July was a month of ups and downs.

It was a month where fans finally were able to witness a long-awaited rematch, as Anderson Silva met Chael Sonnen at UFC 148. But it was also a month where UFC President Dana White and paying fans everywhere felt major disappointment when the oft-changed UFC 149 card fell flat on its face, as did the hype of UFC newcomer Hector Lombard.

It was a month where fans shelled out $55 for the disappointing UFC 149 pay-per-view, while receiving the amazing Invicta FC 2 card via free online stream, albeit a stream that wasn’t reliable for many. Yet, still, it was the women who seemingly outdid the men as the month came to a close.

With three UFC events, a Strikeforce show, a Bellator card and Invicta FC’s successful sophomore effort, July had plenty of action. Despite the ups and downs of the month, plenty of warriors delivered. But who enjoyed the spotlight the most this month?

1. Anderson Silva

When Anderson Silva takes to the Octagon, it tends to be a huge event. But “huge” doesn’t do UFC 148 justice. The weigh-ins even managed to draw a larger crowd than many regional events attract for an actual fight card. That significant turnout was due in large part to Silva and his nemesis, the outspoken Chael Sonnen. The pre-fight trash talk in and of itself inflated the anticipation for this match-up to epic proportions.

What happened inside the Octagon was a mixed bag, with Sonnen putting on a first-round performance that led fans to believe they were in store for a replay of his wrestling dominance from the pair’s first meeting. However, Sonnen didn’t commit to his game plan this time around, instead getting impatient in the second stanza and falling victim to a beating at the hands of Silva, who picked up the TKO victory.

Sonnen will always talk a good fight, but it was Silva who laid to rest any doubts about his superiority in the UFC’s middleweight division. Then, he even went as far as to invite Sonnen over for a little backyard barbecue.

2. Chris Weidman

With Anderson Silva defeating Chael Sonnen at UFC 148, talk quickly turned to who becomes the next challenger to the crown. It seemed as though the answer might be Michael Bisping, Hector Lombard, Alan Belcher or even Mark Munoz. Unfortunately for Munoz, Chris Weidman scratched his name off that list and inserted his own in its place. Weidman dominated Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4, just four days after Silva’s successful title defense. The Serra-Longo product scored takedowns and battered Munoz on the ground.

Weidman now sits undefeated after nine fights and is near the front of the line for a title shot. The young star has called out Silva, but Silva’s camp doesn’t feel that Weidman has made enough of a name for himself yet. They might hear some disagreement on that point.

3. Renan Barao

The UFC bantamweight division now has its version of Jose Aldo. Barao, a Nova Uniao teammate of Aldo, defeated Urijah Faber at UFC 149 to claim interim gold at 135 pounds. Unfortunately for Barao, the fight topped a disappointing card, and thus drew a negative response from the crowd.

Regardless, Barao still impressed on his way to victory, and through 31 professional fights, he has not lost since his 2005 debut outing. The Brazilian is viewed as a dominant fighter and the possible future of the division, but he’ll have to defeat champion Dominick Cruz to cement that status.

4. The Ladies of Invicta FC

In a month that delivered a card as disappointing as UFC 149, Invicta FC’s effort was a shining ray of light. From the opening bouts, which featured several competitors making their professional debuts, on through to the main event title eliminator between Shayna Baszler and Sara McMann, the card delivered exciting fights and impressive performances. A number of fighters, including McMann, Baszler, Liz Carmouche, Alexis Davis, Sarah D’Alelio and Ayaka Hamasaki, turned in great efforts and set themselves up as the stars of the promotion moving forward.

Those who have doubted the depth of the divisions in women’s MMA need only look at this card to see that the lack of depth is becoming a thing of the past. Through two events, these ladies have done nothing but shine and draw in a surprising number of viewers—the stream for this event had its issues thanks to a reported 100,000 people attempting to log in and watch.

5. Nate Marquardt

After his ousting from the UFC, Nate Marquardt spent more than a year away from the Zuffa cage—or any cage, for that matter. Finally, Marquardt found his way back under the Zuffa umbrella when Strikeforce needed a foe for Tyron Woodley in a bout to determine a new welterweight champion at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy. Fighting for the first time at 170 pounds under the Zuffa banner, Marquardt took full advantage of the opportunity, going toe-to-toe with Woodley in an exciting fight. Eventually, Marquardt landed a combination that left Woodley unconscious, minus part of his face, and left Marquardt with a belt around his waist.

6. Luke Rockhold

Luke Rockhold’s headlining bout with Tim Kennedy at the July 14 Strikeforce event ended with Rockhold’s hand raised and another successful title defense in the books for the middleweight champion. Rockhold has all but cleaned out the Strikeforce 185-pound division, but with Strikeforce fighters not permitted to transition to the UFC at this point, he’ll have to be content in defending his current belt rather than targeting the one Anderson Silva carries.

7. Chad Mendes

Chad Mendes was expected to defeat Cody McKenzie at UFC 148, and he didn’t disappoint, ending McKenzie’s night after just 31 seconds with a punch to the body. While the win was expected, Mendes’ method of victory gave him one of UFC 148’s highlight-reel moments and provided Mendes with a confidence-building rebound victory following his failed title bid against Jose Aldo.

8. Tim Boetsch

There was nothing impressive about Tim Boetsch’s performance at UFC 149. He didn’t dominate. He didn’t score a finish. But the one thing he did was to spoil Hector Lombard’s UFC debut, and that’s reason enough for him to move the needle on The Gauge. The former light heavyweight stifled the Cuban’s attack and left fans wondering what all the fuss was about in regards to Lombard. It might not have been impressive, but Boetsch now holds a win over Lombard as part of his current run at middleweight.  At the same time, his lack of a convincing finish might have set him back a bit in his quest for a title shot.

9. Paul Daley

After requesting his release from Strikeforce, Paul Daley settled in with Bellator. The striker made his promotional debut at Bellator 72 and continued to do what he does best, knocking out his opponent, Rudy Bears, in the first round.  The only way Daley can truly make his departure from Strikeforce seem worthwhile is if he enters and wins the next Bellator welterweight tournament and faces champion Ben Askren.

10. Matt Riddle

Consider Riddle’s appearance here a product of UFC 149’s poor showing. Riddle, who opened the pay-per-view card with a standing arm-triangle choke of Chris Clements, earned $65,000 for “Submission of the Night” and the praise of the fans for being one of the few exciting moments of a mostly disappointing event.

Photo: Anderson Silva (James Law/Heavy MMA)