1. Fedor Emelianenko (30-1, 1 NC)
The date and venue remain a mystery for now, but MMA’s heavyweight ruler finally has an opponent for his Strikeforce debut. Come autumn, Emelianenko will risk the mantle he’s held for nearly seven years when he battles unbeaten power puncher Brett Rogers.

2. Brock Lesnar (4-1)
Following his victories over Randy Couture and Frank Mir, many have wanted to see how Lesnar would deal with a fighter who can match his mammoth size. They will now get their wish, as Lesnar’s next title defense will come at UFC 106 in November, where he takes on fellow hulking heavyweight Shane Carwin.

3. Josh Barnett (24-5)
Barnett had the chance to vie for the sport’s heavyweight mantle in his slated Aug. 1 bout with Emelianenko. Instead, another positive steroid test for Barnett destroyed the matchup, put the final nail in the coffin of Affliction’s promotional wing and marred the former UFC champion’s career.

4. Frank Mir (12-4)

Most of the attention Mir has received lately has stemmed from talks of a superfight between him and middleweight ace Anderson Silva. However, the real next fight for Mir will come at UFC 107 in December, when he takes on French hitter Cheick Kongo.

5. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-5-1, 1 NC)
Through his first three outings in the UFC, Nogueira looked like a shell of the fighter who became one of MMA’s greatest over the course of this decade. Nearly 25 pounds lighter, the 33-year-old Nogueira was in vintage form at UFC 102, though. He took an exciting unanimous verdict over Randy Couture, putting himself back in the UFC title mix and also in a much better place in the perceptions of fans and critics.

6. Brett Rogers (10-0)

After a fight with Alistair Overeem failed to materialize, “The Grim” was declared the winner of the Fedor Emelianenko sweepstakes. The unbeaten Rogers will meet MMA’s reigning heavyweight king in his Strikeforce debut this fall, with the date and venue to be determined.

7. Andrei Arlovski (15-7)
Despite having knocked off the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson in the recent past, those accomplishments now seem like distant memories for Arlovski. “The Pitbull” has been brutally smashed in his last two outings against Emelianenko and Rogers, and conversation now centers on the fragile chin that has betrayed him again.

8. Randy Couture (16-10)

He was game, but the 46-year-old Couture was soundly beaten by the reinvigorated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in their fantastic headlining bout at UFC 102. Though it’s now been two years since Couture knocked off Gabriel Gonzaga in his last win, Zuffa still re-inked him to a six-fight contract extension that will allow “The Natural” to finish his career in the Octagon.

9. Shane Carwin (11-0)
Originally expected to meet fellow undefeated prospect Cain Velasquez at UFC 104 in October, Carwin was part of Zuffa reshuffling its heavyweight deck. Now the potent-punching Colorado native will take on Brock Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight crown at UFC 106 in November.

10. Junior dos Santos (8-1)

In his two Octagon appearances, the upstart Dos Santos has punched out quality opponents in Fabricio Werdum and Strefan Struve in less than a combined 2:30. However, the next fight for “Cigano” figures to have a bit more staying power, as he takes on Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at UFC 103 on Sept. 19.

Other contenders: Aleksander Emelianenko, Jeff Monson, Alistair Overeem, Ben Rothwell, Fabricio Werdum.

*With no activity in the last 10 months, the idling Alistair Overeem slips just outside the top 10 and onto the contenders list.

Light Heavyweight

1. Lyoto Machida (15-0)

Fresh off his May 23 blowout of Rashad Evans, it appeared as though Machida would soon start preparing for a challenge from former light heavyweight ruler Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. However, with Jackson opting for a second coaching stint on “The Ultimate Fighter,” Machida’s first title defense will come Oct. 24 against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104.

2. Quinton Jackson (30-7)
Though Jackson was handed a title shot against Machida, he opted to settle his beef with Rashad Evans instead. Jackson and Evans will coach opposite each other on the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but it’s not clear whether their December superfight will come to fruition, as rumors swirl of “Rampage” looking to take on the role of B.A. Baracus in the forthcoming “A-Team” film.

