UFC State of the Union: Bantamweight Division

Dominick Cruz celebrates his win over Urijah Faber. UFC® 132 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 2, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV (Photos by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) via UFC.com

With so many fights coming up spread across seven different weight classes, it's easy to lose track of what's happening in every division. Here, we take a look at where a particular division stands right now, and where it's headed.

At UFC on Versus 6: Cruz vs. Johnson this Saturday, UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will defend his title for the second time since coming over from the WEC as he faces Demetrious Johnson. It's a fantastic fight, which is exciting to have on free TV, but is unfortunately not receiving much of a promotional push.

And that pretty much sums up the state of affairs in the 135 pound Bantamweight division. These fighters are consistently putting on excellent fights, but are yet to break through and receive the attention of the higher weight classes. Will Cruz vs. Johnson change that? It's unlikely. The best bet for the division may be the boost in attention over the next few months thanks to The Ultimate Fighter, which will hopefully give this division some much deserved love.

Next in Line:

After Johnson, the title picture becomes very tricky, particularly if Cruz retains his belt. During Cruz's combined WEC and UFC championship runs, he has defeated almost every top name in the division, and the UFC has yet to bring in anyone new to provide a fresh challenge. So it's likely Cruz's next challenger would be someone he has already defeated. Best bet is the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles at UFC 139. Both have lost to Cruz, but Faber is 1-1 against the champ, and the Bowles fight ended with an unsatisfying injury, so a rematch for either man can be justified. For Faber though, this would be his 4th shot at a title since losing the Feathwerwight belt to Mike Brown. At some point, you have to admit it's just not going to happen.

If Johnson wins on Saturday, it's even more likely to be Bowles or Faber, and the options for the future open up considerably.

Key Match Ups:

There are not a ton of big fights scheduled in the somewhat shallow Bantamweight division, but there are a pair that will help sort things out. As always with 135, these should be great fights.

  • Jeff Curran vs. Scott Jorgensen (UFC 137) - This is a big fight for Curran. The 34 year old veteran has fought everywhere - Pride, the UFC, WEC - and is 4-1 since leaving the WEC in 2009. A win here could move him right into title contention, largely because he would make a new name at the top. Jorgensen looked great in his last fight, and will hope for another spectacular finish here.
  • Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao (UFC 139) - Pickett has been out this year due to injury, but he's on a great 10-1 run that includes his claim as the only man to defeat Demetrious Johnson. A Pickett win here and a Johnson win would give Pickett a strong argument for a title shot. As for Berao, he lost his MMA debut, but in the 27 fights and over 6 years since that debut, he's never been defeated again. That's an impressive run.

Future Contenders:

I expect this list will grow at the end of The Ultimate Fighter, but for now, there are a handful of names with no fights currently lined up, but who could find themselves moving into contention depending on how their next few fights play out.

  • Joseph Benavidez - Teammate to Urijah Faber, Benavidez is a serious powerhouse in the division, who only has two loses in his career. Unfortunately, both of those loses are to Cruz. A Cruz loss puts him right back at the top, but until then, he's stuck in a bit of a holding pattern.
  • Michael McDonald - He's not quite there yet, but the 13-1 fighter has some big names on his resume, and at only 20 years old, has the potential to really make a name in the division in the coming few years. He has just been announced as facing Johnny Eduardo at UFC 139.
  • Takeya Mizugaki - Since coming to the US, Mizugaki has been on a consistent "win one, lose one" pattern, defeating lower tier opponents, but never taking out a top 5. He seems stuck just outside the elite level of the division, but a few big wins could move him in.
  • Ivan Menjivar - This 10 year veteran has fought a ton of major names, including no less than Georges St. Pierre way back in 2002. He's dropped from Welterweight clear down to Bantamweight, and has done well at the weight so far.
  • Miguel Torres - The former champion was considered by some to be a top 5 pound for pound fighter when he ruled the division. That was a bit excessive, but he remains a legitimate threat despite his 2-2 record since losing the belt. He needs a couple big wins to get back into title contention.

SBN coverage of UFC on Versus 6: Cruz vs. Johnson

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