1. Georges St. Pierre (21-2)
Just one punch into their Dec. 11 showdown, St. Pierre broke Josh Koscheck’s orbital bone. The rest of the bout followed in like fashion, as St. Pierre thumped Koscheck again and again with his jab, pitching yet another shutout. It has fans calling for St. Pierre to head to 185 pounds after his next title defense against Jake Shields.
2. Jon Fitch (23-3, 1 NC)
After besting Thiago Alves for a second time, Fitch was hopeful he would get another crack at the UFC welterweight crown. That opportunity will be going to Jake Shields. Instead of another title shot, Fitch draws former two-division champion B.J. Penn at UFC 127 on Feb. 27 in Sydney, Australia.
3. Thiago Alves (18-7)
Mike Dolce got Alves comfortably down to 170 pounds, and Alves let his skills do the rest. At UFC 124 in Montreal, he put on a vintage performance, battering an uncommonly tough John Howard on the feet and on the ground en route to a unanimous decision that marked his return to welterweight relevance.
4. Jake Shields (26-4-1)
In light of Georges St. Pierre’s domination of Josh Koscheck at UFC 124, Shields now knows exactly what daunting task lay in front of him in his effort to win the UFC welterweight title. The major questions are simply when the fight will take place and whether it will land at UFC 129 in Toronto come April 30.
5. Josh Koscheck (15-5)
It was 25 long, hard minutes for Koscheck at UFC 124 in Montreal. Georges St. Pierre crushed him with his jab for the balance of the five-round encounter. Koscheck suffered a break to his orbital bone, which required surgery after the bout and will keep Koscheck out for at least the first quarter of 2011.
6. Martin Kampmann (17-4)
In October, Kampmann earned props from the MMA world for his split decision loss to Jake Shields in a fight many feel he won. MMA’s foremost Dane has been rewarded with a major bout, as he will meet Diego Sanchez in a welterweight tilt at UFC Live 3 on March 3 in Louisville, Ky.
7. Carlos Condit (26-5)
Condit’s resurgent 2010 campaign has earned him an all-action fight to kick off 2011. At UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia, the “Natural Born Killer” will take on free-swinging veteran Chris Lytle in a fight that promises wild action and bears welterweight contender consequences.
8. Dan Hardy (23-8, 1 NC)
Europe had been magical for Hardy during his UFC tenure. However, that was not the case at UFC 120 on Oct. 16. “The Outlaw” was smashed with a brutal left hook from Carlos Condit that took him out of consciousness and away from the top of the UFC welterweight division.
9. Nick Diaz (23-7, 1 ND)
Strikeforce remains hopeful that Diaz will be in action at its Jan. 29 event in San Jose, Calif. In the meantime, the public war of words between Diaz and rival Jason Miller continues to rage, as the two try to negotiate a potential catchweight bout via the media.
10. Paul Daley (26-9-2)
On Dec. 4, Daley blew away Scott Smith with one of the year’s most vicious knockouts. Immediately after the fight, he called out K.J. Noons, in hopes of getting another striking-oriented matchup that would help him jump forward into a potential Strikeforce welterweight title fight in 2011.
Other contenders: Ben Askren, Jake Ellenberger, John Hathaway, Jay Hieron, Mike Pyle.