Let’s put this out in the open.
No matter who you are, there’s no chance you’re going to completely agree with this list, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s awesome.
There is nothing in MMA as subjective as the dozens of rankings fans sift through month after month, and a list of the top 99 fighters in the sport is going to be controversial at best.
These rankings were based on a fighters current standing in their division, wins over the last few years, overall legacy, and overall dominance.
This list is UFC dominated, as was probably expected due to the high level of talent that competes inside the Octagon, but there are still a number of non-UFC fighters who found their way into the mix.
For those with too much free time, here are the top 99 fighters in MMA today.
We’re kicking off the list with a true MMA legend.
No one can deny the lasting impact that Wanderlei Silva has had on the sport, becoming one of the most popular fighters in the world over the course of his career in both the UFC and Pride, and despite his skills declining with age “The Axe Murderer” is still one of the most feared fighters in the sport today.
Like many fighters before and after him, Thiago Alves’ career took a turn for the worse after getting dominated by Georges St-Pierre.
Losses in three of his next five fights have followed, and other than an impressive stoppage win over Papy Abedi at UFC 138 last November, Alves has had a hard time replicating the destructive wins that earned him a title shot at the biggest event in UFC history.
A last second submission loss to Martin Kampmann in his last fight have pushed “Pitbull” to the back of the line at 170, but at just 28 years old he has plenty of time to climb back into contention.
One of the brightest prospects in the light heavyweight division, Glover Texieira has a chance to give himself a huge boost in these rankings if he can continue his dominance in his next fight.
Currently riding a 16 fight winning streak with victories over MMA veterans like Marvin Eastman and Ricco Rodrigeuz, Texieira needs a big name on his resume if he wants to earn himself a UFC title shot, and he’ll have a chance to earn it when he fights Rampage Jackson at UFC 153 in Brazil.
In just a couple weeks, we’ll be blessed with Roy Nelson’s presence every Friday night, when the 16th season of The Ultimate Fighter kicks off.
Nelson has always been an outspoken fighter, but due to the shots he’s taken at UFC President Dana White in the media over the last month it’s fair to say that he’s picked it up a notch when the cameras started rolling.
Nelson is set to battle Shane Carwin in December, but it sounds like we’ll get to hear him verbally battle White for the next few months before we ever get to see him throw down in the cage.
Since losing his Strikeforce middleweight title to Luke Rockhold in September of 2011, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has worked his way back into the title picture.
A submission win over Bristol Marunde showcased the world class ju-jitsu skills that Jacare has become known for, but it was his quick knockout of Derek Brunson in his last fight that turned a lo of heads.
With his improving striking and lethal ground game, Souza represents the greatest challenge to Rockhold’s title currently on the Strikeforce roster and he could easily find himself wearing Strikeforce gold if he is able to fight to his potential in his next bout.
After defeating Wanderlei Silva at UFC 147 in June, it looks like Rich Franklin is prepared to make one last run at recapturing his middleweight title.
Franklin hasn’t held the belt in over half a decade, losing it to Anderson Silva back at UFC 64, and if he can build a win streak by defeating Cung Le at UFC on Fuel 6 in November, it will give him one last shot at glory.
One of the best active fighters to have never stepped foot in the Octagon, Shinya Aoki is one of the most overlooked lightweights in the world.
A few stateside mishaps against Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez have significantly hurt Aoki’s stock over the last few years, but the submission expert has been wrecking his opponents in Japan since 2003.
With one of the most dangerous ju-jitsu games in all of MMA, Aoki is one of the most exciting fighters around when the fight hits the mat.
Mike Pierce has proven he can hold his own against some of the best the welterweight division has to offer, but he still lacks that signature win to propel him into the top ten of the division.
Every single one of Pierce’s UFC victories have seen his opponent be let go from the promotion shortly after their fight, but while his competition in winning efforts is lackluster at best, Pierce has stood his ground against top tier 170 b fighters like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks.
By the time Shane Carwin steps into the cage to fight Roy Nelson in December, it will have been nearly three years since he’s last earned a victory inside the Octagon.
Carwin is currently riding a two fight losing streak, having picked up losses to then champion Brock Lesnar and future champion Junior dos Santos, and a rash of injuries have only allowed him to compete once since his loss to Lesnar in the summer of 2010.
One of the fighters on this list desperately in need of a victory is Thiago Silva.
A combination of injuries and tough opponents have made the last three years extremely difficult for Silva, and other than a decision win over Brandon Vera that was overturned due to Silva failing a post fight drug test, he has remained winless since August of 2009.
Finishing fights can be the difference between having to win three fights to earn a shot at the belt and having to win five or six, and Diego Nunes’ inability to finish fights has likely kept him out of the title picture for the majority of his Zuffa career.
Since joining the WEC in 2008, every single one of Nunes’ nine fights inside the both the WEC and UFC have made their way to the judges’ scorecards.
Nunes has amassed a 6-3 record over that time, but a stoppage win over Bart Palaszewski at UFC on FX 5 in October may be his best shot at getting into the mix.
There are two reasons why Evan Dunham is on the outside looking in on nearly every lightweight top ten list out there.
The first is the trifecta of untimely injuries Dunham has suffered since 2010, having to pull out of fights against high profile opponents in Kenny Florian, George Sotiropoulos, and Edson Barboza.
The second is Melvin Guillard. Following a controversial decision loss to Sean Sherk at UFC 119, Dunham was expected to roll through Melvin Guillard in order to get back on track at 155. Guillard ended the night early with a couple of big knees, and Dunham has been struggling to regain his place in the division since.
Just a little over a year ago, Rick Story was one of the top prospects in the welterweight division.
After defeating Thiago Alves at UFC 130, Story was riding a six fight winning streak that featured an equally huge win over current top contender Johny Hendricks, but a loss to Charlie Brenneman sent Story to the back of the pack of contenders.
A decision loss to Martin Kampmann in his next fight forced Story completely out of title contention for the time being, but a decision win over Brock Jardine got him back on track, and if he defeats Demian Maia in his next bout he’ll find himself climbing near the top of the division once again.
