The bantamweight division is pretty…bare. With many of the better 135ers moving to the flyweight division earlier this year, there are very few in prime position for a title shot. The fact that there’s an interim champ holding up the division doesn’t help much either.
Also not helping is the lack of action within the division. We know who will be fighting for the next title, but other prominent fighters don’t have fights scheduled. It would be best for the UFC to get these guys matched up soon, just to keep it relevant.
Champions: Dominick Cruz, Renan Barao
Renan Barao may have done the UFC a favor – his win over Urijah Faber helped us avoid another Cruz-Faber fight. Their third showdown would have been entertaining, but the result likely would have still gone Cruz’s way. But luckily Barao will get a chance to go toe-to-toe with the champion. The only question now is when?
Cruz went down in May with a torn ACL and is still on the long road to recovery. Odds are that they won’t fight until early Summer of next year.
Contenders: Michael McDonald
There’s no question in my mind as to who’s next in line after the Cruz-Barao match. McDonald is 4-0 in the UFC, winning his last two by knockout. Did I mention he’s only 21? He doesn’t need to fight anyone else to maintain his standing, but a year wait would be a long one – hopefully he’ll be back in the Octagon sooner rather than later.
In The Discussion: Urijah Faber, Brian Bowles, Brad Pickett
Urijah’s in a bad spot. He wants UFC gold again, but his preferred weight classes are headed by fighters he’s coming off of losses to. A drop to flyweight could be interesting, but is unlikely. So staying at 135 is still his option (he doesn’t want any piece of Jose Aldo again).
Brian Bowles hasn’t fought since losing to Urijah Faber last November and doesn’t have a fight on the docket. He’s 10-2 in his pro career with his losses coming against Faber and Cruz, so he’s still in the discussion.
I had Brad Pickett off of the list before he ran through Yves Jabouin this past weekend. Now he’s notched two consecutive finishes since being submitted by Renan Barao last year.
On The Rise: Mike Easton, Francisco Rivera, TJ Dillashaw, Raphael Assunçâo, Bryan Caraway
One thing that the division has going for it are the amount of fighters waiting in its wings.
Mike Easton is on a three-fight win streak after decisioning Ivan Menjivar over the summer. I’d love to see him fight another fighter on the rise or someone in the discussion next.
Francisco Rivera was fighting in the Tachi Palace Fights promotion in March of this year. Now he’s 2-0 in the UFC, coming off of a knockout victory.
Since losing to John Dodson at the TUF 14 Finale, TJ Dillashaw is 2-0 in the UFC and looks ready for a step up in competition.
Assunçâo and Caraway both dropped down from the featherweight division, but have yet to lose at 135. Caraway’s only fought here once, but he was also 2-0 at 145.