Every month, The MMA Corner breaks down the ten fighters who made the biggest impact on the sport within that month. This isn’t a traditional set of rankings or a pound-for-pound listing – rather, think of it as a “best month ever” top 10. Which fighters made their mark in July 2011? Read on to find out…

1. Tito Ortiz

It’s a name we never expected to see at the top of this list ever again, unless it had something to do with a feud between the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” and Dana White or Jenna Jameson. Instead, it actually has to do with how Ortiz performed inside the cage. Ortiz pulled off a stunning upset of contender Ryan Bader at UFC 132, submitting the TUF 8 champion via guillotine choke in under two minutes. The surprising win turned the talk from Ortiz’s inevitable retirement to that of Ortiz making one last run at the title. The situation only intensified when Rashad Evans needed a new opponent for the UFC 133 main event and Ortiz turned out to be available and, after some initial reluctance, willing. A win over Bader was big enough, but a win over Evans would truly force everyone to take Ortiz’s chances as a contender seriously.

2. Dan Henderson

Henderson upped Fedor Emelianenko’s losing streak to three fights by scoring a first-round TKO of “The Last Emperor” in a back-and-forth skirmish at Strikeforce’s “Fedor vs. Henderson” event. The war saw both men throw wild haymakers, with Fedor eventually knocking “Hendo” down. After Fedor pounced, Henderson scrambled out the back door and landed a huge right uppercut that dropped Emelianenko face-first to the mat and prompted referee Herb Dean to intervene for the stoppage. The win ranks among the highlights of Henderson’s legendary career, but now the question is where Henderson will fight next. Despite reigning as Strikeforce’s light heavyweight champion, he is now technically a free agent, with the Fedor fight representing the last bout under his Strikeforce contract. Henderson wants to defend the title, but can he come to terms with Zuffa on a new deal?

3. Dominick Cruz

The UFC bantamweight champion conquered a very important foe in the main event of UFC 132, where he earned a unanimous decision over Urijah Faber. Faber had previously defeated Cruz in featherweight action and appeared to have the best shot at dethroning the reigning champ. Cruz already has another challenger in line, as he’ll meet Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson at UFC Live 6 on Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C.

4. Miesha Tate

If women’s MMA needed a replacement for the often inactive Gina Carano, the women’s bantamweight title showdown between challenger Tate and champion Marloes Coenen at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson” might have been a battle of two women who not only have the skills, but also the looks to fill Carano’s shoes. Tate definitely wasn’t shy about showing off her fit body at the weigh-in ceremonies, but her best display came inside the cage. Coenen took Tate’s back in the second stanza and threatened with rear-naked choke submission attempts, but “Takedown” was able to fend off the attack. Tate eventually gave Coenen a taste of her own medicine, submitting the submission specialist via arm-triangle choke in the fourth round. Tate might be in for another tough fight in her first title defense, where she will likely meet one of only two women to ever hand her a defeat: Former champion Sarah Kaufman.

5. Carlos Condit

Despite strong performances in his recent outings, Condit seems to remain the man that everyone forgets about in the UFC’s welterweight title picture. Condit keeps sending out reminders though. His most recent came in the form of a first-round TKO of Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132. The win was his third straight victory via some form of knockout, and the “Natural Born Killer” is making it increasingly difficult to ignore his chances at a title bid. He’s now set for an October showdown with BJ Penn, and a win there should definitely put him in line for a title shot.

6. Chris Leben

Just when you think Leben has been knocked off track, he bounces back with another huge performance. He only needed 27 seconds to render the legendary Wanderlei Silva unconscious at UFC 132. Following a setback at the hands of Brian Stann, the win puts Leben back in the middleweight contender mix. Now, he gets a chance to headline UFC 138 against fellow contender Mark Munoz.

7. Tim Kennedy

As if a solid performance against Robbie Lawler wasn’t enough to earn Kennedy respect from MMA fans, his post-fight interview sealed the deal. After securing a unanimous decision over Lawler at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson,” Kennedy shrugged off the blood that had poured from his face at times during the fight and put his efforts in perspective by honoring those who fight – and quite literally sacrifice life and limb – for the United States. The Army Ranger’s dedication to recognizing his fellow soldiers makes him a hero in the eyes of the fans, and his win over Lawler puts him in line to rematch Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza for Strikeforce’s middleweight strap.

8. Tyron Woodley

Woodley remained undefeated and made an argument for his inclusion in a future bout for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title by decisioning contender Paul Daley at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson.” As expected, Woodley’s wrestling helped him secure the unanimous verdict over “Semtex,” though Daley’s takedown defense proved to be a surprising challenge for the two-time NCAA Division I All-American. With Nick Diaz vacating the Strikeforce belt to make a run at Georges St-Pierre in the UFC, Woodley is a no-brainer candidate for a slot in the fight to determine a new champion.

9. Sarah Kaufman

Kaufman’s unanimous decision win over Liz Carmouche at Strikeforce Challengers 17 reestablishes the former women’s 135-pound champion as a top contender in the shallow Strikeforce women’s bantamweight division. She sat in the audience at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson” hoping to see Marloes Coenen emerge victorious over Miesha Tate in the bantamweight championship contest. No such luck. Instead of a chance to avenge a defeat at the hands of Coenen, Kaufman will likely receive a title bid versus Tate, a foe she has already defeated once.

10. Tarec Saffiedine

While Tyron Woodley and Paul Daley have been the focal points of Strikeforce’s post-Diaz welterweight title picture, Saffiedine has quietly put himself in the running for the other slot in a bout to decide a new 170-pound champ. Saffiedine might have held an advantage over Scott Smith in the grappling department, but he chose to stand and brave Smith’s “Hands of Steel” instead. The Belgian kickboxer was able to dismantle Smith in the stand-up and secure a unanimous decision for his efforts. Could a rematch with Woodley, this time with a belt on the line, be next for Saffiedine? It sure seems like a strong possibility.

Top Photo: Tito Ortiz (titoortiz.com)