For about a week this summer, it looked like one of the top bantamweights in the world was set to join the UFC roster.
Bibiano Fernandes was reportedly set to fight Roland Delorme at UFC 149 in July, but Fernandes decided to turn down the UFC’s offer in favor of a contract with One FC.
For now it looks like Fernandes is prepared to earn his living outside of the UFC, but the mutual interest shown between both parties could be a sign that we see the former Dream champion inside the Octagon at some point.
As one of the most unlikely contenders in the entire UFC, Mark Hunt was never supposed to be on a list like this.
When Zuffa purchased Pride a few years ago, Mark Hunt was one of the contracts they absorbed and despite the UFC’s best efforts to buy him out, Hunt wanted to fight against the best in the world.
A quick loss in his UFC debut started the fan favorite off in a bad spot, but he rebounded with the three-fight win streak he owns today.
Hector Lombard had the potential to be ranked much higher on this list, but his abysmal performance at UFC 149 in July damaged his stock far more than a regular loss would have.
“Lightning” had a bit of a deer in headlights approach to fighting against Tim Boetsch in his UFC debut, never quite engaging the way that we had become accustomed to while he was knocking out the entire Bellator 185lb division.
It will likely be a long road back to the top for Lombard, but his impressive resume should help him move back up the ladder if he can string a few wins together.
One of the top flyweight fighters in the world, Yasuhiro Urushitani made his UFC debut under rather unusual circumstances as one of the competitors in the inaugural UFC 125 lb tournament.
The Japanese fighter opened as a pretty heavy underdog against Joseph Benavidez, and the odds makers were proven right pretty quickly when the Team Alpha Male fighter put Urushitani to sleep just seconds into the second frame.
After a few failed attempts to get back into middleweight title contention following his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 112, Demian Maia decided he was better off fighting in the welterweight division.
The move seems to have worked out well for the jiu-jitsu expert, as he’s already picked up a win over a high level opponent in Dong Hyun Kim in his 170 lb debut, and despite the fact that the fight ended quickly due to an injury, Maia appeared to be getting back to the grappling based attack that made him a title contender to begin with.
The UFC’s heavyweight division has gotten an influx of talent over the past few years, and unfortunately for Travis Browne, top stars like Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez have stolen the majority of the spotlight.
Still, Browne is arguably the top prospect in the heavyweight division right now, and with wins over Stefan Struve, Chad Griggs and Rob Broughton, he’s started to amass a decent resume for a title shot.
If “Hapa” can find a way to defeat Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva later this year, he could easily find himself a fight or two away from getting a crack at the title.
Once regarded as a top five lightweight in the world, Eddie Alvarez’s loss to Michael Chandler late last year completely removed him from most top ten lists all together.
That may not seem fair, but fighting in Bellator has forced Alvarez to fight guys that have been flying under the UFC’s radar for a few years, and it’s tough to earn quality wins when you aren’t fighting top-level competition.
Alvarez’s win over Shinya Aoki in April helped raise his stock again, but he’ll need a dominant victory in his final bout on his Bellator contract later this year if he wants to try and creep back onto any rankings list again.
In a division full of fighters consistently in the running for fight of the night honors, Brad Pickett may be the most exciting bantamweight on the UFC roster.
Never one to shy away from standing and trading punches, Pickett has made a living using his superior boxing to eventually set up a submission win on the mat, a strategy that has made him one of the top contenders in the 135 lb division.
“Little Nog” has been a favorite amongst fight fans for a long time due to his high-level boxing and jiu-jitsu skills, not to mention the resiliency that seems to run in the Nogueira blood.
After coming into the UFC being seen as a future title contender, Rogerio has had a rough run against the best the world has to offer at 205.
Wins over Tito Ortiz and Luis Cane have proven that Nogueira can still be the dominant force he appeared to be before his UFC run, and if he can find a way to keep the fight standing he has a chance to takeout almost anyone in the division.
After getting finished in a round of the year candidate against Donald Cerrone at UFC 150, Melvin Guillard is sitting far outside of the lightweight title picture.
Guillard has more raw athletic ability than nearly everyone on the UFC roster, but he just keeps coming up short in fights that would throw his name into the hat of title contenders.
The loss to Cerrone was the third time in his last four fights that Guillard has been finished in the first round, and another loss would almost certainly kill his dreams of a UFC title.
It’s been a rough couple of years for Rampage Jackson.
Since losing to Rashad Evans at UFC 114, Rampage has been hit or miss in his recent bouts and he has never put on the type of performance fans are expecting from a former UFC champion.
Rampage is currently nearing the end of his UFC contract, and whether or not he resigns will likely depend on how he looks in his fight against Glover Teixeira at UFC 153.
Even though he’s said he’s done with the UFC, there’s nowhere else for Rampage to go and get the type of attention he deserves.
One of the most charismatic fighters in the game today, fans either love John Dodson’s eccentric personality or they hate it.
Dodson was all smiles as he won the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter last December, and a win in his flyweight debut earlier this year has put him in good position to earn a title fight in the near future.
A win over Jussier Da Silva at UFC on FX 5 could allow Dodson to slip into a title fight against the winner of the UFC 152 title fight, a remarkable feat for a fighter just one fight outside of the TUF house.
Despite a recent knockout loss to Eddie Wineland and an overall 2-2 record since joining the UFC, Scott Jorgensen is one of the toughest fighters in the 135 lb division.
After losing a title fight to current champion Dominick Cruz at the final WEC event, Jorgensen started off his Octagon career in style with impressive wins over Ken Stone and Jeff Curran and he’ll likely get himself a winnable fight in order to see if he can snap his two fight losing streak in his next bout.
A lot of fight fans considered Hatsu Hioki to be Japanese MMA’s final chance to prove that their best fighters could hang with the best in the UFC, and they have to be disappointed after Hioki’s last bout.
Despite being in top control for the majority of the final two rounds, a very active Ricardo Lamas grabbed onto a few tight guillotine attempts to sway the judges in his favor.
