HeavyMMA Rankings: The Featherweight Division

Pat Curran (Bellator Fighting Championships)

Aldo remains on top, meets Koch in July

HeavyMMA’s fighter rankings are back this week with a look at the featherweights. It looks like reigning UFC champion Jose Aldo will next fight in July against the streaking Erik Koch, so we may not see any changes at the top until after that fight.

Heavy’s panel consists of HeavyMMA editor Matt Brown, writer Duane Finley and writer/editor Matt Erickson. Each panelist compiles his rankings independently, and the votes are tabulated to reach the results listed below. Coming next week, we’ll take a look at the featherweight division.

1. Jose Aldo
UFC champion (21-1, 3-0 UFC)
After a couple ho-hum decision wins, Aldo was back to his flashy ways in January with a big knockout of Chad Mendes with just one second left in the first round. When he sprinted into the Brazilian crowd right after the win, he endeared himself to fans all over again. He’ll be a big favorite against Erik Koch when the two meet at UFC 149 on July 21.

2. Hatsu Hioki
(25-4-2, 2-0 UFC)
Highly touted when he signed with the UFC, Hioki hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with the company. His split decision win over George Roop in his UFC debut was considered by many to be a bit of a robbery. And while his win over Bart Palaszewski at UFC 144 was more impressive, it was nothing fancy. He’ll get another stiff test against Ricardo Lamas next month, and a win against “The Bully” could have him right there waiting for a title shot just like Dustin Poirier and Chan Sung Jung.

3. Pat Curran
Bellator champion (17-4, 7-1 Bellator)
Curran’s run has been nothing short of remarkable. He went from a virtually unheard-of cousin to Jeff Curran to the best featherweight outside the UFC in less than two years. He’s got two Bellator tournament titles, and now a championship belt. He’ll defend his belt for the first time against Patricio Freire.

4. Erik Koch
UFC No. 1 contender (13-1, 2-0 UFC)
Koch has the next shot at Aldo in a fight just made official by the UFC on Monday. But if everything goes to plan, Koch will be the latest underdog against Aldo in Calgary on July 21 – though the betting lines aren’t out yet. The Duke Roufus-trained fighter has two Knockout of the Night bonuses in his last three fights.

5. Dustin Poirier
(12-1, 4-1 UFC)
What a run it’s been for “The Diamond” since he moved over to the UFC from the WEC – 4-0 with two straight submissions. And that has put him on the verge of a title shot. If he beats Chan Sung Jung next Tuesday in Virginia, don’t be surprised if he hangs tight for the Aldo-Koch winner for a title shot – not bad for a 23-year-old.

6. Chan Sung Jung
(12-3, 2-0 UFC)
“The Korean Zombie” has picked up two straight wins – and two straight bonuses. He followed up his Submission of the Night (and YEAR) twister win over Leonard Garcia last March with a seven-second knockout of Mark Hominick – yes, SEVEN SECONDS – in December. And now he has what likely is a top contenders fight against Poirier in a week in his first main event. An upset there probably gets him the winner of Aldo-Koch.

7. Chad Mendes
(11-1, 2-1 UFC)
“Money” dropped down a bit after his loss to Aldo at UFC 142 in January. Not only was it his first knockout loss, it was his first loss, period. So expect him to want to come out with a strong statement when he returns.

8. Dennis Siver
(20-8, 9-5 UFC)
After a strong run at lightweight, Siver’s featherweight debut was a good one last month with a win over the always-tough Diego Nunes. Siver likely will be fast-tracked in the division after a good start in Sweden.

9. Tatsuya Kawajiri
Since losing a Strikeforce lightweight title fight against Gilbert Melendez just over a year ago, Kawajiri has been on a tear with four straight stoppage wins. His drop to featherweight came against the highly regarded Joachim Hansen, and it was a submission win. He remains one of the best featherweights outside the UFC.

10. Marlon Sandro
(22-3, 5-1 Bellator)
Sandro is back in the featherweight tournament finals for Bellator, where he lost to current champ Pat Curran last year. He’ll be gunning for another shot at Curran, now with the belt, when he meets Daniel Straus in the Season 6 tournament finals on Friday.

On the fringe: Hiroyuki Takaya, Patricio Freire, Mark Hominick, Yuri Alcantara, Daniel Straus, Ross Pearson, Jonathan Brookins, Joachim Hansen, Darren Elkins, Diego Brandao

Make sure to check out who ruled the roost in other divisions:
HeavyMMA’s Pound-for-Pound rankings (March 26)
HeavyMMA’s Heavyweight rankings (April 2)
HeavyMMA’s Light Heavyweight rankings (April 9)
HeavyMMA’s Middleweight rankings (April 16)
HeavyMMA’s Welterweight rankings (April 23)
HeavyMMA’s Lightweight rankings (April 30)

And stay tuned for our every-Monday rankings in a new weight class!
HeavyMMA’s Bantamweight rankings: Coming May 14
HeavyMMA’s Pound-for-Pound rankings: Coming May 21