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Pound for Pound Rankings

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Pound for Pound Rankings

Mensagem por Deus em Qui Fev 02 2012, 17:58

Heavyweights

1. Junior dos Santos (14-1)
Coming off of a UFC title win witnessed by tens of millions live in November, Junior dos Santos is primed for the internationally high-profile fight of his career in 2012, as he will take on Alistair Overeem in a bout that will uniquely tie up the heavyweight lineages of the UFC, Pride and Strikeforce. If you were feeling generous, you could even throw in the K-1 World Grand Prix.

2. Cain Velasquez (9-1)
Cain Velasquez is back in the gym and training to bounce back from losing the UFC heavyweight strap to Junior dos Santos in November. Now, the American Kickboxing Academy product is expected to return to action in April, where he might tangle with former Strikeforce standout Antonio Silva.

3. Alistair Overeem (36-11, 1 NC)
On Dec. 30, Alistair Overeem turned in the most intense UFC debut since Anderson Silva’s demolition of Chris Leben in 2006. By steamrolling former UFC champion Brock Lesnar into retirement in Las Vegas, “The Demolition Man” has locked up a shot at the heavyweight mantle against Junior dos Santos later this year.

4. Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1)
After over three years outside of the Octagon, Fabricio Werdum will return to the UFC at UFC 143 on Feb. 4. In opposition, the Brazilian finds himself up against the slightly-more-svelte Roy Nelson, who took apart Werdum’s former training partner Mirko Filipovic in October.

5. Shane Carwin (12-2)
Faced with the first two-fight skid of his career after suffering losses to Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos, Carwin was expected to compete at UFC 141 in December. However, the Grudge Training Center product was dealt yet another injury setback in October and will instead undergo back surgery with eyes on a mid-2012 return.

6. Frank Mir (16-5)
Mir can now lay claim as the first man to both knock out and submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The impressive and brutal submission came in their Dec. 10 rematch, when Mir snapped the Brazilian great’s right humerus with a vicious first-round kimura to settle their rivalry once and for all.

7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC)
Long regarded as one of MMA’s finest heavyweight grapplers, Nogueira suffered his first submission loss in more than 40 bouts on Dec. 10 when he had his right arm snapped by a Frank Mir kimura. The 35-year-old underwent surgery on the broken limb at the end of 2011 and is expected to resume training in mid-2012.

8. Josh Barnett (31-5)
The final of Strikeforce’s world heavyweight grand prix is just awaiting final confirmation on Daniel Cormier's hand injury. Assuming Cormier's hand is cleared, he and “The Warmaster” in the will bring an end to the tournament March 3 in Columbus, Ohio.

9. Daniel Cormier (9-0)
Daniel Cormier’s breakout win over Antonio Silva came at a cost, as his broken hand continues to slow progress toward his Strikeforce grand prix final against Josh Barnett. Tentatively scheduled for March 3, Cormier’s hand needs to get back to form to ensure the fight comes off for that date in Columbus, Ohio.

10. Brendan Schaub (8-2)
Brendan Schaub seemed to be narrowing in on a title shot prior to his surprising upset defeat against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro this past August. “The Hybrid” will return to the cage at UFC 145 in Montreal on March 24, where he will take on another heavyweight looking to recover lost hype in Ben Rothwell.

Other contenders: Fedor Emelianenko, Cheick Kongo, Cole Konrad, Roy Nelson, Antonio Silva.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones (15-1)
After the best single-year campaign in MMA history, Jon Jones is playing the waiting game. If former training partner and accused “special night”-ruiner Rashad Evans is victorious against Phil Davis on Jan. 28 and emerges healthy, Jones might meet the former champion in April. If Evans can’t go, it might be Dan Henderson. Either way, “Jonny Bones” is set for more major opposition in 2012.

2. Dan Henderson (29-8)
Dan Henderson’s fate, for now, will be determined by Rashad Evans on Jan. 28. If Evans tops Phil Davis and stays healthy, Henderson will be in search of an opponent for April or May. If not, “Hendo” might find himself lucking into a fight against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, his third bid for a UFC title.

3. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (20-6)
The former UFC titleholder fought back valiantly, but Rua could not overcome the deficit created by ex-Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson through the first three stanzas of their Nov. 19 encounter. The Brazilian came up on the short end of a brutal, 25-minute decision against Henderson and has now lost two of three since taking the title from Lyoto Machida in May 2010.

4. Rashad Evans (16-1-1)
Evans didn’t miss a beat upon returning from a 14-month hiatus. After snuffing out Tito Ortiz in August, the ex-UFC champ will attempt to affirm his status as top contender in the 205-pound division on Jan. 28, when he takes part in a long-awaited matchup against fellow collegiate wrestling standout Phil Davis.

5. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-9)
Jackson was halted for the first time since 2005 and submitted for only the second time in his career on Sept. 24 when he ran up against red-hot champion Jon Jones at UFC 135. Now, the Memphis native looks to get back on track in front of the Japanese audience he used to so love in Pride when he meets Ryan Bader at UFC 144.

6. Lyoto Machida (17-3)
Things were looking up for Machida in his Dec. 10 title confrontation with Jon Jones. The Brazilian karateka’s unorthodox style was proving an apt foil to the young champ until a second-round guillotine detached Machida from consciousness and dashed his hopes of once again holding the UFC light heavyweight title.

7. Phil Davis (9-0)
Finally healed from the knee injury which derailed his 2011 campaign, Davis will be right back in the thick of things upon his return. The former Penn State Nittany Lion will face the man he was supposed to fight in August, Rashad Evans, on Jan. 28 in what could prove to be a No. 1 contender’s bout.

8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5)
In December, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira assaulted Tito Ortiz to the body. However, his April assignment will be a much tougher one, as he heads to Stockholm to battle once-beaten Swedish prospect Alexander Gustafsson in the headliner of April 14's UFC on Fuel 2.

9. Alexander Gustafsson (13-1)
Alexander Gustafsson proved he was ready for A-level tests in December by blowing out respected veteran Vladimir Matyushenko. Now, “The Mauler” will get to move to the next echelon in his backyard, as the UFC touches down in Sweden on April 14 with Gustafsson headlining against Brazilian veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

10. Forrest Griffin (18-7)
After losing his UFC light heavyweight title in 2008 and being embarrassed by Anderson Silva in 2009, Griffin strung together back-to-back victories over Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin. That streak came to an abrupt halt on Aug. 27, however, when the man Griffin shockingly submitted in 2007, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, took revenge in the form of a first-round knockout at UFC 134.

Other contenders: Rafael Cavalcante, Rich Franklin, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Vladimir Matyushenko, Gegard Mousasi

Middleweight

1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
The world’s best pound-for-pound fighter left little doubt as to who rules the 185-pound ranks with a flawless August performance against Yushin Okami in Rio de Janeiro. All signs now point to a championship rematch with Chael Sonnen in the first quarter of 2012, once “The Spider” rehabs a sore shoulder.

2. Chael Sonnen (26-11-1)
Although all signs pointed toward a rematch with Anderson Silva after Sonnen’s October submission of Brian Stann, the controversial middleweight from Oregon still has one more hurdle to clear. On Jan. 28 in Chicago, Sonnen will meet fellow trash-talker Michael Bisping to determine the No. 1 contender to Silva’s title.

3. Yushin Okami (26-6)
Japan’s top MMA export fell well short in his long-awaited August rematch with UFC champ Anderson Silva, succumbing to punches for the first time since 2003. While he had to play visitor to Silva in Rio de Janeiro, Okami will hold home field advantage when he attempts to get back on track against Tim Boetsch at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan.

4. Mark Munoz (11-2)
The former Oklahoma State wrestler notched the biggest win of his career on Nov. 5, stopping Chris Leben between the second and third rounds of their UFC 138 main event. The “Filipino Wrecking Machine” appeared to be on the brink of title contention before an elbow injury took him out of his Jan. 28 meeting with Chael Sonnen.