Hioki is far from eliminated from title contention, but the featherweight is going to need to go on a decent sized win streak in order to get a shot at the title.
One of a handful of former lightweight contenders currently testing their luck in the featherweight division, Dennis Siver recently passed an extremely tough test in his 145 lb debut against Diego Nunes earlier this year.
The winner over a former top contender in Nunes catapulted Siver up the rankings and within striking distance of a big fight at 145, especially if he can get passed Eddie Yagin in his next bout.
The top welterweight prospect in the world not named Rory MacDonald; Erick Silva has been a dominant force since entering the UFC last summer.
His recent destruction of Charlie Brenneman proved that he is quickly becoming a fighter to watch at 170 lbs, and if he can build on his win streak by taking out Jon Fitch in his native Brazil in October he could find himself in a title fight by this time next year.
In a featherweight division suddenly loaded with top prospects like Jimmy Hettes and Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier has found a way to make sure he’s considered the best of them all.
Following a solid UFC debut against Josh Grispi, Poirier took out tough fighters like Jason Young and Max Holloway in order to earn himself a fight against a top contender, and he finally got his wish against Chan Sung Jung at UFC on Fuel 3.
Poirier would lose the bout, but the action packed scrap will be a fight of the year candidate when 2012 closes and he is still one of the brightest young stars in the sport.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion has fallen on hard times as of late, but he has a serious chance at redemption in his next fight.
After a quick knockout loss to Shogun Rua last year and an uninspiring fight of the night win over Tito Ortiz back at UFC 148, Griffin seemed to be far away from any sort of fight with a title contender.
However, Chael Sonnen’s emergence in the division has given Griffin a quality opponent that he’s proven he can beat in the past, and a path back to title contention seems to have appeared.
After a rough start to his UFC career, Eddie Wineland is finally starting to look like the former champion he is.
Tough decision losses to Team Alpha Male leaders Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez forced Wineland into a must win bout against Scott Jorgensen at UFC on FX 3, and Wineland quickly dispatched the former title challenger knocking him out with a brutal punch in the second round of the fight.
An upset loss to Tim Boetsch at UFC 144 sent Yushin Okami’s already declining stock plummeting, but it appears “Thunder” still has some fight in him.
Heading into his last bout on a two fight-losing streak that included the loss to Boetsch and a title fight defeat to Anderson Silva, Okami was in desperate need of a victory against Buddy Roberts at UFC 150.
The former title challenger started off a bit sluggish, but once he got his hand on Roberts the entire complexion of the fight changed and he dominated until he finally earned the stoppage in the second.
In one of the biggest upsets of 2012 so far, Ricardo Lamas found a way to get past title contender Hatsu Hioki at UFC on FX 4.
Lamas was already on a roll, having defeated Cub Swanson and Matt Grice in his first two UFC bouts, and he used his excellent submission attempts off his back to negate Hioki’s ground game.
Now Lamas is firmly in the top tier of future opponents for UFC champion Jose Aldo, and another big win could earn him a shot at the belt.
It’s safe to say that no fan of MMA ever wants to miss a Diego Sanchez fight.
No matter what weight class he’s in or who his opponent is, the Ultimate Fighter season one winner always brings the fight to them.
Over the last few years Sanchez has had an up and down run at welterweight, but a recently announced move back to the lightweight division could revitalize Sanchez’s career.
After a rough UFC career in the welterweight division, Jake Shields has decided to go back to the weight that he had the most success.
Back in Strikeforce, Jake Shields was consistently ranked in the top five of the middleweight division, trailing only pound for pound great Anderson Silva on a lot of lists.
A huge win in his final Strikeforce bout against Dan Henderson put Shields firmly on the UFC’s radar, and after a rough 2-2 start at 170, Shields is now back to his winning ways at 185 after defeating Ed Herman last month.
Despite the fact that he’s the middleweight champion of the second biggest MMA promotion of the world, Luke Rockhold seems to be left out of the equation when fans discuss the world’s top middleweights.
Rockhold has been defeating the top middleweights in Strikeforce over the last few years, taking out Jacare Souza to win the belt and defending against a tough Tim Kennedy in his last defense.
Rockhold has asked for a well-known opponent from the UFC roster, but it appears he will have to wait a bi longer as Jacare has likely earned his rematch after a quick knockout win last month.
Following another fight of the night performance against Jamie Varner at UFC on Fox 4, fans are finally starting to realize that Joe Lauzon is one of the most exciting fighters on the Zuffa roster.
Lauzon has won almost a dozen fight night bonuses in his UFC career, and as “J-Lau” becomes more well rounded he’s quickly becoming a contender at 155 lbs.
His next fight against Gray Maynard will give him a chance to prove he belongs among the elite in the UFC’s most talent filled division.
The Bellator lightweight champion is one of the most underrated fighters in the sport.
The Missouri based wrestler has amassed an impressive undefeated record thus far in his MMA career, and he’s shown a knack for finishing fights as of late.
Chandler holds a victory over another fighter on this list, Eddie Alvarez, and the longer he is able to hold onto gold in the worlds top non Zuffa promotion he’ll be a fighter to watch in the coming years.
The run of non UFC fighters continues, but Josh Barnett does have a UFC heavyweight title on his MMA resume.
The Strikeforce heavyweight recently dropped a unanimous decision loss to Daniel Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce Grand Prix, but prior to that loss he was on quite a roll and had looked better than he had in years.
With one fight left on his Strikeforce contract, the artist formerly known as “The Baby Faced Assassin” will likely fight again for the San Jose based promotion before the year is out, and after that he could find himself fighting back inside the Octagon for the first time in almost a decade.
Just a couple of months ago, Mark Munoz was considered one of the top five middleweights in the world.
Munoz entered his UFC on Fuel 4 main event against Chris Weidman likely just one big win away from a title shot, and after scoring big wins over Demian Maia and Chris Leben it appeared Munoz was prepared to make a run at Anderson Silva.
Instead we witnessed one of the most one-sided fights of 2012 so far, as Weidman came out and dominated Munoz in the first round before scoring a quick TKO victory in the second round.
