In case you were wondering, yes. the bantamweight division still exists – but no, it’s still in flux and will remain so through 2013.
Champion Dominick Cruz suffered another setback after re-injuring his knee in training about a month ago. Instead of waiting even longer for Cruz to return, interim title holder Renan Barao will defend his belt in February against Michael McDonald.
With so little to go by, the rest of the weight class is just winning and waiting. After Brad Pickett’s split decision loss to Eddie Wineland last weekend, the next in line after McDonald is anyone’s guess.
Champions: Dominick Cruz, Renan Barao
I would’ve stripped Cruz of the title (it’s been done before to injured fighters), but the UFC brass chose against it. For now, Barao defends the interim title until the champion has fully healed and ready to fight again. Unfortunately, that could be close to 2014.
Contenders: Michael McDonald
With all of the uncertainty at the top of 135, Michael McDonald only fought once last year. But the 21-year old will now get a shot at the belt, after Cruz’s reaggravation.
In The Discussion: Raphael Assuncao, Eddie Wineland
Assuncao and Wineland both had big Decembers, the former scored a unanimous decision win over Mike Easton, while the latter edged out Brad Pickett on his way to a split decision. Each are on win streaks and could easily find themselves fighting for a title shot early this year.
On The Rise: Erik Perez
Perez has hit the ground running since joining the UFC in June of last year. He’s 3-0 and has finished all three of his fights in the first round. A step up in competition is in order.
Francisco Rivera vs. Edwin Figueroa – UFC 156 (February 2)
Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald – UFC on FX 7 (February 16)
Bryan Caraway vs. Takeya Mizugaki – UFC on Fuel 8 (March 3)