5. Nate Marquardt (31-10-2)
Nate Marquardt’s nightmarish quest to drop back down to welterweight has hit another snag: with the British Association of MMA pushing back their next card from Feb. 11 to March 24, Marquardt opted out of his bout with Yoshiyuki Yoshida and his deal with the promotion. The next move for “Nate the Great” remains uncertain as he attempts to get his career back on the rails.

6. Demian Maia (15-3)
After coming up short in a tough fight against Mark Munoz, Maia got back on track with an October decisioning of Jorge Santiago. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was booked to face Michael Bisping on Jan. 28 before “The Count” was called up to replace Mark Munoz. Now, Maia means unbeaten prospect Chris Weidman instead.

7. Brian Stann (11-4)
“All-American” Stann is going international for his next bout. Stann will get back into the Octagon against a like-minded striker in Italian Alessio Sakara in front of the Swedish crowd at the UFC on Fuel 2 on April 14 in Stockholm.

8. Michael Bisping (22-3)
Things weren’t looking up for “The Count” in the first round of his Dec. 3 encounter with rival “TUF 14” coach Jason Miller, but Bisping took the driver’s seat from there, thumping an exhausted “Mayhem” with knees and punches to a third-round stoppage. Bisping is now one fight away from a long-desired title shot at Anderson Silva, but he’ll first have to get through Chael Sonnen on Jan. 28 in Chicago.

9. Vitor Belfort (21-9)
For the first time in 13 years, Vitor Belfort fought in front of a Brazilian crowd at UFC 142. In front of the Rio faithful, Belfort didn’t have a ton of trouble putting away an overweight and exhausted Anthony Johnson by first-round rear-naked choke. Next for the former UFC light heavyweight champion will be a rematch over a decade in the making with his rival Wanderlei Silva, to conclude “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil.”

10. Luke Rockhold (9-1)
In the first defense of his Strikeforce middleweight title, Luke Rockhold showed the offensive acumen that makes him an interesting up-and-comer in smashing veteran Keith Jardine in the first round. Unfortunately, the oft-injured Rockhold broke his hand, putting the brakes on any discussions his second title defense.

Other contenders: Tim Kennedy, Hector Lombard, Rousimar Palhares, Jorge Santiago, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Welterweight

1. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)
The welterweight division’s French Canadian king managed only one Octagon appearance in 2011, a five-round decision win over Jake Shields in April. Having recently undergone knee surgery, GSP will sit on the shelf well into 2012, when he’ll ostensibly unify his UFC championship with the winner of Feb. 4’s Nick Diaz-Carlos Condit interim title bout.

2. Nick Diaz (25-7, 1 NC)
It’s been an up-and-down year for Stockton, Calif.’s Diaz, who has seen two chances to fight divisional ruler Georges St. Pierre slip away. With GSP on the sideline for six to nine months, Diaz will attempt to capture the UFC interim welterweight title against Carlos Condit at UFC 143 on Feb. 4.

3. Johny Hendricks (12-1)
Two-time NCAA wrestling champion Johny Hendricks entered his Dec. 30 bout with Jon Fitch as a live underdog, but who was banking on a 12-second knockout? With his picture-perfect left hook, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy has put himself in position to potentially contend for the UFC welterweight title in 2012.

4. Jon Fitch (24-4-1, 1 NC)
Jon Fitch’s three-plus-year odyssey to get another UFC welterweight title shot was waylaid at UFC 141, as Johny Hendricks needed just one punch and 12 seconds to lay the former Purdue Boilermaker out. It will be a long, slow climb back to Fitch’s former perch as welterweight’s second banana.

5. Josh Koscheck (16-5)
A short-notice booking yielded big-time gains in September when Koscheck stepped in for Diego Sanchez and punched out former champ Matt Hughes. Originally booked against Carlos Condit on Feb. 4, the American Kickboxing Academy standout will instead meet Mike Pierce in Las Vegas at UFC 143.

