Every month, The MMA Corner will break 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 May 2011? Read on to find out…

1. Brian Stann

The “All-American” leads the list after turning in another impressive performance at UFC 130. The 11-3 former Marine’s move to middleweight has paid off in spectacular fashion. After a win over the resurgent Chris Leben to kick off the year, Stann called for a fight against Wanderlei Silva. After the former Pride champ withdrew, Stann instead conquered former Sengoku middleweight kingpin Jorge Santiago in a bout that earned “Fight of the Night” honors. The former WEC light heavyweight champion now has to be considered amongst the top contenders in the 185-pound division.

2. (tie) Junior dos Santos and Brock Lesnar

Lesnar’s status here is diminished by the news of his withdrawal from the scheduled bout with dos Santos due to another battle with diverticulitis. Lesnar’s surgery puts him on the shelf, but he’s still one of the stars of the UFC reality series and that’s enough criteria to qualify him within The Gauge. Dos Santos will now face Shane Carwin at UFC 131, with the winner earning a title shot versus Cain Velasquez.

3. The TUF fighters

The show has focused more on fights this year, inserting the drama of a house full of testosterone only where needed. The show’s format continues to show its age, but this year has produced a fighter or two that people can love to hate, while also giving us a few competitors who might have a promising future inside the Octagon.

4. Frank Mir

Mir derailed Roy Nelson’s chances for a title shot, while also causing Joe Rogan to contradict himself, flip-flopping between calling Nelson an amazing athlete who just happens to look out-of-shape to suggesting that Nelson abandon food and drop to 205-pounds. The problem for Mir is that he’s stuck in that middle ground; he can beat most of the potential up-and-coming contenders out there, but can’t get past the likes of the division’s top tier guys like Carwin or Lesnar, and quite likely would face a similarly difficult task against Velasquez or dos Santos.

5. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

Rampage used to be an exciting fighter who could slam an opponent into oblivion. Now, the former UFC light heavyweight champion only provides thrills on the big screen or behind the wheel of an oversized truck, terrorizing fellow motorists. He hasn’t finished an opponent since 2008, and his UFC 130 victory over Matt Hamill wasn’t exactly the best way to convince fans and the UFC brass that he’s deserving of a title shot. Still, he headlined a UFC pay-per-view and emerged victorious…that counts for something.

6. Rick Story

Since losing his Octagon debut to John Hathaway in 2009, Story has quietly put together a solid case for being considered a top welterweight contender. A UFC 130 victory over Thiago Alves furthered Story’s cause. Coming on the heels of wins over Dustin Hazelett and Johny Hendricks, the 25-year-old’s victory over a former title contender continues his run of impressive performances against increasingly tougher opponents and ups his current win streak to six fights.

7. Michael Chandler

Chandler made a big splash in Bellator’s season four lightweight tournament, submitting European prospect Marcin Held in the quarterfinals and notching decisions over Lloyd Woodard in the semifinals and Patricky Freire in the finals. The Bellator 44 victory over Freire earns the 8-0 Xtreme Couture fighter a shot at Bellator’s lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez. It’s a big leap in competition for the Mizzou wrestler, but it’s a great fight for the organization.

8. Hector Lombard

Lombard continued his long run of dropping non-title opponents under the Bellator banner with a knockout of Falaniko Vitale at Bellator 44. The judoka fended off title challenger Alexander Shlemenko in October and has dropped two of his three non-title foes in under a minute of the opening round.

9. Shinya Aoki

The big story with Aoki revolved not around the in-ring action of his Dream “Fight for Japan” bout, but rather the pre-fight search for an opponent. Many names were thrown around, but in the end it would be UFC veteran Rich Clementi who would face the Japanese bad boy. “Tobikan Judan” dominated the contest before submitting Clementi via face lock in the second stanza.

10. Patricio Freire

The smaller of the “Pitbull” Freire brothers, Patricio fared better than his brother in Bellator’s season four tournaments. The 17-1 fighter scored a TKO of Georgi Karakhanyan in the quarterfinals and knocked out Wilson Reis in the semi’s to advance to the featherweight tourney finals. At Bellator 45, Patricio decisioned Daniel Straus to earn another chance against Joe Warren, who battled back against Freire in the season two tournament and used the victory as a launching pad to championship gold. Freire would no doubt love the opportunity to pry the title from Warren and end the confident champion’s dreams of becoming a multi-division Bellator champion.

Photo: Brian Stann (Credit: Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)