Dethroning Georges St. Pierre: The Top 25 UFC Welterweights

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIJanuary 30, 2012

Dethroning Georges St. Pierre: The Top 25 UFC Welterweights

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    This weekend, for the first time in four years, the UFC will crown a new UFC Welterweight Champion. Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz battle for the Interim belt while current 170 pound king Georges St. Pierre sits on the sidelines. In this article, you will find an in depth analysis of the Top 25 fighters in the UFC Welterweight division, ranked based on their performances in the Octagon.

    Hold onto your hats!

#25: Josh Neer

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    MMA Record: 33-10-1
    UFC Record:  6-6

    Currently in his fourth run in the UFC, it’s hard to believe that Josh Neer is only 28 years old. Neer has stopped both of his opponents since returning to the Octagon and is on a six-fight win streak overall.

    In his most recent bout, Neer showed resilience against the powerful and dynamic striking of Duane Ludwig. Halfway through the first round, Ludwig scrambled to get to his feet, leaving a small opening. The experience of “The Dentist” shined through, as he took advantage of the brief window, securing a guillotine choke and making his way onto this list.

    Notable Wins: Joe Stevenson, Melvin Guillard, Mac Danzig, Din Thomas,  Duane Ludwig
    Notable Losses:  Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Kurt Pellegrino, Gleison Tibau

#24: Erik Silva

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    MMA Record: 13-2 (1) 
    UFC Record: 1-1

    Erick Silva does not get paid by the hour. In his 69 seconds of UFC action, Silva has stopped Luis Ramos and Carlo Prater. While he officially received the DQ loss in his bout with Prater, it was a questionable call that baffled most of the MMA world, notably including commentator Joe Rogan who drilled referee Mario Yamasaki about the call in the post-fight interview.

    Humble even in defeat, the young Silva has a bright future in the UFC and can be expected to climb the ranks in the near future.

    Notable Wins: Luis Ramos
    Notable Losses: Carlo Prater

#23: Claude Patrick

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    MMA Record: 14-2  
    UFC Record: 3-1

    The closest contest on the UFC 139 card was the split-decision chess match between Claude Patrick and MMA journeyman Brian Ebersole. While the bout wasn’t particularly thrilling, it showed that Patrick has what it takes to hang with even the most experienced of opponents.

    He may not have the biggest name in the industry, but Patrick’s impressive grappling in prior victories over Ricardo Funch, Daniel Roberts and Ultimate Fighter winner James Wilks have put the rest of the welterweight division on notice.

    Notable Wins: James Wilks, Daniel Roberts, Ricardo Funch
    Notable Losses: Brian Ebersole

#22: Paulo Thiago

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    MMA Record: 14-3  
    UFC Record: 4-3

    Paulo Thiago has been thrown into the deep end of the UFC welterweight division since day one. In his debut bout, Thiago shocked the world by knocking out perennial welterweight contender Josh Koscheck. Following it up with a 29-28 decision loss to longtime #1 contender Jon Fitch, Thiago would put on impressive performances against Mike Swick, Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez.

    An injury kept Paulo out of a highly anticipated bout with Mike Pyle at UFC 142, but the hard hitting Brazillian SWAT team member returns to the UFC in April against the highly touted Siyar Bahadurzada.

    Notable Wins:  Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick
    Notable Losses: Diego Sanchez, Martin Kampmann, Jon Fitch

#21: Rick Story

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    MMA Record: 13-5
    UFC Record: 6-3

    When Rick Story defeated formed contender Thiago Alves in 2011, it looked as if the welterweight division had a new star on it’s hands. Slated for the main event, Story was given a last minute opponent change when Nate Marquardt had elevated levels of testosterone from TRT. Now facing a wrestler on one days notice, Story lost a decision to preliminary card fighter Charlie Brenneman, who was able to grind out the first two rounds and earn a decision.