3. Rashad Evans (13-1-1)

Evans signed on to coach against rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” in order to set up a marquee clash between the two in December. However, with talks that Jackson is keenly interested in channeling his inner Mr. T in Hollywood, Evans will either enjoy the advantage of focus and preparation, or in the worst case scenario, a new opponent.

4. Mauricio Rua (18-3)

Fortune has smiled upon Rua. After UFC 98, it looked as if “Shogun” was a fight or more away from challenging for the UFC title. Now, however, the consensus 2005 “Fighter of the Year” will have a chance to regain light heavyweight supremacy against divisional champion Machida at UFC 104 in October.

5. Forrest Griffin (16-6)

Not long ago, Griffin was UFC light heavyweight champion and had picked up pound-for-pound quality wins over Rua and Jackson. However, after his destruction at the hands of middleweight king Anderson Silva at UFC 101, those wins seem like a distant memory for the original “Ultimate Fighter.”

6. Thiago Silva (14-1)
Coming off of a complete blowout defeat against now-divisional king Lyoto Machida in January, Silva rebounded about as well as any fighter could hope to at UFC 102. It took him just 95 seconds to find his left hook counter and pound out Keith Jardine for the most impressive win of his career.

7. Gegard Mousasi (26-2-1)

In his first major introduction to western MMA fans, Mousasi performed brilliantly as it took just 60 seconds for him to crush veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral and claim Strikeforce’s 205-pound title. A scale won’t be needed for the 24-year-old’s next action. He’ll be alongside the likes of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Ikuhisa Minowa and South Korean giant Hong Man Choi in the finale of Dream’s Super Hulk tournament at Dream 12 on Oct. 25.

8. Luis Arthur Cane (10-1)

It was his toughest test to date, but “Banha” showed poise in toughing out an entertaining decision in his April 18 bout with former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Steve Cantwell. It should be onward and upward for the hot prospect in the 205-pound division.

9. Rich Franklin (25-4, 1 NC)

Franklin was tabbed for a rematch with Dan Henderson at UFC 103 in September. However, when the MMA media and fans decided they were not keen on the matchup, Zuffa gave the people what they wanted. Franklin will now meet Vitor Belfort at a 195-pound catchweight come Sept. 19.

10. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (17-3)

“Minotoro” was scheduled to meet Alex Stiebling under the Bitetti Combat banner on Sept. 12 before his twin, “Minotauro” Nogueira, announced late last month that he would be on his way to the UFC soon. Though a deal has yet to be inked, manager Ed Soares expects Rogerio Nogueira in the Octagon by the year’s end.

Other contenders: Keith Jardine, Chuck Liddell, Vladimir Matyushenko, Wanderlei Silva, Renato Sobral

*With the re-entry of sixth-ranked Thiago Silva and the addition of seventh-ranked Gegard Mousasi, formerly ninth-ranked Keith Jardine and 10th-ranked Wanderlei Silva fall to the bubble list.


1. Anderson Silva (25-4)

With Dan Henderson’s brutal KO of Michael Bisping and Nate Marquardt’s quick smashing of Demian Maia, Silva now has two former victims prime for rematches. Even if Marquardt and Henderson aren’t next for “The Spider,” there is still the option of another alluring superfight at light heavyweight.

2. Nate Marquardt (29-8-2)

In what was arguably the most stirring victory in a sterling career, Marquardt blew away unbeaten jiu-jitsu phenom Demian Maia in just 21 seconds at UFC 102. He has gained much popular support in his bid to rematch divisional king Anderson Silva, who defeated Marquardt in July 2007.

3. Yushin Okami (23-4)
Inopportune injuries have slowed Okami’s bid to earn a rematch with middleweight king Silva. A healthy Okami will have the chance to solidify himself as a top contender on Oct. 24 when he takes on Chael Sonnen at UFC 104.

4. Dan Henderson (25-7)

There is still no clear winner in the Anderson Silva sweepstakes between Henderson and the recently victorious Nate Marquardt. Regardless of whether Henderson gets his second chance at Silva next, the former two-division Pride titlist will have another elite middleweight or light heavyweight across the Octagon from him the next time he fights.

