UFC ladder: Bantamweights

Who decided that a “bantam” was lighter than a “feather”? Anyway, here’s a look at the messy 135-pound division:

Reference:

Updated March 13

CHAMPION

Dominick Cruz (2-0 UFC, 9-1 Zuffa, 19-1 overall): Had won seven straight in WEC (incl. Bowles, Benavidez 2x, Jorgensen) before taking title from Faber in UFC debut. Defended title against Demetrious Johnson on Oct. 1, 2011. Hurt since then.

INTERIM CHAMPION

Renan Barao (5-0 UFC, 7-0 Zuffa, 30-1 overall): Born in 1987 and already has more than 30 fights. And not counting a no contest, he has won his last 30, most recently against Faber and McDonald (Feb. 16). On the ground, he’s more of a submission guy than a ground-and-pounder. Next: Eddie Wineland, June 15

TOP CONTENDERS

Eddie Wineland (2-2 UFC, 6-4 Zuffa, 20-8-1 overall): Held WEC belt way back when. Rebounded from two losses with a four-fight tear and spectacular KOs. Won SD over Pickett (Dec. 29). Next: Renan Barao, June 15

Urijah Faber (3-2 UFC, 11-5 Zuffa, 27-6 overall): Long the WEC’s main draw, having beaten everyone at 145 pounds and holding a 21-1 record. Since then, he has lost five title bouts. Beats everyone else, though, with a terrific sub of Menjivar (Feb. 23). Next: Scott Jorgensen, April 13

Brian Bowles (2-1 UFC, 7-2 Zuffa, 10-2 overall): One of my two fellow Athenians to hold a Zuffa belt (WEC). Hasn’t fought since losing to Faber in November 2011.

CONTENDERS

Raphael Assuncao (3-1 UFC, 6-3 Zuffa, 19-4 overall): Had some good wins at higher weight classes. Lost UFC debut to Erik Koch, dropped to 135 and won three straight, most recently shutting down Easton.

Mike Easton (3-1 UFC, 13-2 overall): Favorite son of the D.C. area, even if a couple of his decisions here (one over Dodson) were dubious. After a two-year absence, he appeared in the UFC and won three before losing to Assuncao. Next: Brad Pickett, April 6

Scott Jorgensen (3-2 UFC, 10-5 Zuffa, 14-6 overall): 7-3 in WEC with a five-fight run that earned him a title shot vs. Cruz. Won first two in UFC, lost to Barao and Wineland, beat Albert. Next: Urijah Faber, April 13

Michael McDonald (4-1 UFC, 5-1 Zuffa, 15-2 overall): Has knocked many fighters down a peg. (Skip to the 6:20 mark of that video.) This Michael McDonald has done quite well to get a title shot right after his 22nd birthday, but hasn’t beaten anybody other than the fading Torres and lost to Barao (Feb. 16).

Erik Perez (3-0 UFC, 13-4 overall): Mexican phenom has had a pretty good start to his UFC career with three first-round wins. Next: Johnny Bedford, April 27

Brad Pickett (2-2 UFC, 5-3 Zuffa, 22-7 overall): Gotta love a guy nicknamed “One Punch” who wins a lot of fights by submission, including a Peruvian necktie. Most recently beaten up by Wineland. Next: Mike Easton, April 6

VETERANS

Bryan Caraway (2-1 UFC, 2-3 Zuffa, 17-6 overall): Already a known quantity when he appeared on TUFgoing 2-0 in Strikeforce and 0-2 in WEC. Won first two UFC bouts with his 14th and 15th career submissions; lost a questionable decision to Mizugaki (March 2).

Alex Caceres (4-3 UFC, 9-5 overall): TUF vet earning his keep in the UFC as more of an intriguing high-action fighter than as a contender. Eked past Kang (March 2). Next: Kyung Ho Kang, March 2

Johnny Eduardo (1-1 UFC, 26-9 overall): Has had two 11-fight win streaks in his career, the first ending in 1999, the other after losing seven of 10. Lost UFC debut, beat Jeff Curran in May. Injured, out of Jabouin bout March 16.

Edwin Figueroa (2-2 UFC, 9-2 overall): Earned Fight of the Night in debut loss to McDonald. Won next two but was KOd by Rivera (Feb. 2).

Yves Jabouin (3-2 UFC, 4-4 Zuffa, 18-8 overall): Always exciting, with knockout power. Won three straight before losing to Pickett. Due to fight March 16 before Eduardo injury.

Vaughan Lee (2-2 UFC, 13-8-1 overall): A 4-0-1 streak in England earned him a shot at the UFC, where he has alternated wins and losses, last beating Tezuka (Feb. 16).

Ivan Menjivar (4-3 UFC, 4-4 Zuffa, 25-10 overall): Former welterweight, fighting Serra in UFC and St. Pierre outside it, became a WEC bantamweight. Won four of five before loss to Faber (Feb. 23).

