1. Daniel Cormier (19-1, 1 NC)Cormier is once again UFC light heavyweight champion and the No. 1 205-pound fighter in the world, though it is far from how he wanted to stay on the throne. Cormier could not defeat Jon Jones in their July 29 rematch and settled for a no-contest after Jones’ “B” sample came back positive for steroids. No matter his future in the cage, “DC” remains inextricably linked to Jones while also facing great uncertainty about the identity of his next UFC title challenger. Cormier seems to prefer a matchup with fast-rising contender Volkan Oezdemir in early 2018.
2. Alexander Gustafsson (18-4)The latest piece to the Jon Jones anti-doping drama must be bittersweet for Gustafsson. Coming off back-to-back wins over Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira, “The Mauler” seemed primed for a title eliminator sort of bout, perhaps against Volkan Oezdemir, in order to get a second shot at Jones’ championship and a chance to avenge his razor-thin loss in their classic 2013 “Fight of the Year.” With Jones now stripped and the title returned to Daniel Cormier, Gustafsson could walk into a title rematch with “DC,” a man he nearly topped for the crown at UFC 192 in October 2015.
3. Ryan Bader (23-5)Bader spent eight years toiling toward a UFC light heavyweight title shot but never could clinch one. In his Bellator MMA debut in June, “Darth Bader” took the promotion's title from Phil Davis, and now, he is already lined up for his first defense. The 34-year-old Bader defends his 205-pound crown against crafty Brit Linton Vassell at Bellator 186 on Nov. 3, from the campus of Penn State University.
4. Volkan Oezdemir (15-1)Oezdemir was a largely anonymous Bellator MMA veteran six months ago. He made his UFC debut on short notice in February and upset Ovince St. Preux via questionable split decision. Since getting his foot in the door, Oezdemir has not looked back. “No Time” has taken out St. Preux, Misha Cirkunov and big-hitting Brit Jimi Manuwa; Ciruknov and Manuwa lasted a combined 70 seconds in the cage with the surging Swiss contender. He may need to go through Alexander Gustafsson in a title eliminator, but if nothing else, reigning light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier has indicated he prefers facing Oezdemir outright in early 2018.
5. Phil Davis (17-4, 1 NC)Davis had his Bellator MMA light heavyweight belt snatched in June by Ryan Bader, who won his second decision over “Mr. Wonderful” to take the promotion’s 205-pound title. Now, the former NCAA Division I national wrestling champion will have to focus on dealing with a belt of another kind, as Davis is set for action against 10-0 Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt world champion Leonardo Leite at Bellator 186 on Nov. 3. The bout will take place on Davis’ old stomping grounds on the campus of Penn State University.
6. Jimi Manuwa (17-3)Manuwa did not want to sit around and brood over his 22-second upset loss to Volkan Oezdemir in July, a knockout defeat that likely cost him a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title. Instead, “The Poster Boy” wanted to jump back into the mix quickly, so he signed on for a fight against Przemyslaw Mysiala, tabbed for UFC Fight Night 118 on Oct. 21 in Gdansk, Poland. However, Mysiala could not secure his release from his Absolute Championship Berkut contract, so Manuwa now awaits a new opponent on a different card.
7. Glover Teixeira (26-6)Teixeira was devastated over 21 minutes by Alexander Gustafsson in May, suffering a nasty fifth-round knockout defeat. Nonetheless, the perennial 205-pound standout opted for a difficult fight for his return, signing on to face Misha Cirkunov at UFC Fight Night 119 on Oct. 28. However, Teixeira was slower to heal than expected after recovering from hand surgery, so the Teixeira-Cirkunov clash has been moved to UFC on Fox 26 on Dec. 16 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
8. Misha Cirkunov (13-3)Another victim of Volkan Oezdemir's shocking 2017 campaign of terror, Cirkunov had his eight-fight winning streak -- all stoppages -- smashed in just 28 seconds by the Swiss exponent in May. The Latvian-Canadian was scheduled for comeback duty on Oct. 28 against Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 119, but the former UFC title challenger needed more time to heal his hand after surgery, leading to the fight being rescheduled for UFC on Fox 26 on Dec. 16. The booking should appeal to Cirkunov on some level, as he has gone from fighting a Brazilian in Sao Paulo to taking on Teixeira in his adopted home nation of Canada.
9. Ilir Latifi (13-5, 1 NC)Beyond becoming a cult favorite because of his hulking physique and amusing pictures of his riding horses on the beach while shirtless, Latifi has become an excellent mixed martial artist. Rebounding from his brutal knockout loss to Ryan Bader 12 months prior, Latifi put the first blemish on the record of prospect Tyson Pedro at UFC 215. Latifi has now won four of his last five bouts.
10. Nikita Krylov (23-5)Krylov on Oct. 13 made his second appearance for Fight Nights Global after requesting his release from the UFC. While opponent Emanuel Newton entered the bout 1-5 over his previous six outings, the former Bellator 205-pound champion had never been treated like this: Krylov swarmed him and collapsed “The Hardcore Kid” with a devastating knee strike in just 43 seconds. It was only the second time in Newton’s career -- the first since his November 2003 pro debut -- that he had been stopped with strikes. After the emphatic win, Krylov called out fellow UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado.
Other Contenders: Liam McGeary, Tomasz Narkun, Mauricio Rua, Ovince St. Preux, Linton Vassell.
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