After going on a four fight win streak at had him sitting on the brink of a title shot, Clay Guida has had a rough twelve months.
Following the biggest win of his UFC career over Anthony Pettis, Guida was thrown into a number one contenders fight against Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 1 last November, and subsequent losses to Henderson and Gray Maynard now leave Guida sitting far outside of title consideration.
Guida’s popularity is going to guarantee him a roster spot, but if he loses his third bout in a row he could be in serious jeopardy of leaving title contention forever.
As Jon Jones continues to reign over the UFC’s light heavyweight division with an iron fist, Alexander Gustafsson may be the fighter with the best shot at eventually dethroning the champion.
Gustafsson has been on a tear since entering the Octagon, winning all but one of his fights and finishing opponents like James Te Huna and Vladimir Matyushenko impressively.
Coming off of the biggest win of his young career over Thiago Silva, Gustafsson has quietly worked his way into title contention and a win over MMA legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC on Fox 5 would likely earn him the title shot he covets.
If you’re an American, you have to love Brian Stann.
The former US military captain has made a name for himself with his All American persona and tremendous ability to knockout even those who have the toughest chin, and as his overall game improves the closer he gets to title contention.
After a heartbreaking loss to Chael Sonnen that ended Stann’s three fight win streak last October, the former WEC light heavyweight champion had to work his way back up the middleweight ladder.
It had to be even easier than Stann thought to get back into the mix at 185 lbs, as a single knockout win over Alessio Sakara earned Stann the right to fight top contender Michael Bisping at UFC 152.
A win over Bisping, who is by far one of the toughest tests Stann has had to face inside the Octagon, would catapult “The All American” into the top five of the division.
Most MMA fans have a special place in their hearts for fighters that ooze a “fight anyone, anytime” attitude, and perhaps no one in the sport gives off that vibe more than Donald Cerrone.
Since entering the Octagon early last year, Cerrone has been on a hell of a run, going 6-1 since February of 2011 with the only loss coming at the hands of current number one contender Nate Diaz.
After a thrilling come from behind win over Melvin Guillard at UFC 150 last month, Cerrone is once again knocking on the door of a lightweight title shot and if the rumors are true and he draws Anthony Pettis for his next fight, he could find himself fighting for a UFC title win another win.
Even though he recently had to pull out of his first scheduled title defense, Pat Curran did more than enough prior to winning the belt to convince fans he was the real deal at featherweight.
After coming up short in his Bellator lightweight title fight against Eddie Alvarez, Curran made the move down to his more natural weight of featherweight.
The move paid immediate dividends, as he scored somewhat surprising knockout of Marlon Sandro in order to earn his title shot, and his brutal beat down of Joe Warren to win the belt proved that Curran is truly a world class fighter at 145 lbs.
Ben Askren is a legitimate top tier fighter in the welterweight division.
The Bellator champion may get a lot of flack for his lack of competition over the last few years, but in reality Askren can’t do anything other than beat the guy that Bellator puts across from him.
And that’s what Askren has done time and time again. From Dan Hornbuckle to Jay Hieron, Askren has used his superior wrestling to stifle his opponents’ offense and has been a dominant force for most of his MMA career.
It’s hard to tell if Askren would be able to hang with the top fighters in the UFC, but anyone with such a high level wrestling background has the potential to make some noise as they round out their skills.
One of the UFC’s most recent signings is also one of the biggest they’ve made all year.
Jussier Da Silva has been considered a top five flyweight in the world for a while now, and with the 125lb division currently only holding a little over a dozen fighters his move to the Octagon brings much needed depth to the roster.
Da Silva’s UFC debut is already set to be a fantastic matchup, as the Brazilian is set to face former Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson at UFC on FX 5 in October.
Not too long ago, Nate Marquardt was one of the most feared men in the UFC’s middleweight division.
It’s crazy how quickly things can change.
After defeating Dan Miller in his final middleweight bout at UFC 128, Nate Marquardt dropped to welterweight, started the entire TRT controversy that still looms over MMA today, was cut from the UFC roster, signed with BAMMA, left BAMMA, and returned to Zuffa by winning the Strikeforce welterweight title in his first fight in over a year.
That’s an insane amount of stress for a fighter to have to deal with, and Marquardt came out of it a champion.
Am I the only one that thinks BJ Penn is in serious need of a nickname change?
As iconic as “The Prodigy” has been, Penn is a bonafide legend of the sport at this point, and that moniker seems to fit his next opponent far better than it does Penn.
Rory MacDonald was an intriguing enough opponent to draw Penn out of retirement, and BJ is set on making sure this doesn’t end up as bout that signals the passing of the torch.
Based on pure athletic ability and skill alone, MacDonald could easily be the toughest opponent Penn has fought in his career outside of Georges St-Pierre, and Penn will need to bring his absolute “A” game if he doesn’t want to get smashed by the kid.
Big Nog has been one of the best fighters in the heavyweight division for a decade, but his legendary ability to withstand punishment has seemed to decline over the years.
His knockout losses to Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez showed that there were some cracks in Nogueira armor, and his recent submission loss in a rematch with Mir proved he isn’t invincible on the ground either.
Nogueria is still a threat to anyone in the heavyweight division, but the odds of him going on a serious win streak towards the belt don’t look good.
Wrestling has proven to be the best base for an up and coming mixed martial artist to have, and Phil Davis has used his national championship level skills to have success very early in his career.
Davis has already beaten top ranked competitors Rogerio Nogueira and Alexander Gustafsson, and his only loss in his MMA career came at the hands of former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
That’s not a bad resume.
Davis has to finish some business with Wager Prado in his next bout thanks to an inadvertent eye poke that prematurely ended their first fight, but a win there should throw Mr. Wonderful back into the mix at 205.
The past few years haven’t been easy for Alan Belcher, but when he’s been healthy enough to step inside the Octagon he’s done some serious damage.