Takeya Mizugaki (4-2 UFC, 6-5 Zuffa, 17-7-2 overall): Has a big heart and a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Lost terrific WEC title fight with Torres. Barely beat Caraway (March 2).

George Roop (2-5 UFC, 12-9-1 overall): Lanky guy still looking for the right weight class. Not great as lightweight on TUF and in UFC. Lost three of last four at 145 but did KO Grispi. Next: Reuben Duran, March 16

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (0-3 UFC, 18-6-1 overall): Is he done? Distinguished career in Japan, but he’s 1-5 in his last six fights, and his last bout was a first-round loss to Lee in February 2012.

PROSPECTS

Johnny Bedford (2-0 UFC, 19-9-1 overall): TUF alum wiped out Louis Gaudinot  in finale, then beat Marcos “Vina” Pancini. Next: Erik Perez, April 27

Roland Delorme (2-0 UFC, 8-1 overall): Hasn’t officially lost in the UFC. Lost in the TUF quarterfinals to Dillashaw. KO by Rivera was wiped out by drug test.

TJ Dillashaw (2-1 UFC, 6-1 overall): TUF finalist won his next two over Walel Watson and Lee (Sub-1). Next: Issei Tamura (short notice), March 16

Francisco Rivera (2-1 UFC, 2-2 Zuffa, 9-2 overall): Bounced out of Zuffa for nearly a year but returned with a win. TKO win was lost to drug test, but he KO’d Figueroa (Feb. 2). Next: Hugo Viana, April 20

Hugo “Wolverine” Viana (2-0 UFC, 7-0 overall): TUF: Brazil alumnus didn’t overwhelm on the show, but wiped out Reuben Duran upon drop to 135. Next: Francisco Rivera, April 20

NEWBIES

John Albert (1-3 UFC, 7-4 overall): TUF alum won debut over Dustin Pague but lost next three, all in first round.

Yuri Alcantara (2-1 UFC, 3-1 Zuffa, 27-4 overall): Won first two, lost to Dias, robbed of win when Pedro Nobre couldn’t continue and got no contest (Jan. 19).

Chico Camus (1-1 UFC, 12-3 overall): Beat Pague in his debut; lost to overweight Kimura (Feb. 2).

Reuben Duran (1-2 UFC, 8-4-1 overall): Close loss to Mizugaki in UFC debut, win over Rivera, comprehensive loss to Wolverine. Next: George Roop, March 16

Mitch Gagnon (1-1 UFC, 9-2 overall): Canadian lost debut to Caraway and rebounded against Walel Watson. Next: Issei Tamura, March 16

Azamat Gashimov (0-1 UFC, 7-2 overall): Sambo guy has beaten no one of interest and lost by first-round armbar to Menjivar in his UFC debut in November.

Kyung Ho Kang (0-1 UFC, 11-7 overall): Korean fighter hasn’t fought outside South Korea, Japan and China. Stayed in Japan for his UFC debut, losing good one to Caceres (March 2).

Dustin Kimura (1-0 UFC, 11-0 overall): Won his debut over Camus (Feb. 2), but coming in overweight is not a way to make a first impression.

Dustin Pague (1-3 UFC, 11-7 overall): The charity-minded “Disciple” was one of the good guys on TUF 14, but sole win so far is over Papazian, and he’s lost two in a row.

Issei Tamura (1-1 UFC, 7-3 overall): Shooto veteran has win over Zhang and a loss to Assuncao (KO-2). Next: TJ Dillashaw, March 16 (Mitch Gagnon withdrew with injury)

RECENT RELEASES (from UFC)

Motonobu Tezuka (0-2 UFC, 19-6-4 overall): Pancrase veteran has lost to Caceres and Lee (Feb. 16).

BELLATOR

Eduardo Dantas (15-3 overall): Bellator champion took a fight in Shooto: Brazil, losing to Tyson Nam. Returned to defend belt with KO of mentor Galvao.

Marcos Galvao (13-6-1 overall): Won fall 2012 Bellator bantamweight tournament, but he was 0-2 in WEC. Lost title shot to close friend Dantas.

No tournament this season.

BEST OUTSIDE UFC AND BELLATOR

Bibiano Fernandes (13-3 overall): Lost to Faber and Yamamoto early in career but has been a force in Dream. Wiped out Yoshiro Maeda on New Year’s Eve card.

Tyson Nam (12-4 overall): Big win over Bellator champ Dantas at Shooto Brazil. Next: Marlon Moraes, World Series of Fighting, March 23

Masakatsu Ueda (16-2-2 overall): Beat Dantas a few years ago in Shooto. Lost to Travis Marx in Bellator. Next: Jens Pulver, One FC, April 5

Marlon Moraes (9-4-1 overall): Took split decision win over Torres at WSOF 1. Next: Tyson Nam, World Series of Fighting, March 23

Miguel Torres (40-6 overall): Dominant WEC champion until losing to Bowles in 2009. Huge slide since then.

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