UFC

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31073675 Welcome to Silva's world Welcome+to+Silva%27s+world UFC

Anderson Silva continues to be the standard bearer in the UFC, but what fighters join him on the Top 10 list as 2012 draws to a close?

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31451427 Anderson Silva Anderson+Silva UFC

Stepping up on short notice, Silva further proved his greatness with a first-round decimation of a juiced up Stephan Bonnar, who later tested positive for steroids, in a 205-pound matchup at UFC 153 in Brazil. After decisively beating Chael Sonnen for a second time, few challengers remain for Silva at 185 pounds. Fights with Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping are the only compelling options, but Silva seems adamant making a superfight against Georges St. Pierre in 2013, which would rank among the biggest fights in mixed martial arts history. With two fights remaining on his UFC contract, the 37-year-old Brazilian legend could be nearing the tail-end of an illustrious career.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31451426 Jon 'Bones' Jones Jon+%27Bones%27+Jones UFC

It wasn't quite the opponent anyone was initially expecting, but after No. 1 contender Dan Henderson pulled out with an injury, Jones accepted the challenge of Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in Toronto. After escaping a close call in the form of a tight first-round armbar, Jones dismantled the former champion with a heavy onslaught of ground-and-pound leading to a fourth-round tapout. We still haven't seen Jones absorb any significant damage in his fights as he brilliantly utilizes his reach to break opponents down. He should have little trouble in his next fight as he takes on former middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen in April. The one-dimensional Sonnen will have a hard time imposing his wrestling game on the much bigger Jones, who should cruise to yet another emphatic victory.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449030 Georges St-Pierre Georges+St-Pierre UFC

There were many question marks surrounding St-Pierre's return to the Octagon after a prolonged hiatus due to a knee injury. The French-Canadian superstar unified the welterweight titles with a spectacular performance against Carlos Condit at UFC 154. Condit had his moments, as St-Pierre was able to recover from a sequence that nearly finished the fight in the third round. It was a strong performance for his comeback as talks of a superfight against Anderson Silva loom. St-Pierre is noncommittal, while Silva has repeatedly expressed his desire to make the fight. With potential contenders like Johny Hendricks and Nick Diaz on the horizon, one can make the argument for St-Pierre further cementing his greatness at 170 pounds.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449029 Jose Aldo Jose+Aldo UFC

We'll see how the explosive UFC featherweight champion fares upon his return at UFC 156 in February when he faces the toughest test of his career against former lightweight torchbearer Frankie Edgar. We last saw him compete at UFC 142 this past January, destroying Chad Mendes with a flurry late in the first round. Unbeaten since 2005, the 26-year-old dynamo has dominated the featherweight scene for years, defeating the likes of Kenny Florian, Mark Hominick, Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and Cub Swanson. With recent talk of a superfight between Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, a salivating upcoming clash between Aldo and Edgar isn't getting the attention it deserves. It should be an exemplary mixed martial arts contest between two consummate professionals at the pinnacle of their careers.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449031 Junior dos Santos Junior+dos+Santos UFC

The 28-year-old UFC heavyweight champion is undefeated since joining the UFC in 2008, earning notable victories over the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir. Riding the longest winning streak in the UFC heavyweight division, the Brazilian wrecking machine will defend his belt in a rematch with Velasquez at UFC 155 in December. The heavy-handed boxer has easily outclassed his opposition thus far. If he can decisively dispatch Velasquez yet again, a highly anticipated showdown with former Strikeforce kingpin Alistair Overeem should be his next test in the Octagon.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449028 Benson Henderson Benson+Henderson UFC

The 29-year-old southpaw barely squeaked by Frankie Edgar for a second time to retain the UFC lightweight title this past August. It was the second razor-thin decision going his way, but the former WEC champion can now look forward to new challenges at 155 pounds, starting with a compelling clash against Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5 this December. The MMA Lab disciple is incredibly athletic and well-rounded, but he'll need to keep upping his game to stay atop one of the sport's most competitive divisions. A win over Diaz will go a long way in further establishing Henderson as an elite pound-for-pound competitor.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449032 Frankie Edgar Frankie+Edgar UFC

Disheartened after a pair of highly contentious decision losses against Ben Henderson, the former UFC lightweight champion is dropping to 145 pounds for a megafight against featherweight king Jose Aldo in February. A durable and versatile mixed martial artist, the 31-year-old New Jersey native should find success at 145 pounds, looking to reclaim some of the momentum he gained from a pair of decisions over lightweight icon B.J. Penn and a come-from-behind knockout of Gray Maynard. A victory over Aldo should establish Edgar as an all-time great.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449034 Demetrious Johnson Demetrious+Johnson UFC

Entering his fight against Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 as a heavy underdog, the 5-foot-3 "Mighty Mouse" became the inaugural UFC flyweight champion by winning a gritty five-round decision. The cat-like speed and footwork of Johnson coupled with swift takedowns and unheralded power are proven difference makers as Johnson is finally benefiting from fighting men closer to his size. The 26-year-old Kentucky native defends the 125-pound championship for the very first time against John Dodson this January.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449033 Renan Barao Renan+Barao UFC

Undefeated in 30 professional fights, the 25-year-old Nova Uniao product soundly outclassed Urijah Faber at UFC 149 this past July to claim the interim UFC bantamweight title. The dynamic Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is a dangerous muay thai practitioner who trains closely with featherweight beltholder Jose Aldo. With Dominick Cruz taking longer than expected to return from injury, Barao is expected to defend the bantamweight title against 21-year-old phenom Michael McDonald. After defeating Faber more decisively than the champion Cruz, Barao proved he could indeed be the man to beat at 135 pounds.

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UFC 1318583 43 Fight Network pound-for-pound rankings 31449035 Dominick Cruz Dominick+Cruz UFC

Riding a career-beat 10-fight winning streak, Cruz saw his momentum come to a screeching halt after suffering a torn ACL ahead of an expected rematch with Urijah Faber this past July. Cruz has defeated some top contenders, including Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Brian Bowles, Scott Jorgensen and flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson, but reigning interim champion Renan Barao should be his most dangerous opponent to date. There is still no timetable for when Cruz might make his return to action, but he'll need to be better than ever to continue his reign of supremacy at 135 pounds.

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