    Although there were calls that "The Horror" would be the one to eventually remove the belt from GSP's waist, Story seemed to have lost his footing on the divisional ladder, when he lost another decision to Martin Kampmann late last year. Rick will try to end his two fight skid in 2012.

    Notable Wins: Thiago Alves, Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger
    Notable Losses: Martin Kampmann, Charlie Brenneman, John Hathaway

#20: Charlie Brenneman

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    MMA Record: 15-3  
    UFC Record: 4-2

    At UFC Live: Marquardt vs Story, Charlie Brenneman was supposed to face TJ Grant in a preliminary bout on Facebook. Days before the fight, TJ Grant pulled out due to illness and Brenneman was left on the sidelines. Charlie has stated that became aware that Marquardt would be unable to fight at the event before Rick Story. In case he was the replacement, he began training to fight Rick Story and it paid off. Brenneman would defeat Story in a massive upset.

    Since that bout, Brenneman has gone 1-1: winding up on the wrong end of a brutal knock out from Anthony Johnson and winning a decision over Daniel Roberts at the inaugural UFC on FX event. Expect Brenneman to attempt to catch lightning in a bottle again this year.

    Fun Fact: Did you know that Charlie Brenneman won the first season of Spike TV's Pros vs Joes?

    Notable Wins: Rick Story
    Notable Losses: Anthony Johnson, Johny Hendricks

#19: Matt Hughes

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    MMA Record: 45-9  
    UFC Record: 18-7 

    Until Matt Hughes formally announces his retirement from the sport, he will find himself as a ranked fighter. However, after back to back KO losses against Josh Koscheck and BJ Penn, it looks like the Hall of Famer’s career is coming to a close.  

    Ranking Hughes this low hurts me as a fan, but the fact is that he has not had a win since August of 2010. Matt Hughes has a lot of pride and despises losing. Expect to see the former welterweight king back in action at least one more time to put one final win on his legendary career.

    Notable Wins: Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, Royce Gracie, Matt Serra, Frank Trigg (x2) + more
    Notable Losses: Georges St. Pierre (x2), BJ Penn (x2), Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck

#18: Thiago Alves

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    MMA Record: 19-8  
    UFC Record: 11-5

    The Pitbull has had his ups and downs in the UFC. After his failed shot at capturing the welterweight title from GSP in July 2009, Thiago faced multiple setbacks on the road back to the top. His rematch with Jon Fitch was postponed twice, once due to a knee injury and again due to an abnormality found in Thiago’s brain during a pre-fight CAT scan.

    Since Alves’ return, he has been unable to build any significant momentum, defeating John Howard and Papi Albedi, but losing to Rick Story and Jon Fitch. A March bout with Martin Kampmann will show us where Thiago stands in the division.

    Notable Wins: Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, Chris Lytle, Karo Parisyan
    Notable Losses: GSP, Jon Fitch (x2), Rick Story

#17: Mike Pierce

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    MMA Record: 13-4  
    UFC Record: 5-2

    Mike Pierce made his UFC debut in a bout where he outpointed former WEC contender Brock Larson. He turned heads at UFC 107 when he bucked Jon Fitch late in the third round of their contest, nearly finishing the former No.1 contender. Since that time, Pierce has gone 4-1 in the UFC, fighting mostly promotional newcomers and losing only to Johny Hendricks via split decision.

    Pierce was originally supposed to face Josh Koscheck back in 2009 but the bout was cancelled. When Koscheck found himself without an opponent at UFC 143, Pierce called out The Kos and talked his way into a main card bout. We will find out if that was a good decision on February 4th.

    Notable Wins: Brock Larson
    Notable Losses: Jon Fitch, Johny Hendricks

#16: John Hathaway

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    MMA Record: 15-1  
    UFC Record: 5-1

    It wasn’t until John Hathaway’s fourth UFC appearance that he began to turn heads. Hathaway’s opponent was Diego Sanchez, a fighter who had only lost to BJ Penn, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck at that point in his career. Diego was a heavy favorite and few gave Hathaway a fighting chance. Hathaway stunned Diego with an enormous knee early in the fight that kept “The Nightmare” on dream street for the rest of the bout. Hathaway would win that decision.