6. Jake Ellenberger (26-5)
Ellenberger looked to be on the fast track to title contention after his 53-second demolition of Jake Shields in September, but the ongoing St. Pierre-Diaz-Condit shuffle has impeded the Nebraskan’s progress. In the meantime, he’ll tangle with perennial contender Diego Sanchez in the main event of the UFC’s Fuel debut on Feb. 15.

7. Jake Shields (26-6-1)
On Sept. 17, Shields was knocked out for the first time in more than 10 years by Jake Ellenberger. Now, Shields will return to Japan, where he initially broke out in the Shooto ranks almost a decade ago, as the Cesar Gracie disciple will take on Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144.

8. Carlos Condit (27-5)
Condit fell into a title shot in October and then lost it just as quickly when champ Georges St. Pierre suffered a knee injury. The “Natural Born Killer” can cement his status on Feb. 4 at UFC 143, where he’ll take on former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz for the UFC’s interim 170-pound belt and the right to face the returning GSP.

9. Martin Kampmann (18-5)
After suffering narrow defeats against Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, “The Hitman” finally got a decision to fall his way on Nov. 19 when he took a split not over tough wrestler Rick Story. Kampmann will again have his hands full on March 3 when he meets fellow striker Thiago Alves at UFC on FX 2 in Sydney.

10. B.J. Penn (16-8-2)
B.J. Penn’s temporary hiatus from MMA following his October loss to Nick Diaz had all but removed “The Prodigy” from the sport’s headlines. However, a Twitter tirade against the aforementioned Diaz has got many itching to see the Hawaiian back inside the cage in 2012.

Other contenders: Ben Askren, Charlie Brenneman, Rory MacDonald, Rick Story, Tyron Woodley.

Lightweight

1. Frankie Edgar (14-1-1)
After surviving another brutal first round against Gray Maynard on Oct. 8, Edgar closed out the pair’s trilogy with another spectacular comeback, knocking out his “Bully” in the fourth round. Next up for the New Jerseyan is a Feb. 26 UFC title defense in Japan against former World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Ben Henderson.

2. Gilbert Melendez (20-2)
Strikeforce’s lightweight ace turned in another strong performance on Dec. 17, out-punching American Top Team slugger Jorge Masvidal across five rounds to retain his 155-pound strap. While all signs pointed to Melendez’s imminent UFC signing, it was recently announced that “El Nino” will remain in the hexagon for the time being.

3. Gray Maynard (10-1-1, 1 NC)
Since suffering his first career defeat at the hands of Frankie Edgar in October, there have been no new fight developments for Maynard, but that’s not to say there haven’t been changes. In November, it was announced that “The Bully” would leave his longtime home gym of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas for the American Kickboxing Academy camp in San Jose, Calif.

4. Ben Henderson (15-2)
Henderson has looked nothing short of exceptional since transferring to the UFC, earning dominant unanimous decisions over Clay Guida, Jim Miller and Mark Bocek. The 27-year-old has expressed disappointment with his inability to finish in recent outings, something he’ll have the chance to rectify when he faces divisional ace Frankie Edgar for the UFC title in Japan on Feb. 26.

5. Shinya Aoki (30-5, 1 NC)
It was a gruesome sight on New Year’s Eve as Shinya Aoki defended his Dream lightweight title against former training partner Satoru Kitaoka. Aoki dominated proceedings both standing and on the feet, but it was his rear-naked choke attempts as Kitaoka choked on the blood from his own busted nose that put it over the top. Now, Aoki will await whatever name opponents he can find in 2012, possibly a rematch with former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez.

6. Jim Miller (20-3)
Miller was on the verge of title contention when he had his impressive, eight-fight winning streak snapped by former WEC champ Ben Henderson in August. Now, the hard-nosed New Jerseyan will have a chance to rebound in a big way, as Miller will face Melvin Guillard on Jan. 20 in the main event of the UFC’s inaugural show on cable channel FX.

