1. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)
Don’t look now, but Georges St. Pierre has a date for his Octagon return. The UFC’s welterweight ruler -- sidelined since last year due to knee surgery -- will end a near-19-month absence on Nov. 17, when he’s scheduled to take on interim titleholder Carlos Condit at UFC 154.
2. Carlos Condit (28-5)
After winning the UFC interim welterweight title in a five-round decision against Nick Diaz, not everyone agreed with Condit’s decision to sit and wait for the champ to return. However, the risk has given “The Natural Born Killer” exactly what he, and most every 170-pounder in MMA, wanted: a shot at Georges St. Pierre. Condit will attempt to become the UFC’s undisputed champ Nov. 17 before a pro-St. Pierre crowd in Montreal.
3. Nick Diaz (26-8, 1 ND)
Diaz still has six months left on his Nevada Athletic Commission-served suspension for a positive drug test, but that hasn’t kept the cantankerous Californian out of the news. Most recently, Diaz stirred things up when his management announced his return from a short-lived retirement and a desire to face middleweight ace Anderson Silva -- a super-fight which was immediately shot down by UFC brass.
4. Johny Hendricks (13-1)
Johny Hendricks is on the precipice at 170 pounds, and if he can find success against Martin Kampmann on Nov. 17 at UFC 154, he might dive headfirst into a UFC welterweight title shot. The high-stakes Hendricks-Kampmann bout figures to deserve as the de facto eliminator, with the winner meeting the eventual Georges St. Pierre-Carlos Condit winner in the new year.
5. Jon Fitch (23-4-1, 1 NC)
A knee injury took Fitch out of a planned July bout against Aaron Simpson and delayed the American Kickboxing Academy fighter’s quest to get back on track after his first knockout loss in the Octagon. However, another opportunity has presented itself for the former Purdue Boilermaker, this time in the form of fast-rising Brazilian Erick Silva, who Fitch will attempt to derail Oct. 13 at UFC 153.
6. Martin Kampmann (20-5)
After years of just being on the bubble, Martin Kampmann might be but a single fight away from a UFC welterweight title shot. At UFC 154 on Nov. 17, he will meet up with Johny Hendricks in what essentially amounts to a 170-pound title eliminator.
7. Jake Ellenberger (27-6)
Ellenberger’s title campaign came to a screeching halt in June when he was put down by a knee from resurgent striker Martin Kampmann. While the heavy-handed Nebraskan was originally slated to face fellow wrestler Josh Koscheck at UFC 151, Ellenberger will instead welcome Jay Hieron back to the UFC.
8. Josh Koscheck (17-6)
After dropping a narrow split decision to Johny Hendricks in May, “Kos” was booked for the co-main event slot at UFC 151 against fellow power-punching wrestler Jake Ellenberger. The fight was not to be, though, as Koscheck suffered a back injury in early August and was forced to withdraw.
9. Ben Askren (10-0)
It wasn’t flashy, but Askren wrestled his way to another dominating win over perhaps his most dangerous opponent to date with an April 6 routing of Douglas Lima. Now a perfect 10-0, Bellator’s welterweight ace will next defend against Frenchman Karl Amoussou, who defeated Bryan Baker in the company’s Season 6 welterweight tourney final.
10. Nate Marquardt (32-10-2)
Many were skeptical of Nate Marquardt as he ended his 16-month absence with a much-questioned return to 170 pounds. However, Marquardt turned in one of the finest performances of his career in a surprisingly entertaining slugfest with Tyron Woodley, completing his title capture with a picturesque fourth-round knockout.
Other contenders:Rory MacDonald, B.J. Penn, Mike Pierce, Erick Silva, Tyron Woodley.
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