An eye injury forced Belcher to sit out for over a year between his fights against Patrick Cote and Jason MacDonald, and after scoring quick wins over “The Athlete” and Rousimar Palhares, Belcher looked to be in title contention in the near future.
A scheduled bout with Vitor Belfort was cancelled due to Belfort being shifted into a title fight with Jon Jones, but Belcher came out soon after and revealed he had cracked his spine in training.
Once he gets healthy again, Belcher will likely get a top contender at middleweight, but his injuries are consistently setting back his career.
Some nights, Ryan Bader looks like a serious contender at 205, and others he looks like he’s completely overwhelmed.
Unfortunately for Bader, his last fight against Lyoto Machida didn’t exactly impress a lot of people.
Machida has a way of making fighters look really bad, and Bader was stuck chasing the Dragon around the cage and trying to avoid counter strikes the entire fight.
Bader is still an extremely tough out on nights that he’s on, but his tendency to fade in tough fights is killing his shots at a title.
The lightweight division is full of incredible fighters, and for some reason Jim Miller seems to get overlooked quite a bit when the top guys at 155 are mentioned.
Miller’s gone on long win streaks, beaten everyone for top prospects to respected veterans and even took away a nice bit of Melvin Guillard’s hype earlier this year, but he has yet to get the big win that makes him a serious title threat.
There are plenty of big names for Miller to fight next, and if he can get a win over someone like Clay Guida or Sean Sherk it will do a lot for his resume.
Since the day Zuffa purchased the UFC, there’s been no heavyweight that’s been as consistently good as Frank Mir.
Mir’s beaten everyone from Brock Lesnar to Minotauro Nogueira, and his two separate UFC title wins have made him a surefire hall of famer when he retires.
He consistently finds himself fighting the best the sport has to offer, despite taking nearly a decade's worth of damage inside the cage and he has another chance to prove he’s one of the best in the world when he moves over to the Strikeforce promotion to fight Daniel Cormier later this year.
While the middleweight division has gained a ton of talent over the last few years, the most surprising of all the new contenders for Anderson Silva’s belt is obviously Tim Boetsch.
Boetsch was an undersized light heavyweight that many didn’t give much of a chance when he moved down to 185, but key wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard have catapulted Boetsch into the top five in the division.
Another win or two over a top contender should catapult Boetsch into a middleweight title fight, and if “The Barbarian” is able to capture UFC gold, he’ll end up as one of the most unlikely champions in the promotions history.
Michael McDonald could be the future of the bantamweight division.
Along with current interim champion Renan Barao, McDonald is infusing some new blood into the 135lb title picture, and the two youngsters could find themselves in a title fight by the end of the year.
McDonald won nearly a handful of Octagon bouts before he was legally able to drink, and after knocking out Miguel Torres at UFC 145, he’s proven that he’s going to be in the bantamweight title hunt for a long time.
A former WEC bantamweight champion, Brian Bowles has had an up and down run since he started fighting inside the Octagon.
Bowles is 2-1 in his UFC career, having lost to Urijah Faber the last time he stepped into the cage, and he hasn’t fought in nearly a year.
Bowles still has the talent to get into title contention, and if he can get active again he could make some noise at 135.
Even if Fabricio Werdum becomes UFC champion one day, he’ll still forever be known as the guy who ended Fedor Emelianenko reign of terror.
The triangle choke that Werdum locked in will be his legacy, but his improved striking is quickly making him a contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
His latest wins over Roy Nelson and Mike Russow have made him an instant contender, and he’ll likely get a big time opponent in his next fight.
A lot of fans were complaining that Erik Koch hadn’t done enough to deserve his promised title fight against Jose Aldo, and those fans seem to have gotten their way as Koch recently had to pull out of a scheduled title fight at UFC 153.
The injury concludes a stretch of bad luck that saw Koch miss out on a title opportunity due to an injury to the champion back in July, and now it looks like Koch may be stuck having to fight another top contender before getting a shot at the featherweight belt.
If Koch is able to return in a timely fashion he may still get his title fight, but we’ve seen plenty of fighters lose their opportunities in the past under similar circumstances.
The Korean Zombie may be the most exciting fighter in the UFC.
His legendary battles with Leonard Garcia were both fight of the year candidates, and he’s followed those up with a nearly record setting seven second knockout win over Mark Hominick and another fight of the year nominee against Dustin Poirier.
Jung is now seemingly a win away from a shot at featherweight champion Jose Aldo, and with a new contender in Frankie Edgar entering the division; we could see some excellent fights near the top of the 145lb weight class.
Over the last year, Rory MacDonald has been called the best prospect in MMA, but now it’s time for him to graduate to contender’s status.
MacDonald is set to fight MMA legend BJ Penn at UFC on FOX 5, and the tension between Rory and “The Prodigy” has reached new levels over the last few weeks.
If McDonald can defeat Penn in what is quickly becoming a grudge match, his stock will go through the roof, and we may see “Ares” in title contention faster than many think.
One of the best villains in UFC history, Michael Bisping is one of the few fighters that is able to gain heat from the fans just by being himself.
Despite a solid UFC record and his ability to create strong emotion among fans, Bisping has never quite been able to get the wins needed to earn a shot at Anderson Silva.
An impressive performance against Chael Sonnen in a loss at UFC on Fox 2 was enough to make sure that Bisping didn’t lose any ground after a three fight win streak, and a win over Brian Stann at this months UFC 152 could be enough to propel him into his first title fight.
After big wins over Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, it was becoming clear that Jake Ellenberger was a future title contender at 170lbs.
“The Juggernaut” had been wrecking opponents since he lost his UFC debut to Carlos Condit, knocking out Sean Pierson, Mike Pyle and Shields during a six fight win streak and was likely a win away from a number one contender’s fight at welterweight.
However a 2nd round knockout loss to Martin Kampmann at The Ultimate Fighter 15 finale killed the majority of Ellenberger’s momentum, and he’s now looking to work his way back into the top five when he tries to avenge his first career loss against Jay Hieron this October.
Josh Koscheck has been making fans hate him since The Ultimate Fighter season 1.