7. Clay Guida (29-12)
Once more on the cusp of contention, Guida had his title dreams busted -- along with his four-fight winning streak -- by Ben Henderson in a thrilling Nov. 12 three-rounder. The lightweight stalwart finishes 2011 with a 2-1 mark, having topped Anthony Pettis and Takanori Gomi.

8. Anthony Pettis (13-2)
The final lightweight champion of World Extreme Cagefighting lost out on a UFC title shot when he faltered against Clay Guida in his Octagon debut, but Pettis surged back in his sophomore outing to take a split decision against tough vet Jeremy Stephens. Next up for the Roufusport product: a trip to Japan in February, where he’ll face submission wiz Joe Lauzon at UFC 144.

9. Michael Chandler (9-0)
Previously unranked Chandler used heavy hands, a granite chin and his powerful collegiate wrestling base to topple Eddie Alvarez on Nov. 19, outlasting Bellator’s longtime lightweight ace to score a shocking fourth-round submission. With six impressive Bellator victories and a shiny new gold belt, Chandler awaits the winner of the promotion’s next lightweight tournament in 2012.

10. Nate Diaz (15-7)
In a critical beatdown, Nate Diaz announced his entry into UFC lightweight contendership on Dec. 30 with his thrashing of Donald Cerrone. With a violent, dominant beatdown of “Cowboy” that had the FightMetric.com staff working overtime, Diaz upped his status considerably in the UFC’s intense 155-pound race.

Other contenders: Eddie Alvarez, Donald Cerrone, Melvin Guillard, Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau.

Featherweight

1. Jose Aldo (21-1)
It might be too early to call Jose Aldo “the people’s champion,” but the Brazilian dynamo’s sensational first-round knockout of previously-unbeaten Chad Mendes at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro -- punctuated by his post-fight dive into the carioca crowd – was one of the most stirring moments in MMA’s recent past. The brilliant win has re-ignited conversations for “Scarface” to move up to 155, though his future for 2012 seems secure at featherweight.

2. Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2)
It wasn’t pretty, but Hioki avoided the curse of the Japanese imports with an Oct. 29 split decision win over George Roop in his Octagon debut. The Shooto champ will return home on Feb. 26 for another stiff test against hard-hitting WEC transfer Bart Palaszewski at UFC 144.

3. Chad Mendes (11-1)
Chad Mendes might be one of the world’s best featherweights, but as he found out at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro, that tends not to matter against Jose Aldo. Mendes came to fight, but still wound up unconscious with one second to go in the first round, and losing his unbeaten record, to boot.

4. Pat Curran (16-4)
Curran started slowly but finished brutally in his Aug. 20 showdown with former Sengoku and Pancrase champion Marlon Sandro in the final of Bellator's Summer Series tournament. With his head kick knockout of Sandro, Curran earned the right to challenge champ Joe Warren, a shot which will come in February at an as-yet-unannounced Bellator event.

5. Kenny Florian (14-6)
After losing to Jose Aldo in October, Kenny Florian wanted time to reassess his career. More recently, the fighter-stroke-commentator has admitted he’s mulling retirement due to ongoing back issues, a decision which could move “Ken Flo” to the booth permanently.

6. Marlon Sandro (20-3)
Sandro notched his 20th career victory in impressive fashion on Nov. 19, submitting Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Rafael Dias with a first-round arm-triangle choke. However, to get the rematch he desires -- a second crack at Bellator Summer Series tournament winner Pat Curran -- the heavy-handed Nova Uniao representative will have to navigate through the company’s upcoming sixth-season featherweight tournament.

7. Diego Nunes (17-2)
It’s Jose Aldo that rules 145, but his Nova Uniao teammate Diego Nunes did his part to keep moving in the division at UFC 141 by winning a well-appointed unanimous decision over Manny Gamburyan. Nunes has now won four of his last five, his lone loss coming on points to Kenny Florian last June.

