The decision to fold World Extreme Cagefighting into the UFC will have a big impact on the smallest fighters, and the talent-rich 135-pound division might soon be considered one of the deepest in the UFC. Our look at the state of the UFC bantamweights is below.
Next title fight:
WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz defends his title against Scott Jorgensen at WEC 53 on December 16. That event will be the last in the history of the WEC, so the Cruz-Jorgensen winner will become the UFC's first bantamweight champion.
Key fights to watch:
1. Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki, WEC 52, November 11: If Faber wins, he's likely to get the first shot at the bantamweight title after the Cruz/Jorgensen winner migrates to the WEC. Faber is the one and only WEC fighter who could headline a UFC pay-per-view, and as the only man to defeat Cruz, he'd be a natural as Cruz's first UFC challenger. If Mizugaki wins it will be tougher for the UFC to determine a bantamweight No. 1 contender.
2. Joseph Benavidez vs. Wagnney Fabiano, WEC 52, November 11: Benavidez has already lost to Cruz twice, so he won't get another title shot as long as Cruz has the belt. But if he beats Fabiano and Jorgensen upsets Cruz, Benavidez would be in the title mix in 2011 if someone else takes the belt from Cruz -- and if that someone else isn't Faber, Benavidez's friend and training partner.
3. Miguel Torres vs. Antonio Banuelos, UFC 126, February 5: The UFC debut for Torres will be a big showcase of the former bantamweight champion. A win over Banuelos would put him in the mix for a shot at getting back the bantamweight belt that he lost in 2009.
Others in the title mix:
Former bantamweight champion Brian Bowles is having a hard time staying healthy, but he's generally considered among the Top 5 bantamweights in the world, and could be a worthy No. 1 contender for the UFC bantamweight belt in 2011.
In fact, there are a number of worthy No. 1 bantamweight contenders: It's one of the UFC's best weight classes. I'd love to see two bantamweights get exposed to a much larger audience as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.
Potential breakout fighter:
Demetrious Johnson: A talented athlete with a good wrestler who has developed a diverse all-around game, Johnson is a lot of fun to watch and should be in some interesting bantamweight fights coming up, starting against Damacio Page at WEC 52. The only thing holding the 24-year-old Johnson back is that he's tiny, even by the standards of the bantamweight division. If the UFC ever adds a 125-pound class, Johnson may be a future champion. But don't be surprised if Johnson makes some noise at 135 pounds, too.
Predicted champion at end of 2011: Urijah Faber