From the moment he almost got Chris Leben kicked out of the house, Koscheck has been one of the most unlikable fighters on the UFC roster and his feuds with Paul Daley and Georges St-Pierre only furthered that contempt among fans.
After losing a close decision in his last fight against Johny Hendricks, Koscheck is in desperate need of a win in his next bout if he wants to be anywhere near title contention in the next couple of years.
Despite a 0-1-1 record in the UFC, there’s no denying that Ian McCall is one of the best fighters in the flyweight division.
Two extremely close fights against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson have earned McCall a reputation for being one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC, and his win over Jussier Da Silva earned him his spot atop the 125lb rankings before he even entered the Octagon.
Legal troubles from his troubled past have plagued McCall over the last month in the headlines, but “Uncle Creepy” should be back in the Octagon sooner rather than later.
Over the last five years, the only welterweight that has won as consistently as Jon Fitch is Georges St-Pierre.
If it wasn’t for “Rush”, we very easily could have seen Fitch rule the division over the last few years, and his ability to grind out nearly any fighter on the roster makes him a serious threat to eventually earn the title.
The last 18 months have been rough for Fitch, with a 0-1-1 record and a stretch of injuries that have kept him inactive, but a chance to turn things around is available when he fights Erick Silva at UFC 153.
Every time fans start to think that Georges St-Pierre has completely cleaned out the welterweight division, guys like Johny Hendricks pop up to prove them wrong.
Hendricks has been a beast over the last year, scoring big wins over Mike Pierce, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch to propel him into the top five of the welterweight division.
With a huge number one contenders fight against Martin Kampmann on the horizon, Hendricks has never been so close to getting a shot at UFC gold, and a win over Kampmann at UFC 154 will earn Hendricks a fight against the winner of the GSP-Carlos Condit bout that takes place the same night.
Barely a year ago, it looked like Martin Kampmann was a loss away from being completely eliminated from welterweight title contention.
After losing consecutive controversial decisions to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, Kampmann was riding a two fight losing streak heading into his UFC 139 bout with Rick Story, and a loss to “The Horror” would have killed any chance that Kampmann had at earning a title fight.
Fortunately for “The Hitman”, he was able to earn a win against Story, and his next two bouts resulted in come from behind finishes of Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger, earning Kampmann a true number one contenders fight the next time he steps into the cage.
Since losing his UFC light heavyweight title to Jon Jones at UFC 128 last spring, Shogun Rua has slowly been working his way back into title contention at 205lbs.
His knockout wins over Forrest Griffin and Brandon Vera have helped him gain a lot of ground in a suddenly shallow pool of contenders, but his performance in a losing effort against Dan Henderson last November did more to prove he can still hang with the best in the world than his two KO wins combined.
Shogun and Henderson battled in a fight that many have called the best in the promotions history, and despite coming out on the wrong end of a close decision, Shogun looked like the much stronger fighter in the latter rounds of the fight.
Due to Dan Henderson’s injury, Jon Jones refusing to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice, and a similar disinterest in taking title fights on short notice shown by Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua, Vitor Belfort has found himself in a light heavyweight title fight at UFC 152.
Belfort hasn’t fought at 205 for half a decade, and his recent win streak featuring Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson doesn’t exactly scream title contender, but desperate times call for desperate measures and Belfort was the only somewhat viable contender the UFC could find for Jones on short notice.
Lyoto Machida is one of the best fighters in the light heavyweight division, but he’s had an up and down couple of years after losing the title to Shogun Rua in his second title defense.
The loss to Shogun set off a rough 1-3 stretch for “The Dragon” that included a submission loss to Jon Jones in a title fight late last year, but Machida looked like the fighter that had dominated the division during his road to the title in his last bout against Ryan Bader.
Now it appears that Machida has earned himself a shot at Jones and the belt, but after “The Dragon” recently turned down an opportunity to fight for the belt on three weeks notice, it’s unclear when that fight may happen.
After falling short in the fourth straight title fight he’s been in, Urijah Faber’s road to earning a UFC title hasn’t looked this long since the WEC merger.
Faber has gone 2-2 in his Octagon career, with both losses coming in title fights to Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, and it appears his days of winning a single fight and climbing back into the title mix are just about over.
There’s no doubt that Faber has the skills to earn himself another title fight, and he could find a way to win the belt if he gets another shot, but it’s going to be tough for Faber to get back into the mix.
You can’t deny that Anthony Pettis makes sure that every fight he’s in has at least one memorable moment.
“The Showtime Kick” that Pettis pulled off against Benson Henderson in his WEC title winning effort prior to the company being integrated into the UFC is going to be hard to top as far as defining moments go, but Pettis has a shot if he can win the UFC lightweight belt.
After rebounding from a rough UFC debut against Clay Guida, Pettis earned a hard fought decision win over Jeremy Stephens, which he quickly followed up with a beautiful head kick finish of Joe Lauzon at UFC 144.
Back to back wins have thrown Pettis back into the title picture, and a likely bout against Donald Cerrone could lead to a title fight if “Showtime” emerges victorious.
The younger Diaz brother comes in at number 24.
Things haven’t been easy for Nate Diaz since winning the 5th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but the Stockton, California based fighter has finally done enough to earn his first shot at UFC gold.
Diaz has been on a roll since returning the to lightweight division after a failed run at 170lbs, taking out Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone, and Jim Miller in impressive fashion.
The win over Miller at UFC on Fox 3 was enough to earn Diaz his title shot in another nationally televised bout, and since Diaz has been one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster over the last few years, there’s little doubt he will make sure his title fight delivers.
We go from one Diaz brother to the other.
Nick Diaz may be the more popular of the two Diaz brothers, as he’s become sort of an anti-hero to MMA fans.
Over the last few years, Diaz has failed multiple drug tests, no showed a BJJ competition, a drug test before a fight, and multiple pre fight press conferences, proving he’s one of the most enigmatic fighters in the history of the sport.
As a Diaz fan, I absolutely love his antics, but there is a strong portion of the MMA community that wants nothing to do with the former Strikeforce champion.
