MMA Top 10 Featherweights: Is Mendes the Man to Challenge Aldo?

Jose Aldo is continuing to run roughshod over the rest of the featherweight division, improving his professional MMA record to 20-1 with a unanimous decision victory over Kenny Florian at UFC 136. So does anyone at 145 have a chance against Aldo?

So far it hasn't looked like it. It's not just that Aldo has won every single one of his fights since coming to North America at WEC 34 in 2008. It's that none of his fights have been close. He's shifted from being a knockout artist to usually winning one-sided decisions, but he really hasn't been tested by anyone.

Is Chad Mendes the man to change that? He's certainly the most worthy challenger to Aldo's title. We'll run down the top of the featherweight division below.

Top 10 featherweights in MMA
(Number in parentheses is the fighter's previous ranking.)

1. Jose Aldo (1): After struggling to cut down to 145 pounds, Aldo has talked about moving up to lightweight, but I think that would be a mistake. I don't think he has the frame for 155, and I think he'd really struggle against big lightweight wrestlers. In fact, I think he might struggle against a good featherweight wrestler like ...

2. Chad Mendes (2): The undefeated Mendes was a good college wrestler and may be the opponent to put Aldo on his back and keep him there. If there's anyone in the featherweight division who represents a threat to Aldo, it's Mendes.

3. Hatsu Hioki (3): Hioki is the big question mark in the UFC's featherweight division. He's about to make his UFC debut after going on a great run in Japan, and if he can make the adjustment to the cage and the North American unified rules, he could be a title contender: Hioki's reach, high-volume striking and active guard make him a tough puzzle to solve. Unfortunately, the recent track record of Japanese fighters coming to the U.S. has not been good. Hioki makes his debut against George Roop at UFC 137.

4. Pat Curran (NR): Curran has looked sensational since dropping from lightweight to featherweight, and after seeing him knock out Marlon Sandro, I think he's the best featherweight outside the UFC. Bellator has a strong featherweight division, and fights with Joe Warren or Patricio "Pitbull" Freire would be great matchups for Curran.

5. Erik Koch (8): Koch looked good in his September victory over Jonathan Brookins, which improved his record to 13-1, with the only loss coming against Mendes. At age 23, Koch has a very bright future ahead of him.

6. Mark Hominick (7): After taking several months off following his loss to Aldo, Hominick will return at UFC 140 against Chan Sung Jung in what should be an outstanding battle.

7. Kenny Florian (4): It's tough to see where Florian goes from here. He's good enough that he's earned three title shots in his career, but not good enough to win any of them, or even be competitive in any of them. And at age 35, with 20 pro fights under his belt, it's not like he's suddenly going to get a lot better. Still, I hope we haven't seen the last of Florian. He can have a gatekeeper role at either featherweight or lightweight, even if he's done fighting for belts.

8. Tyson Griffin (NR): Featherweight -- not lightweight -- has always been the right weight class for Griffin. It was the right weight class for him when he beat Urijah Faber in 2005, and it's the right weight class for him now, after he's moved back down from lightweight and beaten Manny Gamburyan. Up next for Griffin is a featherweight fight with another former lightweight, Bart Palaszewski, at UFC 137.

9. Tatsuya Kawajiri (NR): Another former lightweight dropping down, Kawajiri put on a good show in submitting Joachim Hansen at Dream.17. I'd like to see the UFC add Kawajiri to its featherweight roster.

10. Dustin Poirier (9): The 22-year-old Poirier is a rising star at featherweight. He gets Pablo Garza on the undercard of the November 12 UFC on Fox event.

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