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MMA Top 10 Featherweights: Any Challenges Left for Jose Aldo?

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The No. 1 featherweight in mixed martial arts returned to the cage at UFC 142 and needed less than one round to dispatch an opponent who entered the fight undefeated and widely regarded as the No. 2 featherweight in MMA. So where does Jose Aldo go now after defeating Chad Mendes?

Aldo's camp has indicated he doesn't intend to move up to 155 pounds unless it's to fight for the UFC lightweight title. So that's probably not in the offing. And that raises the question: Are there any challengers left for Aldo at 145 pounds?

For the identity of some potential opponents for Aldo going forward, check out the latest list of the top 10 featherweights in mixed martial arts below.

Top 10 Featherweights in Mixed Martial Arts
(Number in parentheses is the fighter's previous ranking.)

1. Jose Aldo (1): What's been so impressive about Aldo is how none of his fights are even close. Since signing with Zuffa in 2008 Aldo is 11-0, with four wins by first-round knockout or TKO, three wins by second-round knockout or TKO, one win by third-round TKO, and three wins by unanimous decision. He didn't lose more than one round in any of the three decisions, all of which were five-round fights.

2. Hatsu Hioki (3): Hioki has a great resume, with wins over Marlon Sandro, Takeshi Inoue, Ronnie Mann and Mark Hominick twice. But he looked just so-so in winning a split decision over George Roop in his UFC debut. He'll have to look better when he faces Bart Palaszewski back home in Japan at UFC 144 if he wants to prove he belongs in the Octagon with Aldo.

3. Chad Mendes (2): The best hope Mendes had of beating Aldo was getting him down and getting on top of him, and Aldo's takedown defense proved to be too good. (Aldo did benefit from grabbing the fence at one point.) Mendes is a good enough wrestler to threaten almost anyone at 145 pounds, but Aldo is leaps and bounds better than him as a striker.

4. Pat Curran (4): Curran looked outstanding in defeating Marlon Sandro in the Bellator featherweight tournament final, and Bellator has a great featherweight title fight lined up for March 9, with Curran taking on Joe Warren.

5. Erik Koch (5): Koch was supposed to fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 143 in what could have given the UFC its next No. 1 contender at featherweight. Unfortunately Koch is injured and had to drop out of the fight, and a return date for Koch has not been announced.

6. Bart Palaszewski (NR): Palaszewski's impressive win over Tyson Griffin establishes him as a potential future contender to the featherweight belt. Moving down to featherweight was a great move for him, but he'll have a tough test on his hands against Hioki at UFC 144.

7. Tatsuya Kawajiri (9): After dropping down to featherweight last year, Kawajiri submitted both Joachim Hansen and Kazuyuki Miyata. A fight with Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya would be great.

8. Dustin Poirier (10): Poirier will take on Max Holloway at UFC 143, and if he puts on a good show he might find himself getting Aldo next.

9. Chan Sung Jung (NR): After Aldo, the Korean Zombie might be the hottest featherweight in the sport right now. He was recognized as having the Fight of the Year in 2010 with Leonard Garcia and the Submission of the Year in 2011 for finishing Garcia with a twister in their rematch, and then he needed just seven seconds to knock out Mark Hominick. Jung is on such a roll right now that there's some talk he could be next in line for Aldo, although that would be an extremely tall order: Jung is a lot of fun to watch, but Aldo is on another level as a striker.

10. Mark Hominick (6): Hominick is now on a two-fight losing streak after falling to Aldo and Jung, but he'll hold onto his spot in the Top 10 for now. He's a skilled striker who's still only 29 years old and has a good future in the featherweight division, but he should get a step down in quality of competition, which is just what he will get when he takes on Eddie Yagin at UFC 145 in Atlanta.