8. Dustin Poirier (11-1)
First it was Erik Koch, and then it was Ricardo Lamas. The opponent carousel hasn’t been kind to Dustin Poirier, but for now, the talented up-and-comer is penciled in to take on unbeaten Hawaiian Max Holloway at UFC 143 on Feb. 4.

9. Bart Palaszewski (36-14)
Palaszewski notched this biggest win of his nearly 10-year career on Oct. 29, when he blasted former lightweight contender Tyson Griffin for a knockout win in less than three minutes. The going won’t get any easier in the Team Curran fighter’s sophomore Octagon appearance, as “Bartimus” is slated for action on hostile soil against Japanese star Hatsu Hioki at UFC 144 on Feb. 26.

10. Joe Warren (7-2)
Bellator’s 145-pound titleholder seemed a clear-cut favorite to win the company’s fifth-season 135-pound bracket, but things took an unexpected turn on Sept. 24 when Warren was flattened by a left hook from fellow wrestler Alexis Vila. With top contender Patricio Freire injured, Warren will move back up the scale to defend his title against Pat Curran in February.

Other contenders: Iuri Alcantara, Patricio Freire, Tyson Griffin, Chan Sung Jung, Erik Koch.

Bentamweight

1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
Cruz waited more than four years for his rematch against Urijah Faber; their third meeting will come much quicker. The bantamweights have been tabbed as coaches of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15, which will debut on FX in March and will conclude with an as-yet-unannounced clash.

2. Urijah Faber (26-5)
In July, Faber suffered his first loss at bantamweight in a five-round unanimous decision against UFC champ Dominick Cruz. The “California Kid” will have another opportunity to take the title in 2012, but first he will coach opposite Cruz on the 15th season of UFC reality show “The Ultimate Fighter.”

3. Joseph Benavidez (15-2)
MMA fans and pundits have long believed that Benavidez could be a champion at 125 pounds. The Team Alpha Male representative will have a chance to prove them right when he enters the semifinals of the UFC’s four-man flyweight title tournament against Shooto champ Yasuhiro Urushitani on March 3.

4. Brian Bowles (10-2)
Bowles suffered his first submission loss on Nov. 19 by way of Urijah Faber guillotine choke, and with it was dealt his first setback in the Octagon after wins over Takeya Mizugaki and Damacio Page. For now, the 21-year-old from Georgia moves down a rung in the ever-deepening UFC bantamweight division and takes a step back from a potential rematch with the man who took his WEC title, Dominick Cruz.

5. Scott Jorgensen (13-4)
Since failing in his WEC title bid against Dominick Cruz in December 2010, Jorgensen has been sterling in his new, eight-sided home. After brutally dispatching Ken Stone and outpointing Jeff Curran, “Young Guns” looks to be on the doorstep of another title shot, but that door is blocked by streaking Brazilian Renan Barao, whom Jorgensen will face on Feb. 4.

6. Demetrious Johnson (9-2)
The diminutive “Mighty Mouse” won’t have to answer questions about dropping to flyweight anymore. After suffering a five-round decision loss to Dominick Cruz in an October bid for the UFC bantamweight belt, Johnson is headed down to 125 pounds. First up: No. 1-ranked Ian McCall on March 3 in the semifinals of the UFC’s flyweight title tournament.

7. Renan Barao (27-1, 1 NC)
In November, Barao passed what many felt would be his toughest test to date, blowing through Englishman Brad Pickett at UFC 138. The Brazilian will look to run his remarkable unbeaten streak to 29 on Feb. 4, when he takes on former WEC title challenger Scott Jorgensen at UFC 143 in Las Vegas.

8. Miguel Torres (40-4)
Miguel Torres’ “rape van” Twitter indiscretion might have gotten him released, but just three weeks later, the former WEC bantamweight champion once again had a UFC deal. Now, Torres is back to waiting for a 135-pound foe, like nothing ever happened at all.

9. Masakatsu Ueda (15-1-2)
With an entertaining victory over previously unbeaten Kyoji Horiguchi on Jan. 8, the former Shooto world 132-pound champion firmed up his 2012 plans. Ueda will be headed stateside this year, to take part in Bellator’s Season 6 bantamweight tournament.