5. Demian Maia (10-1)
In a fight that could have earned him a crack at middleweight overlord Anderson Silva, Maia found out just what competition is like at the top of the 185-pound division. Nate Marquardt blew him away with a single right hand in just 21 seconds at UFC 102.

6. Jorge Santiago (21-7)

Perhaps the most unfortunate victim of Affliction’s demise, Santiago was left without a clear direction after the cancellation of his match with Vitor Belfort. While he expects to defend his Sengoku middleweight title sometime in the near future, the surging Brazilian now looks at a clean calendar with no fights.

7. Vitor Belfort (18-8)

The fall of Affliction killed Belfort’s anticipated bout with fellow Brazilian Santiago, but “The Phenom” will not be on the sidelines for long. The former UFC light heavyweight champion will return to the Octagon at UFC 103 on Sept. 19 to meet Rich Franklin at a 195-pound catchweight.

8. Robbie Lawler (16-5, 1 NC)

Lawler appeared to be in control on the feet in his June 6 bout with Jake Shields. Then, in the blink of an eye, he was tapping out to a Shields guillotine choke, leaving his next move in Strikeforce’s middleweight division uncertain.

9. Chael Sonnen (23-10-1)

After grinding out a nice win over former International Fight League middleweight champion Dan Miller in May, Sonnen’s climb up the 185-pound ladder will only get more difficult. The Team Quest product will take on Okami at UFC 104 on Oct. 24.

10. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-1, 2 NC)

It was not his best performance, but Akiyama gritted through a split decision verdict over a game Alan Belcher at UFC 100 in July and has thrown himself into the UFC’s deepening middleweight mix.

Other contenders: Michael Bisping, Patrick Cote, Paulo Filho, Dan Miller, Frank Trigg.


1. Georges St. Pierre (19-2)
Another title defense, another elite contender, another dominant victory for St. Pierre. GSP’s lopsided decision over an elite challenger in Thiago Alves at UFC 100 showed why he remains one of the sport’s pound-for-pound kings and caused many fans and pundits to begin demanding a move to middleweight. However, St. Pierre’s next challenge will come from the winner of the September bout between Mike Swick and Martin Kampmann.

2. Jon Fitch (19-3, 1 NC)

Fitch earned himself a hard-fought and well-deserved unanimous verdict over Paulo Thiago in July. Next on tap for the AKA product may be former middleweight King of Pancrase Ricardo Almeida in his welterweight debut, possibly at UFC 106 in November.

3. Thiago Alves (16-4)

Though Alves struggled to muster much offense in his 25-minute decision loss to St. Pierre at UFC 100, the Brazilian stalwart showed considerable grit by making it to the final bell against the vastly superior French Canadian. The other silver lining for the “Pitbull”? He’s only 25 years old.

4. Jake Shields (23-4-1)

Strikeforce’s plans aren’t set in stone yet, but Shields’ next bout will have Strikeforce’s interim middleweight title at stake. The promotion has yet to firmly settle on an opponent, but one possibility — and a popular one, at that — is MMA cult hero Jason “Mayhem” Miller.

5. Martin Kampmann (15-2)
Kampmann said he’s only interested in big fights at 170. Fortunately for Denmark’s top MMA export, he has one: Kampmann will take on Swick at UFC 103 on Sept. 19. The winner will be next in line for a crack at St. Pierre’s welterweight throne.

6. Paulo Thiago (11-1)

Thiago finally got one put in the loss column at UFC 100. However, the still relatively unknown Brazilian did prove that he was tougher than previously thought following his upset over Josh Koscheck in February, as he dragged Fitch through three competitive rounds.

7. Josh Koscheck (12-4)

A foot injury deprived Koscheck of a chance to get back into action against Chris Wilson at UFC 98 in May. Koscheck’s next bout will be even sterner now. His opponent for UFC 103 on Sept. 19 will be former UFC welterweight title challenger Frank Trigg, who returns to the promotion and the division after a run at middleweight.

