal win over Dustin Poirier in May 2012, it was his right shoulder that led to his demise against the 145-pound king. Jung dislocated his shoulder after an errant overhand right in the fourth round, which allowed Aldo to up his aggression and secure a TKO finish two minutes into the frame. He will be sidelined until the injury heals.
9. Dustin Poirier (15-3)Poirier made Diego Brandao pay for coming in overweight for their UFC 168 clash, as “The Diamond” overwhelmed his Brazilian foe with a barrage of strikes to secure the finish late in the first round. The 25-year-old Louisianan has won eight of his last 10 fights, including consecutive triumphs over Brandao and Erik Koch.
10. Darren Elkins (17-4)The hard-charging Elkins entered his UFC on Fox 10 matchup with Jeremy Stephens having won six of his last seven bouts. However, the Indiana native had his momentum halted by “Lil Heathen,” who stifled his takedown attempts and battered him with power punches and leg kicks.
Other Contenders: Pat Curran, Patricio Freire, Clay Guida, Dennis Siver, Daniel Straus.
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