10. Bibiano Fernandes (13-1)
After losing his Dream featherweight crown on the last day of 2010, Bibiano Fernandes stormed through 2011 en route to the promotion’s bantamweight title. On New Year’s Eve 2011, Fernandes topped Rodolfo Marques Diniz before finishing off UFC veteran Antonio Banuelos in 81 seconds.

Other contenders: Brad Pickett, Zach Makovsky, Michael McDonald, Takeya Mizugaki, Eddie Wineland.

Flyweight

1. Ian McCall (11-2)
Since bowing out of a Dec. 2 defense of his Tachi Palace Fights title, “Uncle Creepy” has relocated to the Octagon. McCal, once a WEC bantamweight, will have a chance to become the UFC’s first flyweight titleholder, but for starters, he’ll have to get through Demetrious Johnson on March 3 in Sydney.

2. Jussier da Silva (14-1)
The grappling game of Brazil’s best flyweight claimed another victim on Dec. 15 when the ant-man topped previously unbeaten Rodrigo “Indio” Santos via first-round rear-naked choke. With three straight victories since his February loss to McCall, Formiga seems to be moving ever-closer to a big-stage debut.

3. Yasuhiro Urushitani (19-4-6)
After spending nearly 11 years competing in his native Japan, Shooto’s 123-pound world champ has finally joined the UFC. Urushitani won’t have it easy for his first time in the Octagon, as he’ll tangle with former WEC bantamweight contender Joseph Benavidez in the semifinals of the company’s flyweight title tournament.

4. Mamoru Yamaguchi (26-6-3)
The 34-year-old flyweight star suffered a hit on Aug. 5, as he lost a sound unanimous decision to Brazilian standout Jussier da Silva. Fortunately for Yamaguchi, his fan-friendly nature and action-packed style will continue to secure him fights on both sides of the Pacific.

5. Darrell Montague (9-2)
Montague started fast in his first Tachi Palace Fights flyweight title defense, but he could not stand up to the pressure of challenger Ian McCall. Montague was forced to tap in the second frame, but the talented and dynamic 23-year-old still figures to play a formative role in the flyweight division going forward.

6. Shinichi "B.J." Kojima (11-4-5)
The former ruler of the 125-pound roost has gone straight back to work since returning from his two-year layoff in August, earning two wins inside three months. Kojima’s most recent trip to the ring saw him earn a lackluster Nov. 5 unanimous decision over reigning super-flyweight King of Pancrase Kiyotaka Shimizu.

7. Yuki Shojo (11-6-2)
Shojo got his chance at the Shooto world title, but he could not replicate his 2008 victory over Yasuhiro Urushitani. This time around, the Shooto world champion knocked Shojo flat with a crushing head kick, sending him to the figurative back of the line in Shooto's 123-pound division.

8. Kiyotaka Shimizu (10-5-2)
Shimizu fell for the first time in two years on Nov. 5, falling to former Shooto world champion Shinichi Kojima. Now, Shimizu will look to get back on track by defending his own title, staking his 125-pound King of Pancrase title against Seiji Ozuka on Jan. 28.

9. Louis Gaudinot (5-1)
Gaudinot came up short in his UFC debut on Dec. 3, when he was dealt his first loss since June 2009 by rangy bantamweight Johnny Bedford. With the 125-pound division coming soon to the Octagon, however, the green-haired “TUF 14” standout will have a chance to shine at his natural weight.

10. Jose Maria Tome (28-3, 2 NC)
Jose Maria Tome’s record might be largely glossy, but the 29-year-old Brazilian is one of the country’s fastest rising talents. With five wins and four first-round submissions in 2011 alone, Tome’s shot at a bigger show stateside might not be far away.

Other contenders: Fumihiro Kitahara, Dustin Ortiz, Alexandre Pantoja, Mitsuhisa Sunabe, Ryosuke Tanuma.

17th January, Sherdog.com
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