8. Carlos Condit (22-5)

Condit was set to meet “Fight of the Night” bonus collector Chris Lytle before Lytle pulled out due to an injury. Now the Sept. 16 UFC “Fight Night” card will feature Condit taking on tough Nebraskan wrestler Jake Ellenberger, who is making his UFC debut.

9. Mike Swick (14-2)

Having put together a 4-0 mark as a welterweight, Swick’s big moment at 170 has arrived. The fleet-handed American Kickboxing Academy product will take on Kampmann on Sept. 19 at UFC 103, with the winner gaining the right to challenge St. Pierre.

10. Dan Hardy (22-6, 1 NC)

With his split decision over Marcus Davis at UFC 99 in June, Hardy has emerged as yet another contender in the UFC’s startlingly deep welterweight division. The victory was his 11th in his last 12 fights, his lone loss in that span coming via contested disqualification against Yoshiyuki Yoshida in December 2007.

Other contenders: Marcus Davis, Jay Hieron, Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan, Nick Thompson.


1. B.J. Penn (14-5-1)
The world has always wanted Penn to reign as a lightweight, and reign he did at UFC 101. After nullifying top contender Kenny Florian for 15 minutes, Penn turned on the heat in the fourth round and notched a beautiful rear-naked choke submission. Up next, “The Prodigy” figures to take on Diego Sanchez in the coming months.

2. Shinya Aoki (21-4, 1 NC)
Aoki drew criticism for pot-shotting his way to a unanimous decision win over Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro on July 20. However, the win set up a high-stakes rubber match for the rubbery grappler, as he’s slated to meet Joachim Hansen for the Dream lightweight title on Oct. 6.

3. Eddie Alvarez (18-2)

Alvarez ended the Cinderella run of likely “Submission of the Year” winner Toby Imada on June 19, as he choked him out in the second round. A rumored bout against Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante did not come to fruition, but Bellator’s lightweight champion will have the luxury of courting high-quality opponents from both Bellator and Dream in the near future.

4. Kenny Florian (11-4)

Though his loss to B.J. Penn is less than a month old, talks have already started to build for Florian’s next fight. Adamant about getting in one more fight in ’09, a potential bout with noted motor fighter Clay Guida may find its way onto the UFC 106 card on Nov. 21.

5. Tatsuya Kawajiri (24-5-2)

Kawajiri showed the MMA world he still has a pulse when he took a unanimous verdict over Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante in May. Unfortunately for the “Crusher,” he did not make good on his promise to defeat superstar striker Masato under K-1 rules and was knocked out in one-and-a-half lopsided rounds on July 13.

6. Gray Maynard (7-0, 1 NC)

Maynard has continued to rack up one-sided wins inside the UFC, but talk of a title shot has been elusive for the former Michigan State Spartan. Maynard’s next chance at impressing fans and UFC brass alike will come Sept. 16 in Oklahoma City, where he meets returning Roger Huerta on a Spike TV telecast.

7. Frankie Edgar (10-1)

Not wanting to hear any more discussion about him cutting to 145 pounds, Edgar made a strong statement that he can hang against elite lightweights at UFC 98. He stayed a step ahead of former champion Sean Sherk for the full 15 minutes of their May 23 bout.

8. Sean Sherk (33-4-1)

A deflating loss to Frankie Edgar in May left Sherk with no clear place in the UFC’s lightweight division. In order to stay afloat and remain relevant, the former 155-pound champion will need to knock off tough Brazilian Gleison Tibau, a fighter who shares his predicament, at UFC 104 on Oct. 24.

9. Mizuto Hirota (12-3-1)

In their Aug. 2 encounter, Hirota withstood Satoru Kitaoka’s early submission storm and wore down the Sengoku champion. He then smashed Kitaoka with a barrage of knees in the fourth round to claim Sengoku’s lightweight crown.

10. Satoru Kitaoka (25-9-9)

In the first defense of his Sengoku lightweight title, Kitaoka was outlasted by the hard-hitting Mizuto Hirota, who battered him with knees and took his title in the fourth round. The defeat was Kitaoka’s first as a lightweight.

Other contenders: Gesias Cavalcante, Gilbert Melendez, Eiji Mitsuoka, Diego Sanchez, Josh Thomson.