Bantamweight – December 2011
Currently the lightest weight class on the UFC roster (127lbs – 135lbs), don't blink when the Bantamweights hit the cage because every fight is sure to be an action packed affair. With their compact frames and everlasting energy, these athletes push an incredible pace from bell to bell.
1. Dominick Cruz – We saw the “Domin8r” in action once again against “Mighty Mouse” Demetrious Johnson, who proved to be all the champ could handle for the full 5 rounds. Cruz showed his striking brilliance but relied heavily on his wrestling and smothering top game to keep the smaller Johnson within his grasp long enough to grind out the UD victory. It’s now official that the trilogy between Cruz & Faber is next up for the champ in 2012.
2. Urijah Faber – The former WEC FW Kingpin turned perennial UFC BW contender most recently scored a wicked guillotine victory when he became the first to submit the hard hitting Brian Bowles at UFC 139. With the decisive win, and rumors of a Benavidez/Johnson Flyweight title fight in the works, the “California Kid” booked his trilogy rematch with the “Domin8r” for 2012
3. Joseph Benavidez – Call him the “Jon Fitch” of the BW division, because “Joe B-Wan Kenobi” continues to stand as the #2 man whose only career losses are to the champion. We most recently saw another solid performance out of Benavidez in August at UFC on Versus 5 when he defeated Eddie “the Honey Badger” Wineland by UD. Benavidez does not currently have another fight scheduled, but it has been rumored that he could be one half of the inaugural UFC Flyweight title fight in 2012.
4. Renan Barão – Relatively new to the North American fight circuit, Barão went 23-0 after dropping his first professional fight back in 2005. We most recently saw him go the distance with Cole Escovedo at UFC 130, before flattening Brad “One Punch” Pickett at UFC 138 with some top-notch striking which lead to a first round RNC victory and a FOTN bonus for both men. After the fight Barão announced his desire to fight for the title, but for now he will just have to wait and see how things shake out atop the division…if he wants to keep busy, I’m sure either “Joe B-Wan Kenobi” or “Young Guns” Jorgensen would be more than happy to oblige.
5. Scott Jorgensen – Fresh off his UFC 137 UD victory over Jeff “Big Frog” Curran, Scotty “Young Guns” Jorgensen is calling for a rematch with the champ, but with the logjam atop the division, he could find himself at least one more fight away from the title. Perhaps he should sound off for a scrap with either Benavidez or Barão to solidify the next contender at 135lbs.
6. Demetrious Johns
on – Undersized and outmuscled, that was the story for most of the 5 round affair between “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and “the Domin8r” Cruz back on October 1st, but given that “Mighty Mouse” gave Cruz more problems than any other challenger to-date don’t expect him to jump at the UFC’s Flyweight division unless it’s for an immediate title shot. Next up for “Mighty Mouse” is a dance with the “Honey Badger” at UFC on FOX 2 scheduled for Jan 28th.
7. Brian Bowles – We did not see the Brian Bowles of old in his UFC 139 fight with Urijah Faber, rather we saw a timid almost passive Bowles get dominated and ultimately choked into submission in the second round. Bowles needs to rebuild his confidence in his hands and himself with a few victories before he can consider himself a title-contender. Perhaps Brad Pickett could schedule some time to square off with Bowles in 2012, so one of these two can get themselves back on track.
8. Miguel Torres – Once seen as being the unbeatable champion, Torres made his way back into the win column this weekend with his UFC 139 victory over Nick Pace. Torres showed that his time with Firas Zahabi and the Tri-Star Gym in Montreal is paying off, as he slowly and methodically picked Pace apart with his superior striking and reach advantage. It’s possible that Torres could find himself breaking back into the top-5 in 2012, especially if he can secure and win a fight with the likes of Benavidez, Barão or Jorgensen who are all without fights currently.
9. Michael McDonald – The youngest fighter to ever grace the Zuffa roster (at age 19 in 2010) Michael “Mayday” McDonald has quickly made his way up the BW rankings by taking on all comers in the UFC. Most recently this weekend at UFC 139 we saw “Mayday” score a KOTN victory of Alex Soto in his third fight under the UFC banner in 2011. Riding a 7-fight win-streak (4 under the Zuffa banner), a record of 14-1 and having avenged his lone career defeat at the hands of Cole Escovedo, “Mayday” will likely find himself squaring off with a top-5 opponent in the spring of 2012 and could be “in the mix” for a title shot by the summer.
10. Masakatsu Ueda – The former Shooto world champion has gone mainly unnoticed among the US MMA scene, but those who have followed his career in Japan most recently caught Ueda’s split decision LW victory over the legend Royler Gracie to retire the latter from professional competition. As he continues his return to top-form after a surprising submission loss to Shuichiro Katsumura in March 2010, it’s unclear what’s next for Ueda on his 4 fight win-streak.
Up Next: Pound for Pound