1. Jussier da Silva (3-0)
After upsetting Shooto world champion Shinichi "BJ" Kojima in a non-title affair in July, it was expected "Formiga" would be brought back for a year-end title rematch. However, those prospects are in limbo as da Silva's management and pro Shooto promoters haggle over purse figures for the Natalense fighter.
2. Shinichi Kojima (10-4-5)
Kojima's Shooto world title run had effectively been on the rocks since July, when he was dominated in a non-title affair against Jussier da Silva. "BJ" officially ended his title reign in February, though, vacating the Shooto world title due to a knee injury and freeing up the Shooto 123-pound title picture.
3. Mamoru Yamaguchi (23-5-3)
After a decade-long career in which he had never fought outside of Shooto sanctioning, Yamaguchi headed to King of the Cage in Okinawa and bulldozed previously unbeaten Frank Baca for a second-round submission victory. The win gave Yamaguchi the KOTC 125-pound title and a new window of opportunity later in his pioneering career.
4. Yuki Shojo (9-5-2)
Shojo's last victory, a September majority decision over Junya Kudo, was not the typical all-action fight Shojo has become known for. However, more excitement may be in store when Shojo takes on Guam's Jesse Taitano at "The Way of Shooto 2" on March 22.
5. Yasuhiro Urushitani (16-4-6)
Though he deserved the victory the first time they fought in May 2008, justice prevailed in Urushitani’s Sept. 22 rematch with Ryuichi Miki. He slickly boxed his way to a unanimous decision verdict over the former Shooto rookie champion.
6. Ryuichi Miki (10-3-3)
In September, Miki lost his first bout in three and a half years when he dropped a unanimous decision to Yasuhiro Urushitani. However, the 2006 Shooto rookie champion rebounded soundly on Nov. 23, taking a points verdict of his own over Masaaki Sugawara in an enthralling slugfest.
7. Pat Runez (4-0)
Showing savvy far beyond his actual MMA experience, Runez overcame an early shellacking from John Dodson to take a well-earned split decision win on Oct. 3, as he claimed the Ultimate Warrior Challenge flyweight title in what was the most significant 125-pound bout to date outside of Japan.
8. Kiyotaka Shimizu (5-3-1)
Less than two years ago, Shimizu began a pro career that started 0-2-1. In the last 10 months, Shimizu is 5-1, and on Feb. 7 he upset Mitsuhisa Sunabe to claim the featherweight King of Pancrase title. Coincidentally, it was Sunabe who had defeated Shimizu in his pro debut in April 2008.
9. Mitsuhisa Sunabe (11-6-3)
In a close, competitive contest, Sunabe lost his featherweight King of Pancrase title to Kiyotaka Shimizu. The bout was the second meeting between the two fighters, with Sunabe winning the first in April 2008. With a relative lack of new contenders in the Pancrase flyweight division, a rubber match between the two may not be far off.
10. Masaaki Sugawara (9-4-1)
In his fourth bout in just eight months, Sugawara was his usual exciting self against Ryuichi Miki in their Nov. 23 bout. Unfortunately for the lanky puncher, it wasn't good enough to win, as he dropped a unanimous decision to Miki.
Other contenders: John Dodson, Isao Hirose, Fumihiro Kitahara, Ayumu Shioda, Alexis Vila.