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1. Henry Cejudo (16-2)After a shaky first round, Cejudo turned up the heat on Marlon Moraes in the UFC 238 main event, winning via third-round technical knockout to become the fourth simultaneous two-division champion in the history of the Las Vegas-based promotion. It’s difficult to deny the Olympic gold medalist as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best given recent wins over Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw and Moraes. “The Messenger” plans on defending on both his flyweight and bantamweight belts – and he even has designs on making an eventual move to 145 pounds. All those plans will likely have to wait until 2020 as Cejudo recovers from shoulder surgery.
2. Marlon Moraes (22-6-1)The former World Series of Fighting champion looked well on his way to capturing UFC gold after battering Henry Cejudo with leg kicks in the opening stanza of their UFC 238 title clash. However, as Cejudo picked up the pace, Moraes faded and eventually succumbed to ground-and-pound at the 4:51 mark of the third frame. That ended a four-fight winning streak for the man known as “Magic,” whose run included impressive finishes of Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao.
3. Cory Sandhagen (12-1)It’s difficult to look good against Raphael Assuncao, but Sandhagen had enough rangy striking and crafty grappling to emerge with a unanimous decision triumph against the Brazilian veteran in their UFC 241 matchup. That makes four consecutive bantamweight wins and five overall in UFC competition for the Elevation Fight Team representative, who has established himself as an interesting contender at 135 pounds. Sandhagen has been active the past two years, winning six bouts since January 2018, a stretch that includes his final Legacy Fighting Alliance appearance.
4. Raphael Assuncao (27-7)Assuncao was competitive at usual at UFC 241, but he was ultimately unable to solve Cory Sandhagen, losing a unanimous decision in a preliminary bantamweight bout in Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 17. After winning 11 of 12 Octagon appearances from August 2011 to July 2018 without getting a title shot, the 37-year-old Brazilian has dropped back-to-back fights to Marlon Moraes and Sandhagen.
5. Aljamain Sterling (18-3)Sterling put forth perhaps the most complete performance of his career to date at UFC 238, as he relied on speed, movement and a varied striking arsenal to take a unanimous verdict over Pedro Munhoz in a pivotal matchup of bantamweight contenders. “Funk Master” has won four straight at 135 pounds, and after back-to-back wins over Top 10 contenders in Muhnoz and Jimmie Rivera, looks poised to challenge for UFC gold in the near future.
6. Kai Asakura (13-1)A new star might have been born at Rizin Fighting Federation 18, as Asakura surprisingly knocked out two-promotional champion Kyoji Horiguchi in a mere 68 seconds. While it was a non-tile affair, that makes five consecutive victories under the Rizin banner for the Tri-Force Akasaka representative. More importantly, it should give Asakura plenty of ammunition for a rematch with Horiguchi – this time with a belt on the line.
7. Kyoji Horiguchi (28-3)Horiguchi’s winning streak was bound to come to an end eventually, but few expected it would come at the hands of the previously unheralded Kai Asakura. Fortunately for Horiguchi, his belt was not on the line in the Rizin 18 headliner, although it was undoubtedly disappointing to see his 13-bout run come to an end. The reigning Rizin and Bellator bantamweight king could try to avenge the loss to Asakura down the road, only with a title at stake in the rematch. But as a two-promotion champion, Horiguchi will likely have plenty of options to consider..
8. Petr Yan (13-1)Yan continues to justify the hype that has grown around him since he entered the UFC. The 26-year-old Russian garnered his fifth straight Octagon triumph at UFC 238, taking a hard-fought division over Jimmie Rivera. In a closely contested battle, Yan landed the more memorable offense, dropping his opponent on two different occasions and landing other shots that might have dropped a lesser man. In a crowded and talented division, Yan believes he is deserving of the next title shot.
9. John Lineker (31-9)Lineker had a good showing against Cory Sandhagen at UFC Fort Lauderdale – 10 of 17 judges tracked by MMADecisions.com awarded the bout to “Hands of Stone” – but it wasn’t quite enough to earn the nod from the cageside judges, as the hard-hitting Brazilian dropped a close split decision. After complaining about a lack of activity in recent years, Lineker was supposed to step in on short notice to face Rob Font in a rematch at UFC Greenville on June 22. Unfortunately, Lineker suffered a cut above his eyebrow during a workout and had to withdraw from the booking. He was released from his UFC contract shortly thereafter and has since signed with Singapore-based promotion One Championship.
10. Jimmie Rivera (22-4)Rivera’s slump continued at UFC 238, as he dropped a unanimous decision to surging Russian contender Petr Yan. While it was Rivera’s third loss in his last four outings, he looked better than he had in previous defeats, even outlanding his opponent by a 73-to-56 count in significant strikes. However, two knockdowns for Yan were a major deciding factor in demise of the Team Tiger Schulmann member.
Other Contenders: Urijah Faber, Pedro Munhoz, Darrion Caldwell, Cody Garbrandt, Rob Font.
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