If it wasn't clear before, it's certainly clear now: Dominick Cruz
is the best bantamweight in mixed martial arts.
Cruz handled his latest challenge, Urijah Faber
, at UFC 132
, and he has now won nine straight fights while beating most of the sport's other top bantamweights. The only question is whether his next fight should be against Demetrious Johnson
, a rematch with former champion Brian Bowles
or a third fight with Faber.
I vote for Johnson, for reasons that I'll lay out as I run through the top 135-pounders in mixed martial arts below.
Top 10 Bantamweights in MMA
(Number in parentheses is the fighter's rank in the last bantamweight list.)
1. Dominick Cruz (1): Cruz isn't just the No. 1 bantamweight in MMA, he's also beaten the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 bantamweights. In my rankings, Cruz is the only champion of any weight class who has beaten the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 fighters in the division.
2. Brian Bowles (4): Bowles could make a good case that he deserves to be next in line for Cruz: He's the former champion who lost his title to Cruz when he suffered a broken hand in their fight and had to quit, and after beating Takeya Mizugaki
at UFC 132, Bowles is the No. 2 bantamweight in the world, at least in my book. But considering that Cruz was comfortably beating Bowles before Bowles had to stop in their previous fight, I would like to see Bowles show more improvement before he gets another chance with Cruz.
3. Urijah Faber (2): A third Cruz-Faber fight would be the best call for the UFC
if it wants to maximize the pay-per-view revenue in its next bantamweight title fight: The cheers for Faber and boos for Cruz at UFC 132 made clear that Faber remains the sport's most popular little man. But I didn't think this fight was close enough to merit giving Faber an immediate rematch, and I'd like to see some new blood get a shot at the bantamweight belt.
4. Joseph Benavidez
(3): He's a great fighter, but Benavidez doesn't have many places to go as long as 135 pounds is the UFC's smallest weight class: He's already lost twice to Cruz, so he isn't going to get another title shot. If the UFC ever adds a 125-pound flyweight class, Benavidez will be that division's best fighter.
5. Demetrious Johnson (5): Johnson can make a very good case that he's the most deserving of the next title shot, as he's the highest-ranked bantamweight whom Cruz hasn't already beaten. I also think Johnson's quickness and his impressive takedowns are two attributes that could cause Cruz some stylistic problems. The biggest question is whether Johnson, who suffered a leg injury in his victory over Miguel Torres
in May, will be healthy soon enough to get the next shot at Cruz.
6. Scott Jorgensen
(6): After losing to Cruz in December, Jorgensen bounced back nicely by knocking out Ken Stone at the Ultimate Fighter Finale in June. I think it would make a lot of sense to put Jorgensen in the Octagon with Miguel Torres next.
7. Miguel Torres (7): After starting his MMA career by winning 37 of 38 fights, Torres has now lost three of his last five. He's on the down side of his career, but I still think he has a few big fights left in him, and I'd love to see Torres take on Faber next.
8. Brad Pickett (8): Pickett was originally slated to fight Torres at UFC 130 before pulling out of the fight with a back injury. Pickett has been talking himself up as a contender for Cruz's title, but he'll need to win at least one more fight before he gets that chance.
9. Eddie Wineland (9): Wineland, the former WEC bantamweight champion who gave Faber a tough fight in March, will return to the Octagon to take on Benavidez in August.
10. Renan Barão (10): Since losing his professional MMA debut in 2005, Barao has gone 26-0 (with one no contest). But he hasn't faced much high-quality opposition during that impressive run. I've got Barao in the Top 10, but I can't move him much higher than this until I see how he looks against a Top 10 opponent.