1. Jose Aldo (22-1)
Try as they might, challengers keep coming up short in their quest to dethrone the Brazilian prince of the featherweight division. Aldo’s active and precise striking faded in the championship rounds of his latest title defense at UFC 156, but by the time Frankie Edgar really got going, the champion had already racked up enough points to earn a unanimous nod. Aldo was set to meet former WEC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis at UFC 163, but with Pettis sidelined due to a knee injury, the Nova Uniao product will instead defend his belt against “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
2. Chad Mendes (14-1)
Mendes scored his third consecutive first-round knockout at UFC on Fox 7, ending the five-fight winning streak of fellow wrestler Darren Elkins in the process. Buoyed by the addition of head coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig at Team Alpha Male, Mendes appears to be on track to eventually securing a rematch with Jose Aldo, the man to whom he lost at UFC 142. However, he will first have to make it through former lightweight contender Clay Guida at UFC 164 in August.
3. Pat Curran (19-4)
Curran solidified himself as one of Bellator’s stalwarts during the promotion’s Season 8 transition to Spike TV with a pair of 145-pound title defenses. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native took a solid five-round verdict over Patricio Freire on Jan. 17 before choking out Shahbulat Shamhalaev at Bellator 95. “Paddy Mike” will likely make his next title defense against Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus.
4. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
After impressive wins over Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch, Lamas was looking for a title shot against Jose Aldo, and rightfully so. However, “The Bully” was instead paired with Chan Sung Jung at UFC 162 on July 6, only to see their matchup nixed by an injury to Anthony Pettis. Jung will now replace "Showtime" and challenge Aldo for featherweight gold in August.
5. Clay Guida (30-13)
A drop to 145 pounds seemed to have no effect on the frenetic “Carpenter,” who repeatedly grounded and occasionally pounded Hatsu Hioki in a controversial, three-round split decision on Jan. 26 in Chicago. Guida was set to build on that performance against fellow wrestler Chad Mendes at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20 before an injury put him on the shelf. The two featherweights will instead collide at UFC 164 in August.
6. Hatsu Hioki (26-6-2)
Hioki’s active guard work was not enough to sway the judges in a three-round split decision loss to Clay Guida on Jan. 26. After debuting in the UFC with back-to-back wins, the “Son of Shooto” has fallen from the rank of top contender with consecutive decision defeats to Guida and Ricardo Lamas. Hioki will try to halt his skid on Aug. 28, when he meets Darren Elkins at UFC on Fox Sports 1.
7. Dennis Siver (21-8)
In his second 145-pound outing, Siver was simply overwhelming, as the German-based Russian pulverized Nam Phan at UFC on Fox 5. Siver was expected to meet Cub Swanson in February but withdrew for unknown reasons; the bout has been rebooked for UFC 162 on July 6.
8. Nik Lentz (24-5-2, 1 NC)
At UFC on FX 8, the Minnesotan utilized clinches, takedowns and ground-and-pound to outpoint Hacran Dias in front of a hostile Brazilian audience. Now 3-0 at featherweight, the competition only figures to get tougher for Lentz as he attempts to ascend the divisional ladder.
9. Chan Sung Jung (13-3)
Jung has been out of action since his May 2012 submission win over Dustin Poirier, but “The Korean Zombie” will not get a tune-up fight when he returns in July. Originally slated to meet Ricardo Lamas at UFC 162, Jung will instead replace the injured Anthony Pettis and take on featherweight champion Jose Aldo in the main event of UFC 163.
10. Cub Swanson (19-5)
Wins over George Roop, Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier have Swanson on the precipice of featherweight title contention. The Jackson’s MMA product has been paired with Dennis Siver for a bout at UFC 162 on July 6.
Other contenders:Darren Elkins, Erik Koch, Diego Nunes, Dustin Poirier, Daniel Straus.
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