    Since then, the 24 year-old Hathaway suffered his first professional loss to Mike Pyle, but rebounded with a decision over Kris McCray. Hathaway was scheduled to face the always-tough Matt Brown at UFC 138, but was removed due to injury.

    Notable Wins: Diego Sanchez, Rick Story, Paul Taylor
    Notable Losses: Mike Pyle

#15: Dong Hyun Kim

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    MMA Record: 15-1-1 (1)  
    UFC Record: 6-1 (1)

    Korean judo machine Dong Hyun Kim made his debut in the UFC in 2008, using his stifling grappling to win decisions over increasingly difficult opponents. After a New Years Day victory of Nate Diaz, Kim called out welterweight king Georges St. Pierre for a title fight. While his request fell on deaf ears, he was rewarded with a bout against Carlos Condit on July 2nd. A win would have solidified Kim as a force to be reckoned with and likely put him one or two fights away from a shot at the belt.

    Kim would be knocked out via flying knee in the first round of the contest and sent back to the drawing board. He recently returned to the octagon, showing improved standup to defeat Sean Pierson at UFC 141. Did you see that kick?

    Notable Wins: Nate Diaz, Amir Sadollah, Matt Brown
    Notable Losses: Carlos Condit

#14: Mike Pyle

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    MMA Record: 22-8-1  
    UFC Record: 5-3

    When Mike Pyle opened his UFC career with losses in two of his first three bouts, it appeared that it might be time to write off the man known as “Quicksand”. Since that time, Pyle has gone 4-1, giving John Hathaway his only career loss and retiring veteran Ricardo Almeida.

    Although he stumbled against Rory MacDonald, Pyle was set to face top competition once again, when he signed on to fight Paulo Thiago at UFC 142. When Paulo withdrew from the bout due to injury, he was replaced with Ricardo Funch . The Brazilian proved to be no match for Quicksand, who separated him from consciousness in only 82 seconds.

    Fun Fact: Did you know that Mike Pyle began his professional career with a bout against future UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson? If that wasn't tough enough, his next fight was against Jon Fitch!

    Notable Wins: Jon Fitch, John Hathaway, Ricardo Almeida,
    Notable Losses: Rory MacDonald, Quinton Jackson, Jake Shields, Jake Ellenberger

#13: Jake Shields

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    MMA Record: 26-6-1  
    UFC Record: 1-2

    Don’t let his UFC record fool you: Jake Shields is an incredible fighter. A multi-divisional fighter, Shields has wins over top names in the sport, including Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami.

    After losing a 48-47 decision to Georges St. Pierre, Shields was placed in the main event of UFC Fight Night in September of 2011. A 53 second knockout loss to rising star Jake Ellenberger ended his night and has caused many to think that Shields can't hang with UFC talent.

    Whether you think that Jake Shields is all hype is up to you, but the Caesar Gracie fighter has more big names on his resume than most Hall of Famers. His bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 in Japan will show us where he belongs.

    Notable Wins: Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit, Martin Kampmann, Jason Miller, Yushin Okami
    Notable Losses: Georges St. Pierre, Jake Ellenberger

#12: Brian Ebersole

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    MMA Record: 49-14-1 (1)  
    UFC Record: 3-0

    Brian Ebersole is an odd cookie. Between his trademark “Hairrow” man-scaping, his cartwheel kicks or his odd in-cage behavior, you could make the argument that Ebersole is one of the most intriguing fighters in MMA. After winning 46 professional fights, Ebersole was called in as a last-minute fill-in for Carlos Condit at UFC 127 in Australia. Shockingly, Ebersole was able to dominate perennial Top 10 fighter Chris Lytle, nearly being the only man to ever knock out “Lights Out”.

    Since that contest, Ebersole put a quick kibosh on Dennis Hallman and his man-panties and then won a close decision against Claude Patrick at UFC 140.

