UFC 156: Top 10 Featherweights in the UFC
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UFC 156 is now in the books, and Jose Aldo remains the UFC featherweight champion. The Brazilian's victory over former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar was his 15th in a row and his fourth straight as a UFC competitor.
Edgar's official featherweight arrival came in losing fashion, but even so, his presence really shakes up the division's landscape. He brings unquestionable talent to the upper echelon of the 145-pound class, introducing a whole new challenge to those looking to earn a title shot.
So, where exactly does "The Answer" enter the featherweight picture? Check it out in these post-UFC 156 divisional rankings.
10. Clay Guida
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After a moderately successful six-year stint in the UFC’s lightweight division, Guida recently made the drop to featherweight. He was able to grab a W in his first fight at 145, though the victory—a split-decision victory over Hatsu Hioki—was most certainly razor-thin.
But in the end, a win is a win. And a win over Hioki is nothing to scoff at. Besides, Guida is only just beginning to acclimatize himself to the featherweight division. If he can consistently put in the type of performances we saw from him at 155, there is no reason to think he won’t go far.
“The Carpenter” may still have some work to do before he enters the title picture, but given his history of success, it seems to be a question of when—not if—he’ll eventually make it there.
9. Dennis Siver
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Deciding who should get preferential placement between Siver and Guida was a tough call, but I decided to back the German because of how terrific he’s looked as a member of the UFC’s 145-pound weight class.
In fact, Siver never looked better than he has since dropping from lightweight to featherweight, something that cannot be said for Guida.
With wins over Nam Phan and Diego Nunes, Siver hasn’t truly tapped into the division’s upper crust just yet, but there has been nothing to his recent performances that suggest he doesn’t belong there.
Siver’s active, aggressive and persistent style, his diverse striking repertoire and his emerging grappling skills combine to make him a danger to any opponent at 145.
8. Erik Koch
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Koch looked good in the early going of his recent tussle with Ricardo Lamas but was flattened in the second round by his opponent’s vicious ground-and-pound. He still has a bright future at 145, though, and the loss can be chalked up as a learning experience.
It could also be chalked up to ring rust, considering Koch had not competed since Sept. 2011 prior to sharing the Octagon with Lamas. Talk about being thrown right into the fire.
The defeat was unquestionably a setback for “New Breed,” but he’s still just 24 years old. His future is bright, and there’s little doubt he’ll one day fight for the UFC featherweight title, something he’d already have done if not for suffering an untimely injury.
7. Dustin Poirier
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He’s looked outstanding since making his UFC debut but hasn’t grasped a win over a highly ranked opponent yet—except for Josh Grispi, who was a top-five guy at the time Poirier fought him but has since fallen off the map.
The absence of a legitimate high-ranking name on Poirier’s hit list should not suggest that he lacks legitimate talent and ability, however. Indeed, “The Diamond” is an extremely well-rounded competitor, equally dangerous finishing on the feet and the canvas.
Oh, and he’s just 24 years old.
Poirier will take on the streaking Cub Swanson later this month at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in a battle that will play a big role in shaping the landscape of the featherweight division in 2013.
6. Cub Swanson
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For awhile it looked like Swanson was headed for the “underachiever” label. It’s not like he was ever in danger of being mistaken for any less than a solid featherweight, but his production in the WEC never equaled his raw talent.
He debuted in the UFC in 2011 to losing results, but since then he has done nothing but win—and win in impressive fashion over stiff competition.
Consecutive knockouts over George Roop, Ross Pearson and Charles Oliveira are enough to get him to the sixth spot here, ahead of some other UFC featherweights who may have posted more consistent results over a longer period of time.
Can he keep up the torrid pace he established in 2012? We’ll see when he takes on Dustin Poirier this February 16.
5. Ricardo Lamas
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“The Bully” established himself as a solid fighter during his 2009-2010 tenure with the WEC, but it wasn’t until he headed to the UFC—and moved to 145 pounds—that he emerged as a true contender.
Since joining the world’s premiere MMA promotion, Lamas has posted a 4-0 record, most recently scoring an obliterating knockout victory over fellow lister Erik Koch. He’s certainly on the rise, and even though there are a number of viable contenders atop the featherweight division, few have looked as menacing as Lamas has since 2011.
Whether he is fast-tracked to a title shot or forced to get another W first, Lamas appears to be a true title threat in 2013.
4. Chan Sung Jung
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Since ditching the Korean Zombie persona, Jung has looked like an absolute horror inside the cage. Over his past three contests, the Korean star, who kept the moniker “Korean Zombie” even though he’s amended his fighting style, has produced three stoppages over a trio of tough opponents.
Those results are impressive enough to put him smack dab in the middle of the UFC featherweight title picture, even if he has been on the sidelines since last May and has no upcoming fight scheduled.
Whether he's tapped to be Jose Aldo's next opponent or called on to prove himself one more time, it shouldn't be long until Jung competes for UFC gold.
3. Chad Mendes
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Mendes often seems to get lost in the featherweight shuffle, but he’s a legitimate star. His only career loss was to Jose Aldo, so he remains one of the only featherweights who has never lost to a human opponent.
Mendes’ wrestling may top the entire division, and the rest of his skills are catching up. He’s shown off vastly improved striking in recent fights, even if his opponents since the Aldo match have not been of the caliber that make his impressive knockouts very meaningful.
And while Mendes may have taken on some underwhelming competition of late, he’s done so about as impressively as possible.
His next fight will come at UFC 157 this Feb. 23 against Manny Gamburyan—another not-so-elite opponent, but one good enough to at least pose a challenge.
2. Frankie Edgar
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Some may argue that a fighter with an 0-1 record in a division should not rank this high regardless of what he's accomplished in other weight divisions. That is a reasonable position to take, but Edgar is more than worthy on an exception.
At UFC 156, the former lightweight champion gave Jose Aldo his toughest challenge in recent memory. He took the Brazilian's best for three rounds and just kept coming, making it an entertaining and close fight, even if the result was never entirely in question.
Though the results Edgar has posted recently look ugly, he barely lost (twice) to Ben Henderson and kept it close with Aldo.
He enters the featherweight division a loser, but one probably capable of clearing out the entire weight class, minus one particular combatant.
1. Jose Aldo
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Aldo’s UFC 156 victory over Frankie Edgar cements his status not only as the best featherweight on the planet, but as one of the top fighters in any weight class.
His hands are remarkably quick, his takedown defense is outrageous, his ability to spring right back up when he’s taken down is fantastic and his oft-questioned cardio hardly seems like a weakness anymore.
And those leg kicks are just disturbing. Seriously, it’s gotten to the point that I’d rather give my leg to Rousimar Palhares than take one of Aldo’s leg kicks.
He’s a great champion and still just 26. He could rule over the featherweight division for a very long time.