1. Jose Aldo, featherweight - The 24-year-old, the 145-pound champ has already exploded into the top 10 pound-for-pound. He’s 8-0 with the promotion and has won 11 straight overall. With Aldo on board with the UFC, he also has the flexibility to move up to 155 pounds. The only question on Aldo remains his ability to defend the takedown against top level wrestlers. He hasn’t met that type of fighter yet.
2. Urijah Faber, bantamweight - The guy who carried the WEC for years finally gets the exposure he deserves. The 5-foot-5 Faber is down where he belongs at 135 and with a media savvy/friendly personality plus matinee idol looks he could become a star on the same level as Georges St, Pierre or Brock Lesnar.
3. Miguel Torres, bantamweight - Truly the most well-rounded fighter in the WEC, the timing is perfect for Torres. Casual MMA fans will love his personality and his warrior style in the cage. He’s also working toward becoming a smarter fighter and playing more to his strengths on the ground.
4. Anthony Pettis, lightweight - His title shot on Dec. 16 against Ben Henderson just went from big to enormous. If Pettis pulls the mild upset and takes the title, he’ll get an immediate shot at the UFC lightweight title against Frank Edgar or Gray Maynard. Pettis, 23, is a big 155-pounder and can do it all.
5. Dominick Cruz, bantamweight - He’s a riddle yet to be solved down at 135. Another young fighter at 25-years-old, Cruz’s herky, jerky striking style is reminiscent of great defensive boxers of the past. The list of contenders and big fights at bantamweight in the UFC could easily headline PPV cards for a few years before any new fighters move into the mix.
6. Joe Benavidez, bantamweight - Benavidez may be the best action fighter in the sport and should be a candidate for the much bigger fight of the night bonuses available on UFC cards. He had match up issues against Cruz’s style but he’ll be a candidate for the 135 title again in the future. He may also provide some headaches for UFC matchmakers. If Faber can get the bantamweight title and is dominant, his teammate Benavidez still won’t take the fight.
7. Brian Bowles, bantamweight - The former 135 champ is the forgotten man but that’s a mistake. He brings one thing the rest of the bigger names in the weight class don’t - one punch knockout power. Bowles could be in line for some nice paydays as he works his way back from issues with his hands.
8. Ben Henderson, lightweight - Overrated or underrated, now Henderson, 26, will be put to the test. He has some of the best cardio in the division but now he’s stepping into the world of guys like Edgar, Maynard, Sean Sherk, Evan Dunham, Kenny Florian, George Sotiropolous and possibly Diego Sanchez. The USA Today/Bloody Elbow rankings only has Henderson ranked No. 14 in the world. That’s some serious motivation.
9. Josh Grispi, featherweight - The New Englander is on the verge of breaking out. The 22-year-old just needs to be a little more active. At just over 6-foot tall, he's a rangy guy for the weight class.
10. Donald Cerrone, lightweight - Think of him as the 155-pound Chris Lytle. Cerrone may be no better than a .500 fighter in the UFC but he’ll bring it every time out. If he cuts down on his willingness to fight from his back, Cerrone has a chance to pull some big upsets. He’s also adds another crazy guy to the UFC roster when it comes to hyping a fight.
Who else are you excited to see on the big shows?
- Urijah Faber
- Ben Henderson