    Many of Ebersole’s losses have come when fighting above his weight class, including Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard, UFC light-heavyweight Stephan Bonnar and former UFC Heavyweight Kerry Schall.

    Notable Wins: Chris Lytle, Dennis Hallman, Carlos Newton
    Notable Losses: Hector Lombard, Stephan Bonnar, Ed Herman

#11: Rory MacDonald

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    MMA Record: 12-1  
    UFC Record: 3-1

    Seven seconds. That’s how close Rory MacDonald came to being an undefeated fighter.  At UFC 115, Rory MacDonald was 20 years old and across the cage from Carlos Condit. Rory shocked Condit with his power and agility for the first two rounds, controlling the action and causing damage. In the third round, Condit got comfortable and unloaded on Rory-Mac, landing lots of ground and pound and earning the stoppage victory at 4:53 in the final round. Win or loss, Rory announced himself to the world that night.

    Since that bout, Rory has gone on a tear, turning in highlight-reel performances against Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle. MacDonald was scheduled to face Brian Ebersole in December, but pulled out due to an injury. He will now face highly-touted prospect Che Mills at UFC 145 in April.

    Notable Wins: Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle
    Notable Losses: Carlos Condit

#10: Jon Fitch

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    MMA Record: 23-4-1 (1)  
    UFC Record: 12-2-1

    I find myself disliking Jon Fitch for his personality and sense of entitlement. That being said, there is no denying his talent. Only two men have been able to defeat him in the Octagon. One of those men is the greatest welterweight of all time and the other scored a flash knockout. With endless pressure and a lot of heart, you can’t expect to get in the cage with Jon Fitch without getting beaten up. His record stands for itself.

    Fitch has been widely criticized for his grinding style of fighting, as he has yet to finish a fight since 2007. Fitch finds himself throwing ground and pound from guard, with no intention of advancing position, as evidenced by the third round of his February bout with BJ Penn. Regardless of what you think about his vanilla style of fighting, it works.

    My problem with Jon Fitch is the ranking he has been given despite the ranking of his opponents. Aside from a split-decision over Diego Sanchez in 2007 and a lackluster win over Thiago Alves in 2010, Fitch has never defeated a Top 10 opponent in his career, yet he has widely been called “the consensus #2” for years. In 2012, Fitch needs to fight contenders and work his way back up.

    Notable Wins: Diego Sanchez, Thiago Alves (x2), Ben Saunders, Mike Pierce, Paulo Thiago
    Notable Losses: Georges St. Pierre, Johny Hendricks

#9: BJ Penn

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    MMA Record: 16-8-2  
    UFC Record: 12-7-2

    Despite his advantages on the ground, BJ Penn is willing to fight anyone standing up. A calling card of his career has been his desire to take on all challenges. In his quest to be challenged, BJ, a natural lightweight, has fought in several classes: including a heavyweight bout with former UFC champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. BJ is one of only two men to ever win UFC gold in two divisions.

    BJ Penn announced his retirement after a recent bout with Nick Diaz, but comments from BJ and his management have indicated that is not the case. I expect to see BJ return to the Octagon in summer/fall of 2012.

    Notable Wins: Matt Hughes (x2), Takanori Gomi, Jens Pulver, Matt Serra, Sean Sherk
    Notable Losses: Georges St. Pierre (x2), Frankie Edgar (x2), Nick Diaz, Matt Hughes

#8: Martin Kampmann

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    MMA Record: 18-5  
    UFC Record: 9-4

    You can’t help but feel bad for Martin Kampmann. After a razor-thin decision loss to Jake Shields (which many argue was incorrect), Kampmann squared off with Diego ”The Dream” Sanchez and absolutely wrecked him in 2011. Kampmann controlled the action on the feet and caused lots of damage that left The Dream a battered mess. While Diego was competitive in rounds two and three, it seemed evident that Kampmann had done enough. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, none of the judges agreed.

