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L.A. Times December MMA rankings

FabforumHeavyweight

1. Junior Dos Santos

2. Cain Velasquez

3. Alistair Overeem

4. Brock Lesnar

5. Fabricio Werdum

6. Daniel Cormier

7. Josh Barnett

8. Frank Mir

9. Antonio Silva

10. Travis Browne

8.8 million viewers on Fox witnessed Junior Dos Santos’ knockout victory over Cain Velasquez to capture the UFC heavyweight title. The number would have been even higher had the fight not ended so quickly. Alistair Overeem will fight Brock Lesnar December 30 to determine the next challenger for Dos Santos' title. In one of the most memorable fights of the year, Frank Mir forced Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to tap out for the first time in Nogueira's MMA career. Nogueira hesitated in tapping to Mir's kimura and it led to a gruesome break of Nogueira's arm. One name that often comes up high in other rankings is the powerful Shane Carwin. He fails to make the top 10 because he hasn’t won since March 2010, he looked like a faded fighter in his last bout, and his list of significant wins is slight compared to other top 10 fighters.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones

2. Rashad Evans

3. Dan Henderson

4. Lyoto Machida

5. Quinton Jackson

6. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

7. Gegard Mousasi

8. Thiago Silva

9. Forrest Griffin

10. Rich Franklin

Jon Jones concluded a brilliant 2011 by choking out Lyoto Machida to retain his UFC light heavyweight title. Jones had already bested Ryan Bader, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Quinton Jackson this year. Dan Henderson and Rua fought in an epic clash at UFC 139. Henderson narrowly won the fight on the judges' scorecards. That decision probably should have been a draw, given all three judges inexplicably ruled the final round 10-9 for Rua despite complete and utter domination on his part.

Middleweight

1. Anderson Silva

2. Chael Sonnen

3. Yushin Okami

4. Mark Munoz

5. Vitor Belfort

6. Michael Bisping

7. Nate Marquardt

8. Demian Maia

9. Hector Lombard

10. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza

Mark Munoz affirmed his status as one of the top contenders for the UFC middleweight title with a stoppage win over Chris Leben in the main event of UFC 138. He will fight Chael Sonnen on Fox to determine the next challenger for Anderson Silva's title. Michael Bisping overwhelmed a gassed Jason Miller at the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale. Bisping will fight Demian Maia on that same card with the winner also in line for an eventual title shot. In Bellator, Hector Lombard won his 20th fight in a row over Trevor Prangley. Lombard’s striking is a scary proposition for any opponent.

Welterweight

1. Georges St. Pierre

2. Jon Fitch

3. Nick Diaz

4. Carlos Condit

5. Josh Koscheck

6. Jake Ellenberger

7. Jake Shields

8. B.J. Penn

9. Martin Kampmann

10. Rory MacDonald

Nick Diaz made a triumphant return to the UFC with a dominant victory over B.J. Penn. Diaz beat up Penn like few opponents ever have and now Diaz will fight Carlos Condit to determine the interim UFC welterweight title.  Georges St. Pierre, recovering from ACL surgery, will fight the winner. At UFC 139, Martin Kampmann earned a hard fought victory over a very game Rick Story.

Lightweight

1. Frank Edgar

2. Gilbert Melendez

3. Ben Henderson

4. Gray Maynard

5. Jim Miller

6. Clay Guida

7. Donald Cerrone

8. Anthony Pettis

9. Eddie Alvarez

10. Shinya Aoki

It was a hectic month and a half for the lightweight division, full of exciting fights and meaningful results. Two fights stood out as particularly exciting. In one, Ben Henderson defeated Clay Guida via decision to earn the next UFC lightweight title shot against Frank Edgar. It was a terrific bout that unfortunately was not aired on Fox despite taking place before the Dos Santos-Velasquez contest. In another classic, Michael Chandler defeated Eddie Alvarez to capture the Bellator lightweight title. Chandler is an undefeated fighter to watch. Donald Cerrone makes his perhaps overdue debut in the rankings following another impressive win over Dennis Siver. Cerrone is really clicking as a fighter and will battle Nate Diaz in the co-main event of UFC 141.

Featherweight

1. Jose Aldo

2. Chad Mendes

3. Dustin Poirier

4. Tatsuya Kawajiri

5. Hatsu Hioki

6. Kenny Florian

7. Diego Nunes

8. Erik Koch

9. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire

10. Joe Warren

Dustin Poirier looked impressive in victory again, besting Pablo Garza. Hatsu Hioki was less impressive, taking a close decision win over George Roop. Really, there aren’t any fights at featherweight that will capture the greater public’s imagination right now.

Bantamweight

1. Dominick Cruz

2. Joseph Benavidez

3. Urijah Faber

4. Demetrious Johnson

5. Miguel Torres

6. Brian Bowles

7. Scott Jorgensen

8. Renan Barao

9. Michael McDonald

10. Masakatsu Ueda

Urijah Faber beat up and finished Brian Bowles at UFC 139 and now will receive another title shot against UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Faber is an elite fighter and likeable personality, but he really should have had to pick up more than one win for a title shot given he has lost four title fights in a row. In other action, Miguel Torres and Scott Jorgensen picked up lackluster wins. Torres was then cut for telling tasteless jokes on Twitter. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Michael McDonald and 24-year-old Renan Barao demonstrated they are going to be forces in the sport. McDonald knocked out Alex Soto in under a minute and Barao submitted Brad Pickett in one round. There are a lot of interesting fights to make in the UFC bantamweight division, although the ranks will thin with the create of a UFC flyweight division.

--Todd Martin

You can now follow Todd on Twitter at @toddmartinmma.

 
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