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1. Henry Cejudo (17-2) Cejudo became only the second fighter in promotion history to successfully defend titles in two divisions at UFC 249 when he defeated Dominick Cruz via second-round technical knockout in the evening’s co-main event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. After the victory, the Olympic gold medalist made a surprising retirement announcement, citing a desire to start a family. Retirements often don’t last in MMA, but if it holds up, “Triple C” ends his career with a six-fight winning streak that includes triumphs over Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes and Cruz.
2. Aljamain Sterling (19-3) After a first-round submission of Top 5 competitor Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250, “Funk Master” established himself as the bantamweight division’s No. 1 contender in waiting. Sterling, with five consecutive 135-pound triumphs under his belt, will was supposed to square off against recently-crowned champion Petr Yan at UFC 256 on Dec. 12 but that bout was postponed due to personal issues for the reiging title holder.
3. Cory Sandhagen (13-2) Sandhagen rebounded from a first-round submission loss to Aljamain Sterling in emphatic fashion at UFC Fight Night 179, where he knocked out Marlon Moraes with a spinning wheel kick in the second round of their bantamweight headliner in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 10. The highlight-reel finish keeps the Elevation Fight Team product in the title conversation at 135 pounds and sets him up for another marquee matchup in his next promotional appearance.
4. Petr Yan (15-1) After a competitive opening 15 minutes, Yan imposed his will down the stretch against Jose Aldo at UFC 251, forcing a stoppage behind a brutal barrage of ground-and-pound in the fifth frame. The newly-crowned bantamweight king has won his first six UFC appearances in increasingly impressive fashion. Yan was slated to defend his title against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 256 but withdrew from the bout due to a litany of issues. The fight is expected to be rescheduled early in 2021.
5. Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) Moraes had a chance to solidify himself as a potential No. 1 contender at UFC Fight Night 179, but those dreams were shattered courtesy of a Cory Sandhagen spinning wheel kick in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 10. The former World Series of Fighting champion’s last three Octagon appearances now include a pair of devastating KO defeats at the hands of Sandhagen and Henry Cejudo along with a controversial split-decision win against Jose Aldo. Moraes will make a relatively quick turnaround against Rob Font on Dec. 19.
6. Frankie Edgar (24-8-1) After years of contending at both lightweight and featherweight in the UFC, Edgar has swiftly established himself as a person of interest at bantamweight, as well. In typical gritty fashion, Edgar edged Pedro Munhoz via split-decision in his 135-pound debut at UFC on ESPN 15 on Aug. 22. While the scorecards might have been debatable, Edgar’s ability to remain competitive throughout the contest was not, and he will likely be looking at another Top 10 foe for his next Octagon appearance.
7. Pedro Munhoz (18-5, 1 NC) Munhoz stalked and outlanded Frankie Edgar for the majority of their five-round clash at UFC on ESPN 15, but it wasn’t enough to sway the judges, as “Young Punisher” dropped a split-decision in the headlining bantamweight bout at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. While Munhoz felt that he did enough to win, that makes two straight defeats for the 33-year-old American Top Team representative, who was coming off a decision loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 238. Munhoz will look to rebound in a rematch against Jimmie Rivera on Jan. 30.
8. Cody Garbrandt (12-3) Garbrandt appears to be rejuvenated following a second-round knockout of Raphael Assuncao in the UFC co-main event on June 6. Not only did Garbrandt’s vicious right-hook finish likely end up on a lot of year-end KO lists, but it halted a three-bout skid in which “No Love” repeatedly fell victim to his brawling tendencies. Garbrandt was slated for a title shot at 125 pounds against Deiveson Figueiredo before a torn bicep forced him out of the contest.
9. Raphael Assuncao (27-8) Assuncao took the bait and paid dearly against Cody Garbrandt, falling victim to a brutal right hook counter just before the second-round horn in their co-headlining encounter at UFC 250 on June 6. Once the bantamweight division’s most unsung contender, the 37-year-old Brazilian has dropped his last three fights within the Las Vegas-based promotion.
10. Jose Aldo (28-7) Aldo appeared to be on the right track through three rounds against Petr Yan in their bantamweight title clash at UFC 251, but the Russian took over in the championship frames for a fifth-round TKO triumph. Aldo has been competitive in bouts against Yan and Marlon Moraes since dropping to 135 pounds but is still looking for his first victory since dropping down a division. A showdown with Marlon Vera is expected for UFC Fight Night on Dec. 19.
Other Contenders: Jimmie Rivera, Manel Kape, Kai Asakura, Kyoji Horiguchi, Merab Dvalishvili.
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