An injury forced featherweight champion Jose Aldo to drop out of his scheduled fight at UFC 125, and while Aldo was on the sideline for New Year's, the featherweight division underwent some radical changes.
The New Year's cards for the UFC, Dream and Sengoku all had big featherweight fights that featured several surprise results, and now that the dust has settled, the featherweight division looks a whole lot different heading into 2011 than it did for most of 2010 -- with the exception, of course, that Aldo is still the king.
Check out our rankings of the rest of the featherweight division below.
Top 10 Featherweights in MMA
(Number in parentheses is the fighter's rank in the last featherweight list.)
1. Jose Aldo (1): It's not clear when Aldo will be ready to fight next, or who his opponent will be. But it is clear that he's head and shoulders above the rest of the featherweight division, and that the UFC is going to be hard-pressed to find someone who can dethrone him.
2. Hatsu Hioki (7): Hioki put on a clinic in his Sengoku bout against Marlon Sandro, absolutely dominating Sandro in both the stand-up and on the ground. I think Hioki, with his long reach and his sophisticated ground game, could pose some interesting challenges to Aldo. Here's hoping that's a fight the UFC can book some day.
3. Manny Gamburyan (2): There's no word yet on when Gamburyan will return after his loss to Aldo in September, but his physical strength and well-rounded finishing ability make him a threat to anyone other than Aldo at 145 pounds.
4. Michihiro Omigawa (8): It was a major coup for the UFC to sign Omigawa away from Dream. The UFC isn't going to fast-track Omigawa for a title shot against Aldo because Omigawa just isn't very well known to American fans right now, but don't be surprised if Omigawa is in contention by the end of 2011.
5. Marlon Sandro (5): Although Sandro is one of the most exciting fighters in the featherweight division, the disappointing showing against Hioki has to drop him in the rankings. The 34-year-old Sandro has never fought in North America, and it would be nice to see him stateside before he starts to slow down.
6. Hiroyuki Takaya (NR): The new Dream featherweight champion put on a good show against Bibiano Fernandes on New Year's Eve. He and Hioki fought in 2003 when both were new to the sport, and it would be a great thing for Japanese MMA if Dream and Sengoku could get together and put them in the ring again.
7. Chad Mendes (NR): Mendes takes on Omigawa at UFC 126 in a fight that will tell us whether Omigawa is ready to step into the cage and take out a good American wrestler. The 9-0 Mendes would have a strong case for deserving the next shot at Aldo if he can improve to 10-0 against Omigawa.
8. Dustin Poirier (NR): Poirier dropped to featherweight to fight Josh Grispi on short notice at UFC 125 and put on a show, dominating Grispi in the stand-up to win a one-sided unanimous decision. If Poirier stays at featherweight, he's going to be a force. At age 21, Poirier is one of the sport's most promising prospects.
9. Diego Nunes (NR): Despite fighting most of the way with an eye that was swollen almost totally shut, Nunes fought hard and managed to squeak out a split decision victory over former featherweight champ Mike Brown. He's been largely overlooked to date and is still unknown to most MMA fans, but at 16-1 Nunes has put together a Top 10 resume.
10. Joe Warren (10): Bellator's featherweight champion is the best wrestler in the division and a more effective striker than he gets credit for, even though he doesn't always look pretty in the stand-up department. The biggest questions facing Warren's future are whether Bellator can find good opponents for him in 2011, and whether he'll turn his back on MMA to compete in the 2012 Olympics.