    Kampmann has since gotten back on the right track with a decision win over Rick Story in November.  A scheduled March bout with Thiago Alves will be a welcome change for Kampmann, a Muay Thai specialist. It is also a sleeper pick for fight of the year.

    Martin Kampmann is the only man to successfully defeat current welterweight contender Carlos Condit in the UFC.

    Notable Wins: Carlos Condit, Rick Story, Paulo Thiago, Thales Leites
    Notable Losses: Jake Shields, Diego Sanchez, Paul Daley, Nate Marquardt

#7: Johny Hendricks

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    MMA Record: 12-1  
    UFC Record: 7-1

    Last month, Johny Hendricks went from talented prospect to title contender when he knocked out Jon Fitch in only 12 seconds at UFC 141. Hendricks wasn’t given much of a chance by MMA pundits leading up to the bout, but he always had faith in his big left hand.

    Hendricks has an impressive 7-1 record in the UFC and his sole loss was a close decision against Rick Story.  Many of Hendricks’ bouts are against grapplers, with Amir Sadollah as one of the few strikers that he has come across. In a division that includes some excellent strikers, it’s hard to rank Hendricks higher until he is tested.

    Notable Wins: Jon Fitch, Mike Pierce, Charlie Brenneman
    Notable Losses: Rick Story

#6: Diego Sanchez

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    MMA Record: 23-4  
    UFC: 12-4

    The original Ultimate Fighter winner has had 16 fights in the UFC and has been victorious is 75 percent of them. He has enjoyed success in multiple weight classes and put on Fight of the Night performance in five bouts, including the 2009 Fight of the Year against Clay Guida. Aside from his title loss to BJ Penn in the lightweight division, Sanchez has a decision loss to Josh Koscheck on a night where he was battling a staph infection and a split decision loss to Jon Fitch.

    Whether you agree with the decision or not, his victory over Martin Kampmann this year helped solidify him as a contender in the UFC welterweight division. He was scheduled to face Matt Hughes in September at UFC 135 but broke his hand in training for the bout. He is currently scheduled to face Jake Ellenberger in the main event of the UFC’s inaugural FUEL TV event.

    Comcast still doesn’t have FUEL TV. Call or email and complain. You don’t want to miss this one.

    Notable Wins: Nick Diaz, Martin Kampmann, Paulo Thiago, Joe Stevenson, Joe Riggs
    Notable Losses: BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, John Hathaway

#5: Josh Koscheck

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    MMA Record: 16-5  
    UFC Record: 14-5

    Josh Koscheck is in the unfortunate position of having two losses to the current champion of his division. Despite his record, his 0-2 record against GSP forces him to consider another weight class, or having to wait on the sidelines for a new champion to emerge. After agreeing to move to middleweight, Koscheck filled in for an injured Diego Sanchez against Matt Hughes in September, knocking out the Hall of Famer in the first round.

    Despite drawing the ire of Dana White for refusing to fight fellow contenders and teammates Jon Fitch and Mike Swick, Josh Koscheck has proven himself to be a company man, filling in on short notice against several dangerous opponents: including Thiago Alves, Matt Hughes. Koscheck also gave his raised his stock with a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter in 2010.

    If Koscheck is able to get past Mike Pierce this weekend, expect to see the bleach-blonde bomber attempt to get some vengeance on behalf of his AKA teammate Jon Fitch by signing on for a fight with Johny Hendricks.

    Notable Wins: Matt Hughes, Anthony Johnson, Diego Sanchez, Paul Daley, Chris Lytle
    Notable Losses: Georges St. Pierre(x2), Thiago Alves, Paulo Thiago 

#4: Jake Ellenberger

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    MMA Record: 26-5  
    UFC Record: 5-1

    When Jake Ellenberger debuted in the UFC against Carlos Condit, he was a late replacement for Chris Lytle. Jake was considered by most to be little more than a sacrificial lamb to “The Natural Born Killer”, but he proved to be quite the handful. After a first round that saw Ellenberger knock Condit down three times, nearly finishing the fight twice, it appeared that we would witness an upset. A close second round was followed up by a third round that was all Condit. Ellenberger found himself on the wrong end of a 29-28 split decision. This fight is cited as an example of judges being hesitant to use 10-8 in their scoring.

