World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Jose Aldo
is steadily clearing out the 145-pound weight class in North America. Most MMA observers consider Aldo the best featherweight in the world and the last three men he's beaten -- Manny Gamburyan, Urijah Faber and Mike Brown -- to be the next best.
So now that Aldo has beaten Gamburyan, Faber and Brown, and beaten them in decisive fashion, who are the future challengers for the WEC champ? That's a tough question, because most of the next-best featherweights are fighting outside the WEC.
See how the rest of the featherweight division stacks up below. Top 10 Featherweights in MMA (Number in parentheses is the fighter's rank in the last bantamweight list.)
1. Jose Aldo
(1): Here's a fun thing thing to think about if you want to compare Aldo to the other six men who currently own Zuffa belts: Since his first fight in the WEC, on June 1, 2008, Aldo has gone 8-0 with seven stoppages. Of Zuffa's seven current champions, none has been as active or as dominant a fighter as Aldo in that time: Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is 6-0 with one stoppage in the last 28 months, lightweight champion Frank Edgar is 5-0 with one stoppage, welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre is 4-0 with one stoppage, middleweight champion Anderson Silva is 6-0 with four stoppages, light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua is 3-1 with three stoppages and heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is 4-0 with three stoppages.2. Manny Gamburyan
(2): There's no shame in losing to Aldo, and I actually liked the way Gamburyan fought in the first round before getting dropped in the second. He's not in Aldo's class, but I'd probably pick him to beat anyone at 145 pounds other than Aldo.3. Mike Brown
(3): It's disappointing that the WEC didn't even televise Brown's first-round TKO win over Cole Province at WEC 51. Brown is still a dangerous fighter, but he's 35 years old and has lost to both Aldo and Gamburyan, and the WEC's featherweight class seems to be moving on without him.4. Urijah Faber
(4): For now we'll keep Faber, who's arguably the best 145-pounder in the history of the sport, as a featherweight. But the plan is for Faber to fight at 135 pounds in November and then, should he win, get a shot at the bantamweight title in 2011.5. Marlon Sandro
(5): Only the hardest of the hard-core fans know Sandro in America, but if you haven't seen him fight, you really need to watch his most recent fight
, against Masanori Kanehara. Sandro is an absolutely brilliant fighter, and maybe the best featherweight in the world other than Aldo and certainly the best featherweight who hasn't faced Aldo yet. Unfortunately, Sandro is also a friend and training partner of Aldo's, and the two won't fight each other. So there's not much point in Sandro signing with the WEC.6. Josh Grispi
(6): Grispi faces Erik Koch at WEC 52, and if he wins he'll probably get the next shot at Aldo. The 21-year-old Grispi is a terrific young fighter, but I don't think he's ready for Aldo just yet.7. Hatsu Hioki
(7): The tall and lanky Hioki presents interesting match-up problems for everyone at 145 pounds, and could give Aldo some problems. He's the Shooto 143-pound champion and also fights for Sengoku, and I'd love to see the WEC sign him.8. Michihiro Omigawa
(8): I'd love to see the WEC sign Omigawa, too. Although his record (12-8-1) doesn't look all that impressive, he's been an absolute force over the last couple years, winning eight of his last nine.9. Bibiano Fernandes
(9): Dream's featherweight champion is yet another foreign fighter who would be a good fit in the WEC. Fernandes has expressed concern about Dream's ability to pay him, but if the money problems can get worked out, a Fernandes-Omigawa fight would make a lot of sense.10. Joe Warren
(NR): The newly crowned Bellator featherweight champion is the best wrestler in the division and maybe the best wrestler in all of MMA. Although Warren's stand-up is lacking, he showed against Joe Soto that he can weather a storm and land a hard punch.