Two years after their introductions into the UFC, the featherweight and bantamweight divisions are still the smallest draws in the organization. That’s to be expected though, as the lightweight division is still struggling to bring in high ratings itself.
But the popularity of 145 has no correlation to the level of talent within the weight class – there are plenty of great fighters vying for Jose Aldo’s title. And that’s no easy task, as Aldo is among the best P4P fighters in the sport today.
There are a few fighters who didn’t make the ladder for visibility reasons (Dennis Siver, Hatsu Hioki, and Diego Nunes). When you’re not well-known in the organization, one loss can derail your title hopes quicker than it would for others. These three fall into that category, though Siver could make the ladder again with a win in December.
There is also the matter of fighters riding win streaks, but are in need of more high-quality wins. This is where Hacran Dias comes in, as well as TUF alum Marcus Brimage.
With all eyes on Aldo’s injury, none of the fighters on the ladder currently have a fight scheduled. This should change in the coming weeks, however.
Champion: Jose Aldo
I was looking forward to seeing Jose Aldo defend his belt in Brazil against Frankie Edgar, but he’ll have to sit out due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident last month. As of right now, it’s unknown if he’ll face Edgar when he returns or his original opponent Eric Koch.
Contenders: Frankie Edgar, Erik Koch, Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas
Frankie Edgar hasn’t fought at 145 yet, but his popularity and talent slot him as an immediate contender for the title. He’d be wise to stay at featherweight as long as Henderson is still the lightweight champion.
Erik Koch’s original title shot came as a surprise to many. He is 2-0 in the UFC, hasn’t fought in over a year. Plus, wins against Jonathan Brookins and Raphael Assuncao don’t exactly jump off his resume. With Edgar now in the mix, he’ll likely need another fight or two to get matched up with Aldo again.
I believed that Chan Sung Jung or Ricardo Lamas should get the nod over Koch. “The Korean Zombie” is riding three straight finishes, while Lamas is on a three-fight win streak himself. A fight between the two would make a ton of sense right now.
In The Discussion: Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, Cub Swanson
Chad Mendes bounced back nicely from his loss to Aldo, with a 31-second knockout of Cody McKenzie. A win like that would normally warrant contender status, but it was only Cody McKenzie. He’ll need a high-profile fight to get back there again.
Meanwhile, Cub Swanson has been on a tear since losing to Lamas last year. His KO of Charles Oliviera last weekend gives him three straight knockout victories in 2012. The only thing preventing him from being a contender is his eight-second loss to Aldo back in 2009. He’s on his way up though.
Dustin Poirier is coming off of a loss to Chan Sung Jung, but he’s still one of the more dangerous fighters at 145. It was also the first loss in his last four UFC bouts.
On The Rise: Steven Siler, Darren Elkins, Robbie Peralta
These two aren’t close to the title right now, but keep your eye out for them. Steven Siler is on a three-fight win streak and is coming off of a submission of Joey Gambino back in June. Siler has experience on his side, already competing in 30 pro fights at the age of 25.
Darren Elkins has gone to decision in his last three wins, but he hasn’t lost since dropping down from lightweight and looked pretty good in doing so.
Robbie Peralta is fresh of off a 23-second knockout at UFC on Fuel 5 this past weekend. He’s 2-0 with one no-contest since entering the UFC.
Diego Nunes vs. Bart Palaszewski – UFC on FX 5 (October 5)
Dennis Siver vs. Eddie Yagin – UFC on Fox 5 (December 8)