1. Junior dos Santos (15-1)
With his May knockout of Frank Mir, dos Santos became the first man since Brock Lesnar to successfully defend the UFC heavyweight title. The hard-hitting Brazilian will try to repeat the feat before the year is through, as he’s set to rematch the man from whom he took the belt, Cain Velasquez, on Dec. 29.
2. Cain Velasquez (10-1)
Velasquez made a statement with his first-round battering of Antonio Silva, a win which put the American Kickboxing Academy product right where he wanted to be: title contention. Now, he’ll have a chance to redeem himself against the man who knocked him out and took his UFC title, Junior dos Santos, when the pair meet again on Dec. 29.
3. Alistair Overeem (36-11, 1 NC)
The “Demolition Man” remains suspended through December after failing a random drug test in Nevada with elevated testosterone levels, but the news isn’t all bad for Overeem. UFC President Dana White recently stated that when the Dutchman does return to the Octagon, he’ll likely do so as a top contender.
4. Fabricio Werdum (16-5-1)
In his first fight on home soil in eight years, Fabricio Werdum was sensational at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. “Vai Cavalo” stormed Mike Russow out of the gate, knocking him down and out in just over two minutes. Almost four years after exiting the UFC, Werdum is on the cusp of serious UFC title contention.
5. Daniel Cormier (10-0)
Cormier is still recovering from his third broken hand in the recent past, but the two-time U.S. Olympian is still expected to fulfill the final bout on his Strikeforce contract this fall. Though still unscheduled, the fight will be a momentous one, as Frank Mir will become the first fighter under UFC contract to cross over into Strikeforce.
6. Frank Mir (16-6)
A short-notice May assignment against Junior dos Santos did not go well for Mir, who had a three-fight winning streak snapped in a second-round stoppage loss to the Brazilian. For his next bout, Mir will fight outside the Octagon for the first time since 2001, as he is expected to face unbeaten wrestler Daniel Cormier under the Strikeforce banner this fall.
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC)
Ever the competitor, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira hoped to return to action at UFC 149 on July 21 in Calgary against Cheick Kongo. Instead, more “Dancing with the Stars” in Brazil is all he’ll get, as his arm that Frank Mir broke last December hasn’t made the necessary progress for “Minotauro” to train as he’d like in order to fight. The Brazilian great hopes to return before the year is out.
8. Josh Barnett (31-6)
While Daniel Cormier’s final Strikeforce bout on Sept. 29 has been grabbing the lion’s share of heavyweight attention, “The Warmaster” will make his final foray in the Strikeforce cage on the same bill. However, whether Barnett will slide into a warm spot in the Octagon after his Strikeforce deal, like Cormier, remains to be seen.
9. Antonio Silva (16-4)
Since recording his biggest win against Fedor Emelianenko, Silva has dropped back-to-back bouts for the first time in his 7-year career. Nonetheless, the American Top Team representative has been slotted into a main event opposite undefeated Hawaiian Travis Browne, who he’ll meet Oct. 5 in Minneapolis.
10. Mike Russow (15-2, 1 NC)
Mike Russow got the A-list opponent he was looking for at UFC 147, however, the Chicago policeman looked out of his depth in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It took less than half of the first round for former BJJ world champion Fabricio Werdum to drop Russow standing and punctuate the bout on the canvas for a quick-and-dirty first-round knockout win.
Other contenders:Travis Browne, Cheick Kongo, Cole Konrad, Mark Hunt, Ben Rothwell.
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