Whether you love him or hate him, there little doubt that Nick Diaz is one of the most talented fighters in the world, and even though it may not be intentional he makes sure every fan has some sort of opinion about him.
Over the last few months, no fighters stock has risen as quickly as Chris Weidman’s.
Prior to his UFC on Fuel 4 fight against Mark Munoz, Weidman was viewed as a top young prospect that could one day present a challenge to Anderson Silva.
But after Weidman came out and completely destroyed a top five contender in Munoz, he was quickly anointed the greatest challenge to Silva’s 185lb belt, and has found himself propelled into the top contenders role.
The Team Serra-Longo fighter has made it clear that he wants a shot at the champ in his next fight, but it appears “The Spider’s” management team is a bit hesitant to give Weidman the shot without another resume building win.
Although he came up short in his first chance at earning a UFC title this year, Chad Mendes is still one of the elite fighters in the featherweight division.
Mendes went into hostile territory at UFC 142, fighting 145lb champ Jose Aldo in his home country of Brazil, and Mendes was unable to play the spoiler.
Aldo landed a huge knee in the closing second of round one to knock Mendes unconscious, and the champion’s post fight celebration caused Mendes to be completely overlooked in the aftermath.
A win over Cody McKenzie has gotten Mendes back on the winning path, and his path to the title should be short in a shallow featherweight division.
While his training partner Nate Diaz may be getting the next shot at the UFC belt, Gilbert Melendez has been considered one of the top five lightweights for years without even having to fight in the UFC.
There are some people in the MMA community that have been calling Melendez the best lightweight in the world since BJ Penn lost the belt back in April of 2010, and to his credit, “El Nino” has done nothing but win since that time.
If he could get himself a fight against a high profile lightweight it would do wonders for his reputation amongst fans, but as long as Melendez remains trapped under the Strikeforce banner he’ll struggle to get the respect a lot of fans feel he deserves.
The highest ranked fighter on the list that isn’t currently fighting for the UFC, Daniel Cormier will make his way to the Octagon soon enough.
After winning the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix earlier this year, Cormier has one fight left on his Strikeforce contract and the UFC decided to make it interesting when they sent long time contender Frank Mir across company lines to challenge Cormier.
If Cormier is able to defeat Mir he’ll be in prime position to get himself a UFC title shot when he joins the roster, especially if the heavyweight title picture with Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem has cleared up.
When the four-man flyweight tournament was officially announced, the first round matchup that everyone had their eye on was Demetrious Johnson vs Ian McCall.
The two didn’t disappoint, and they ended up making the first flyweight bout in UFC history one of the most exciting fights of the year when they fought to a draw back in March.
Johnson was able to win the rematch, and now he is set to face the man that many have been calling the uncrowned 125lb champion for years, Joseph Benavidez.
The fight between “Might Mouse” and Benavidez was the one that many predicted before the tournament even started, and when these two flyweights compete for the inaugural belt at UFC 152, they will be strong favorites to win the fight of the night award.
Fans are still anxiously awaiting the return of Alistair Overeem.
After the former Strikeforce champion was pulled from his UFC 146 title bout against current champion Junior dos Santos for irregular T/E levels, he’s made it known that he feels he deserves first crack at the belt when he comes back to the cage.
It appears that Cain Velasquez is next in line for a shot at the belt, but Overeem will likely be eagerly awaiting the winner when he is able to fight in 2013.
Despite having never held a major title, Gray Maynard has been ranked among the best fighters in the world for a while now.
His two epic clashes with then champion Frankie Edgar ended up as fight of the year candidates, and he was incredibly close to putting Edgar way in both encounters.
Maynard was quite literally a punch or two away from becoming champion on two separate occasions last year, and after defeating Clay Guida for his first win in over a year back in June, his road back into tile contention has already begun.
If it wasn’t for a perfectly landed right hand thrown by Junior dos Santos back at UFC on Fox 1 last November, Cain Velasquez could easily be in the top five of this list.
Going into the fight with Dos Santos most fans predicted that Velasquez would be able to give the challenger trouble if he attempted to bring the fight to the mat, but the champion didn’t have time to even attempt a shot against “Cignano”.
Dos Santos ended the fight in just over a minute and since that time, Velasquez completely destroyed Antonio Silva at UFC 146 to earn his rematch.
If Cain is able to get the fight to the ground we could very easily see a new champion crowned later this year, but Dos Santos has proven that he is one of the toughest men to take down in the division.
Who would have thought that a simple knee injury to Dan Henderson would set off the most interesting chain of events of 2012 in the UFC.
Henderson’s injury ended up causing UFC 151 to be completely cancelled, and it threw current light heavyweight Jon Jones into the fire with MMA fans when he turned down a fight with Chael Sonnen that would have saved the event.
Obviously there was nothing Henderson could have done to prevent this, but the unfortunately for ”Hendo”, his shot at a UFC title will be pushed back even further in the year after he waited almost a full year to get his first shot.
Henderson is looking to return later this year, and if Jones is able to take out Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 the fight could eventually take place within the next six months.
Even after losing a title fight to Anderson Silva less than two full months ago, Chael Sonnen somehow found a way to talk his way into the light heavyweight title picture before he even stepped inside the Octagon at 205.
As we’ve heard roughly ten million times over the last month, Sonnen offered to fight Jon Jones at UFC 151 in order to save the event on just over a weeks notice, but “Bones” ultimately decided to turn down the bout.
Now Sonnen is set to rematch Forrest Griffin at UFC 155 in December, and he has a chance to avenge on of his earliest career losses, as well as get back into the title picture if he scores the win.
The more top contenders Jon Jones defeats at 205lbs, the more likely it becomes that Rashad Evans will get a chance to get another crack at the champion if he can string a win or two together.
Unlike fellow former champions Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida, Evans was able to survive the entire five rounds against the champion, and his head kick he landed in the first round was likely the most significant shot anyone has landed on “Bones” in his entire career.
A move to the middleweight was rumored for Evans, but it appears that he is set on sticking around at light heavyweight, leaving the door open for a possible rematch with Lyoto Machida in the near future.