    Since that fight, Ellenberger has posted five consecutive wins in the UFC, notably outstriking Muay Thai specialist John Howard and creating a massive hematoma that stopped the fight. In his bout with Carlos Eduardo Rocha, Jake showed his ability to work his way out of dangerous submission attempts from a renowned grappler.

    Ellenberger’s biggest win to date was his 53 second knockout of Jake Shields, who was fresh off of a 48-47 loss to divisional king Georges St. Pierre. Ellenberger has launched himself into the UFC elite and will get the opportunity to prove himself next month against Diego Sanchez on FUEL TV.

    Notable Wins: Jake Shields, Mike Pyle, John Howard
    Notable Losses: Carlos Condit

#3: Carlos Condit

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    MMA Record: 27-5  
    UFC: 4-1

    Carlos Condit came to the UFC as the WEC welterweight champion. After losing a razor-thin decision to Martin Kampmann is his debut, Condit has put shown off his striking prowess in bouts with Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim.

    A twice postponed bout with Chris Lytle failed to come to fruition, but that hasn’t stopped “The Natural Born Killer” from getting into the upper echelon of the welterweight division. His shot at the UFC welterweight championship disappeared when Georges St. Pierre got injured this fall. A second shot at the belt seemed to vanish when Nick Diaz was favored for the next title shot after post-fight comments made about the cowardice of GSP.

    Fate intervened once again as GSP had to pull out of his bout with Nick Diaz due to injury. Condit and Diaz will square off for the UFC Interim Welterweight Championship on Saturday, February 4th in what is widely anticipated to be one of the best bouts of the year.

    Notable Wins: Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, Dong Hyun Kim, Dan Hardy
    Notable Losses: Jake Shields, Martin Kampmann

#2: Nick Diaz

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    MMA Record: 26-7 (1)  
    UFC Record: 7-4

    It’s always a show when Nick Diaz is on camera. While reportedly anti-social, Nick adopts the mentality that fighters should not be respectful and friendly to one another leading up to a fight. After all, they are warriors who are training to derail the other’s career.

    With only one loss in his last 16 fights, he has shown heart and resilience, even when facing what appears to be insurmountable odds. His notoriously iron chin has been tested time and time again, but without payoff. Diaz has also never been submitted in his career of 34 fights.

    The Caesar Gracie fighter is gearing up for a bout with Carlos Condit this weekend. Possessing similar styles, both men prefer to stand, always look to finish fights, and have highly active guards.

    Notable Wins: BJ Penn, Frank Shamrock, Takanori Gomi, Paul Daley, KJ Noons, Hayato Sakurai
    Notable Losses: Sean Sherk, Diego Sanchez, Joe Riggs, Karo Parisyan

#1: Georges St. Pierre

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    MMA Record: 22-2  
    UFC Record: 16-2

    Surprise, surprise! Georges St. Pierre has dominated the welterweight division ever since arriving in the UFC. Both of his losses appeared to be flukes and Georges has avenged both of them in dominant fashion. You don’t need a history lesson on the champion, but it’s fun to look back on his career.

    MMA fans have begged for a superfight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva, but as we kick off 2012, Georges has a fresh crop of legitimate contenders. There are six opponents in the Top 10 whom GSP has never faced and it’s going to take sorcery to keep Rory MacDonald from making his way in too.

    A superfight is nice, but GSP still has some work to do…starting with the winner of Nick Diaz vs Carlos Condit! 

    Notable Wins: Matt Hughes (x2), BJ Penn (x2), Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck (x2), Matt Serra, Jake Shields, Thiago Alves, Jay Hieron, Mayhem Miller, Frank Trigg,
    Notable Losses: Matt Hughes, Matt Serra