1. T.J. Dillashaw (11-2)The UFC bantamweight champion made the most of a bad situation when Renan Barao dropped out of their rematch at UFC 177. Dillashaw outclassed last-second replacement Joe Soto for 20 minutes before finishing with a head kick and follow-up punches in the fifth round -- just as he did to Barao to claim the title in May. The 29-year-old Team Alpha Male fighter is once again scheduled to face Barao in the main event of UFC 186.
2. Renan Barao (32-2, 1 NC)Barao bounced back from his first loss in more than nine years on Dec. 20, as he submitted Canadian Mitch Gagnon with a third-round triangle choke in his native Brazil. The 28-year-old Nova Uniao ace has won 23 of his past 24 bouts and made it clear he wants a chance to reclaim the UFC bantamweight championship from the man who took it from him: Team Alpha Male’s T.J. Dillashaw. Barao will get that chance at UFC 186 on April 25, when he is scheduled to square off with Dillashaw in Montreal.
3. Dominick Cruz (20-1)It had been three years since Cruz last stepped into the Octagon, but at UFC 178, he looked like the same old “Dominator.” The former bantamweight king showed no ill effects from multiple knee surgeries, as he executed a flawless, 61-second dismantling of perennial contender Takeya Mizugaki. Just when it looked like Cruz had shaken the injury bug, he revealed another blown ACL -- this time on his right knee -- will keep him out of action until late 2015.
4. Urijah Faber (32-7)Faber’s win at UFC 181 was not without controversy, as “The California Kid” tapped Francisco Rivera with a second-round bulldog choke after inadvertently poking Rivera in the eye. Regardless, the Team Alpha Male leader improved to 8-3 inside the Octagon and continued his streak of winning every non-title affair he has fought under Zuffa employ. Faber will headline the UFC’s first trip to the Philippines on May 16, when he takes on Frankie Edgar in a featherweight bout.
5. Raphael Assuncao (23-4)Assuncao continued his climb up the 135-pound ranks on Oct. 4 by halting the momentum of Bryan Caraway with a steady diet of leg and body kicks. The Atlanta-based Brazilian's current seven-fight winning streak stretches back to 2011 and includes a split decision victory over current champion T.J. Dillashaw. Assuncao was scheduled for a March 21 rematch with former WEC champ Urijah Faber but withdrew with an injury.
6. Takeya Mizugaki (20-8-2)Mizugaki was riding a five-fight winning streak, once again closing in on title contention -- and then he ran into Dominick Cruz. The Japanese import had no answer for Cruz’s speed, takedowns and ground-and-pound in his knockout loss to the former champ at UFC 178, marking just the second time Mizugaki has been stopped in 15 fights under the Zuffa banner. He will face the undefeated Aljamain Sterling at UFC on Fox 15 in April.
7. Marlon Moraes (15-4-1)World Series of Fighting’s bantamweight ace persevered through a tough opening round with challenger Josh Hill at WSOF 18, then gradually took control of the bout over the ensuing four frames to notch a unanimous decision. Moraes’ successful title defense was his ninth consecutive win and seventh inside the WSOF cage.
8. Joe Warren (12-3)After a protracted war of words, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” finally got the chance to back up his taunting of Eduardo Dantas on Oct. 10. Over the course of five rounds, Warren did exactly that, using repeated takedowns and clinch work to outlast the younger, rangier man and unify Bellator’s bantamweight titles. He will face Marcos Galvao at Bellator 134 in a rematch of their controversial April 2011 encounter.
9. Frankie Saenz (10-2)Two fights into his Octagon career, former King of the Cage titlist Saenz has improbably landed himself a spot in the top 10 thanks to an upset victory against the vastly more experienced Iuri Alcantara. Saenz’s fast pace, takedowns and ground-and-pound overwhelmed the Brazilian on Feb. 22, earning him a unanimous decision and his sixth consecutive win.
10. Iuri Alcantara (31-6, 1 NC)Just when Alcantara seemed to be closing in on contender status, along came Frankie Saenz. “Marajo” entered his Feb. 22 bout with the lesser-known American on a three-fight winning streak but could not make it four, as Saenz’s constant pressure kept the Brazilian from prevailing before a partisan crowd. Alcantara, who has competed in the Octagon since 2011, holds a UFC record of 6-3, with one no-contest.
Other Contenders: Bryan Caraway, Eduardo Dantas, Rob Font, Mitch Gagnon, Francisco Rivera.
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