February marked the crowning of two new UFC champions – one, an interim welterweight champ; the other, a new lightweight kingpin. But neither fight ended without controversy.

Both defeated fighters – Nick Diaz in the welterweight tussle and Frankie Edgar in the lightweight affair – could make a strong case for why they deserved the judges’ nod. But the fact is that they came up just short, while their opponents now bask in the glory as they walk around sporting a new gold accessory around their waist.

In a month that featured a rather calm three-event schedule from the UFC, the two newly crowned champions lead the way in a cast of fighters who moved the needle on The Gauge. Who joins them? Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out…

1. Carlos Condit

Condit’s road to title gold has been a bumpy one in which he kept taking a back seat to Nick Diaz and reigning champion Georges St-Pierre. Condit just couldn’t seem to lock down an opponent, until an injury to GSP paved the road for an interim title tilt with Nick Diaz at UFC 143.

Condit might not have put Diaz in any real danger during the match, but he did enough to edge out Diaz on the scorecards and take home interim gold while not playing into Diaz’s style of throwing hundreds of small punches to wear down his opponent. In taking the decision, he even prompted an irate Diaz to announce his retirement from active competition.

Condit now has an eventual date with GSP to unify the titles.

2. Benson Henderson

Henderson ended his WEC lightweight title reign on the wrong side of the famous “Showtime kick” from Anthony Pettis, but he captured a new wave of momentum under the UFC banner and managed to ride it all the way to the top of the mountain.

After rematches against B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard, Frankie Edgar was finally defending his belt against a new opponent in Henderson at UFC 144 in Japan. Turns out that might not have been such a good thing, as Henderson outpointed Edgar en route to taking the belt with a unanimous decision victory.

Edgar thought he won the bout, and there’s legitimate grounds for an immediate rematch, especially considering that Edgar’s entire title reign involved proving himself twice against the same opponents, but another intriguing opponent awaits as well in the form of Anthony Pettis. Think that kick will make for great promo material for that rematch? Most certainly.

3. Jake Ellenberger

Ellenberger rounds out the UFC main event victors for February, notching a unanimous decision over Diego Sanchez at UFC on Fuel TV 1. After scoring a quick TKO of Jake Shields last September, Ellenberger returned to the Octagon to add another impressive victory to his resume. He has now won six fights since losing his promotional debut to Carlos Condit.

Remember, the loss to Condit also came with controversy. Perhaps a rematch is on the horizon.

4. Mark Hunt

How do you turn your career around after six straight losses, including a defeat in your Octagon debut? Mark Hunt’s answer was to reel off three straight wins, including two via some form of knockout. He even capped it off by defeating a borderline top-10 heavyweight in Cheick Kongo at UFC 144.

It’s probably a little too early to sing Hunt’s praises as an elite heavyweight, but there’s no denying that he’s in the midst of a remarkable career turnaround.

5. Hatsu Hioki

Hatsu Hioki is considered the No. 2 featherweight in the world behind Jose Aldo. He held that distinction before entering the Octagon, but it would have been hard to convince mainstream UFC fans of this following Hioki’s debut performance against George Roop.

Hioki took advantage of not having to travel across the Pacific by putting on a much more impressive display in his sophomore Octagon appearance against Bart Palaszewski at UFC 144. Palaszewski had no answer for Hioki, who took the unanimous decision.

With his consensus status as the next best featherweight behind Aldo and his performance at UFC 144, Hioki has surely secured his place at the front of the line for a shot at Aldo’s belt.

6. Tim Boetsch

The middleweight division is treating Boetsch well. After a defeat at the hands of Phil Davis, Boetsch dropped to 185 pounds and tallied two wins prior to his UFC 144 meeting with perennial middleweight contender Yushin Okami.

It looked like Boetsch’s run of success was coming to an end following two rounds dominated by Okami. But Boetsch wasn’t done, as he stunned Okami in the third frame and ruined Okami’s homecoming by finishing the Japanese fighter via TKO.

Much like Hunt, Boetsch still has to prove he’s for real, but taking out someone with Okami’s history is a good start.

7. Anthony Pettis

When the WEC hosted its final show, Pettis came out on top against Benson Henderson for the lightweight title. Following the merger, it was a given that Pettis would get to fight for the UFC belt. But circumstances led to Pettis fighting prior to that championship match and losing. So now Henderson once again sits atop the mountain and Pettis seeks to challenge him.

It might not be long until that rematch happens, as Pettis quickly disposed of Joe Lauzon at UFC 144 to post his second win since the loss to Clay Guida that derailed his title aspirations. Much like Henderson, Pettis has regained his momentum. UFC president Dana White even confirmed that Pettis might have a title shot coming his way soon.

8. Stephen Thompson

Highly decorated kickboxer Stephen Thompson silenced his doubters with a highlight-reel knockout of Daniel Stittgen at UFC 143. The striker might just be 6-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, but he’s now 63-0 combined as a kickboxer and MMA fighter.

9. The Ultimate Fighter 15 cast

The season hasn’t even started yet, but this season of the UFC’s long-running reality series offers a bunch of new intriguing elements. It’s the first season of the show to run on FX, and it features live fights as the season progresses. The cast list was recently released, and one fighter is even making waves for something that has nothing to do with his fights.

10. Jamie Varner

Of events outside of the UFC, Xtreme Fighting Championships 16 was one of the more high-profile events. Former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner headlined the show opposite UFC veteran Drew Fickett. Varner needed just 40 seconds to demolish Fickett and post his first back-to-back victories since January 2009, when he was still at the top of the WEC food chain.

Photo: Carlos Condit (MMA Fighting)

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