From the moment the UFC announced that they were adding a 125lb division, Joseph Benavidez was immediately considered the favorite to become the champion.
Fans have been calling Benavidez the uncrowed flyweight champion for years, especially following his two close losses to current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and now that he’s made the finals of the flyweight tournament he’s just a win away from accomplishing his goal.
The flyweight title fight is set for UFC 152 later this month, and a win for Benavidez over Demetrious Johnson would propel him into the top ten of this list.
Frankie Edgar is no longer the UFC lightweight champion, but he did everything in his power to try and hold on to that belt.
During Edgar’s streak of six straight title fights, “The Answer” found a way to get passed BJ Penn twice, took two savage first round beatings from Gray Maynard only to rally back and keep his belt in both bouts, and then lost two of the closest (and most controversial) decisions of 2012 to Benson Henderson.
After over a handful of title fights in a row, it was going to be nearly impossible for Edgar to climb back into contendership at 155, so Frankie finally decided to take Dana White’s advice and move to the featherweight division.
There isn’t a whole lot of depth at 145lbs, and Edgar is a proven name that has headlined PPV events in the past, which gave Edgar the opportunity to fight for the featherweight strap against Aldo in his first ever fight in the division at UFC 153.
Joe Rogan called Renan Barao the best fighter in the UFC without a UFC belt around his waste for almost a year, but at UFC 149 Barao did enough to finally earn the gold he desired.
After bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz went down with a serious injury prior to his title fight against Urijah Faber, Barao was chosen to step in and fight Faber for an interim title, and he completely overwhelmed “The California Kid” when the fight actually took place.
Now that he has gotten his hands on a UFC title, it’s unclear whether or not Barao will defend his belt before Cruz recovers or if a super fight would take place.
It seems that Carlos Condit keeps getting overlooked.
Condit earned a welterweight title shot against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137, but after an injury to the champion caused the fight to be postponed, Condit saw his opportunity taken away from him by Nick Diaz.
Eventually St-Pierre was injured again and Condit ended up getting a shot at Diaz and the interim title.
Using an effective counterstriking gameplan against Diaz, Condit took home a unanimous decision over the Stockton based fighter, surprising a lot of people in the MMA community in the process.
Condit is set to fight GSP to unify the belts at UFC 154, and if he is able to unseat the future hall of famer his stock will reach an all time high.
With Frankie Edgar finally behind him, Benson Henderson can finally start working towards clearing out a few more contenders at lightweight.
Being the champion in the UFC’s most competitive division is a tough job and the odds of Henderson going on a lengthly title run aren’t good.
However, Henderson is one of the most complete fighters in the division, and his ability to avoid punishment will serve him well against brawlers like Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone.
If Henderson keeps improving the way he has since he joined the UFC, he has a chance to become one of the longest reigning champions in lightweight history, but he has a long line of challengers in front of him.
An unfortunate injury is going to keep Dominick Cruz from competing in 2012, but nonetheless he remains one of the best fighters in the world.
After defending his WEC title multiple times before the UFC merger, Cruz has continued his dominance since entering the Octagon, taking out Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson both by decision.
With phenomenal footwork and the wrestling to control where the fight takes place, Cruz is a handful for any fighter in the bantamweight division, and his title reign has been extremely impressive so far.
After a two round beatdown of Frank Mir back at UFC 146, there’s little doubt that Junior dos Santos is the best heavyweight in the world.
“Cignano” has simply crushed every single opponent the UFC has put across from him since he made his debut in 2009, taking out top fighters such as Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum and the aforementioned Mir in impressive fashion to go along with nearly a handful of other UFC wins.
Dos Santos is far from cleaning out the division, with Velasquez lurking around the corner waiting for a chance to reclaim his belt and top contenders Alistair Overeem and Daniel Cormier jockeying for position in the race to find a new contender.
It seems that every time Jose Aldo gets a new challenger put in front of him, MMA fans immediately start to complain about the lack of competition at 145lbs.
We aren’t going to have that problem before Aldo’s next fight.
Former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar has decided to make the drop down to the featherweight division, and a recent injury to top contender Erik Koch has opened the door for “The Answer” to step in on short notice to fight Aldo.
This is a legitimate super fight that fans have been waiting for, and if Aldo emerges victorious, a serious case can be made to rank him in the top three.
Ever since he defeated Rashad Evans at UFC 145, things seem to be falling apart for Jon Jones.
Other than a fantastic deal signed with Nike, the last few months have been a series of unfortunate events for “Bones”, starting with his DWI arrest soon after his fight.
Jones took some major backlash following his arrest, and as soon as the heat started to die down, UFC 151 happened.
The MMA community has never been as vocal as they are at the moment regarding their support or lackthereof for Jones following his decision to turn down a short notice fight against Chael Sonnen, and the champion is in dire need of an impressive performance against Vitor Belfort if he wants to try and silence the critics.
Until Georges St-Pierre loses, he’s going to remain in the number two spot of these rankings.
Multiple injuries to the welterweight champion have forced him on the sidelines long enough that Jon Jones and Jose Aldo are currently nipping at his heels in the pound for pound discussion, with some fans and media members already ranking Jones ahead of GSP, but for now “Rush” is sticking around in the top two.
If St-Pierre looks like he did prior to his injuries when he fights Carlos Condit at UFC 154 the rest of the welterweight division is in a load of trouble, but more importantly, it opens the door for a potential super fight with the next fighter on this list.
You couldn’t have expected anyone else.
Since the moment he’s entered the UFC Octagon, Anderson Silva has been the most dominant fighter the world has seen.
“The Spider” has defeated Chris Leben, Chael Sonnen and about a dozen other in between, and as his career starts to come to a close it appears that Silva is looking into making a few super fights happen before he hangs up his gloves.
Since he defeated Sonnen at UFC 148, Silva’s management team has repeatedly said they want a fight against Georges St-Pierre more than any other, and if that fight somehow comes to fruition it would be by far the biggest fight in the history of MMA.