1. Chris Weidman (10-0)
The “All-American” shocked the world when he knocked out Anderson Silva in the second round of the UFC 162 headliner. The New Yorker brushed aside Silva’s taunts to drop the future hall of famer with a left hook before finishing the contest with follow-up punches on the ground. Now the newly minted champion must prove he can pull off the improbable twice, as a rematch with “The Spider” has been booked for UFC 168 on Dec. 28.
2. Anderson Silva (33-5)
While Silva’s place as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound greats is already secure, his curious performance in losing the middleweight crown to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 left many feeling unsatisfied. How would “The Spider” fare if he had taken a more serious, respectful approach against the challenger? That answer could come by year’s end, when Silva rematches Weidman at UFC 168 in a bout UFC President Dana White is touting as the biggest of all-time.
3. Vitor Belfort (23-10)
Belfort might have locked up “Knockout of the Year” honors for 2013 at UFC on FX 8, where he blasted former Strikeforce 185-pound king Luke Rockhold with a spectacular spinning heel kick in the opening frame of their main-event matchup. With dominant wins over Rockhold and Michael Bisping thus far in 2013, “The Phenom” believes he deserves nothing less than a title shot, but with Anderson Silva-Chris Weidman 2 already booked for December, Belfort must look elsewhere for a marquee opponent. If UFC boss Dana White gets his way, Lyoto Machida could be that guy -- unless, of course, Machida is ultimately paired with Nick Diaz.
4. Yushin Okami (29-7)
Japan’s top MMA export scored a major win in front of a partisan crowd on March 3, stifling the dangerous striking of Hector Lombard with two rounds of top control at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in Saitama, Japan. A bout against another veteran of the Japanese MMA scene, Dream vet and former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, has been made official for UFC Fight Night 28 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in September.
5. Michael Bisping (24-5)
After having his title hopes dashed by Vitor Belfort in January, “The Count” got right back on track with a victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 159. The bout came to an unfortunate and early end when Bisping caught Belcher with an eye poke in round three, but by then, the Brit had outworked “The Talent” enough to earn a unanimous technical decision and keep his name among the middleweight elite. Next up, Bisping returns to home soil to face Mark Munoz on Oct. 26.
6. Mark Munoz (13-3)
A devastating knockout loss to Chris Weidman and a lingering foot injury had Munoz on the figurative ropes for much of the past year, but the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” returned to top form against Tim Boetsch at UFC 162. Utilizing his trademark “Donkey Kong” ground-and-pound, the Reign MMA product battered Boetsch for the better part of three rounds to capture a clear-cut unanimous verdict. Munoz looks to continue his move up the ranks of middleweight contenders when he travels to hostile territory to face Michael Bisping in Manchester at UFC Fight Night 30.
7. Luke Rockhold (10-2)
Rockhold met an abrupt and violent end in his Octagon debut, falling victim to a Vitor Belfort spinning heel kick in the UFC on FX 8 headliner. The loss ended a nine-fight winning streak for the American Kickboxing Academy representative, who had not tasted defeat since 2007. The former Strikeforce king will attempt to return to his winning ways when he squares off with Tim Boetsch at UFC 166 in Houston.
8. Costas Philippou (12-2, 1 NC)
Philippou formally announced his presence in the middleweight division with a TKO triumph over Tim Boetsch at UFC 155; it was his fifth consecutive victory in the promotion. Since then, Philippou withdrew from a UFC on FX 8 meeting with Ronaldo Souza and parted ways with the Serra-Longo Fight Team, his longtime camp. The 33-year-old will return to action in September, when he faces Georges St. Pierre training partner Francis Carmont in Toronto.
9. Ronaldo Souza (18-3, 1 NC)
Since losing his Strikeforce belt to Luke Rockhold, “Jacare” has been on a roll, finishing his next four opponents in dominant fashion. Most recently, Souza put on a grappling clinic against Chris Camozzi in his first UFC outing, submitting the Coloradan with an arm-triangle choke in the first round at UFC on FX 8. A showdown with former No. 1 contender Yushin Okami is on tap for UFC Fight Night 28 in Brazil in September.
10. Mamed Khalidov (27-4-2)
In the last three years, Khalidov has added a slew of notable names to his résumé: Matt Lindland, Melvin Manhoef, Kendall Grove and Jesse Taylor all have been submitted by the versatile Chechen. Rumors of negotiations with the UFC and Bellator MMA surface intermittently, but for now, the 33-year-old continues to compete against former big-show fighters in his home promotion, KSW.
Other contenders:Tim Boetsch, Francis Carmont, Tim Kennedy, Hector Lombard, Alexander Shlemenko.
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