1. Georges St. Pierre (24-2)
GSP made good on his well-publicized promise to put a beating on Nick Diaz at UFC 158, neutralizing the Californian’s boxing with relentless takedowns, top control and ground-and-pound across 25 minutes. St. Pierre’s next UFC title defense will be against brick-fisted wrestler Johny Hendricks at UFC 167.
2. Johny Hendricks (15-1)
Hendricks never could put away the notoriously durable Carlos Condit during their 15-minute encounter at UFC 158, but the former Oklahoma State University wrestling stud landed more than enough of his trademark left hands to secure a unanimous decision. Next, Hendricks will get his desired title shot against Georges St. Pierre in the fall.
3. Carlos Condit (28-7)
Condit had a disappointing Octagon debut, falling to Martin Kampmann via split decision at UFC Fight Night 18 in 2009. More than four years later, “The Natural Born Killer” gets his opportunity for revenge against the Dane at the UFC’s second Fox Sports 1 event on Aug. 28.
4. Nick Diaz (26-9, 1 ND)
Since failing in his attempt to wrest the welterweight strap from Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158, Diaz has elected to try his hand as an MMA promoter. His first event, War MMA 1, took place on June 22 in Stockton, Calif., and received mostly positive reviews. There is no hint as to whether the Cesar Gracie understudy will emerge from retirement to compete in the Octagon again, however.
5. Demian Maia (18-4)
Suffice it to say that Maia could be a problem for the rest of the welterweight division. The former middleweight standout is now 3-0 at 170 pounds after running a grappling clinic on perennial top 10 entrant Jon Fitch en route to a unanimous decision at UFC 156. Maia was supposed to face another decorated wrestler in Josh Koscheck at UFC 163, but an injury to “Kos” nixed that showdown. Although nothing is official, a matchup with Jake Shields is rumored to go down sometime in 2013.
6. Martin Kampmann (20-6)
After 12 months spent clawing his way into contention with three straight wins over quality welterweights, Kampmann’s title hopes were dashed in less than a minute by the heavy left hand of Johny Hendricks at UFC 154. The Danish “Hitman” looks to get back into the win column -- and go 2-for-2 against Carlos Condit in the process -- at UFC on Fox Sports 1 in Indianapolis on Aug. 28.
7. Rory MacDonald (15-1)
MacDonald’s technical-yet-safe performance against Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fox 8 probably didn’t win him many new fans, but it was undeniably effective. The Tristar Gym product kept Ellenberger at a safe distance with his jab for the majority of three rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory. “Ares” has now won five straight inside the Octagon, with his last loss coming at the hands of Carlos Condit at UFC 115.
8. Ben Askren (12-0)
Askren’s style may never please everyone, but the “Funky” proved once again at Bellator 97 that few opponents can handle his wrestling, as he overwhelmed Andrey Koreshkov en route to a fourth-round stoppage. Despite it being Akren’s second consecutive TKO win inside the promotion, the welterweight champion’s performance still drew its share of boos. Askren will likely face the winner of Ben Saunders-Douglas Lima, which takes place at Bellator 100 in September.
9. Jake Ellenberger (29-7)
Ellenberger talked a good game in the weeks leading up to his UFC on Fox 8 showdown with Rory MacDonald, but come fight night, the Nebraskan’s ominous promises of violence never materialized. Stuck on the end of the talented Canadian’s jab, “The Juggernaut” struggled to unleash his renowned knockout power, landing just 19 significant strikes in dropping a disappointing unanimous verdict. With losses in two of his last four bouts, Ellenberger has some work to do if he is to return to contender status.
10. Josh Burkman (26-9)
Burkman has been on a roll since parting ways with the UFC after a loss to Pete Sell in 2008. The Pit Elevated Fight Team product has won eight of his last nine bouts -- and he seems to be getting better with age. “The People’s Warrior” has knocked off UFC veterans Gerald Harris, Aaron Simpson and Jon Fitch in three World Series of Fighting appearances, polishing off Simpson and Fitch in a combined 3:45.
Other contenders:Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Robbie Lawler, Mike Pierce, Tarec Saffiedine.
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