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MMA Top 10 Bantamweights: Can Miguel Torres Get Back on Top?

Miguel TorresDuring his year and a half as the World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion, Miguel Torres seemed to be head and shoulders above the rest of the weight class, both literally and figuratively, and it seemed like his title reign could last for years.

Instead, Torres lost two straight fights, first to Brian Bowles and then to Joseph Benavidez, and he dropped in the bantamweight rankings.

But Torres looked much better at WEC 51, notching a solid win over Charlie Valencia, and he said afterward that he's a different fighter now that he's training under Firas Zahabi. He'll need at least one, and maybe two, more wins before he'll get another shot at the title, but I think Torres can get back to the top of the bantamweight heap. See where he ranks right now below.

Top 10 Bantamweights in MMA

(Number in parentheses is the fighter's rank in the last bantamweight list.)

1. Dominick Cruz (1): The bantamweight champion has a number of good fights ahead of him: He'll return to the cage on December 16 against Scott Jorgensen, and if he wins that (which I think he will) he'll likely take on the only man who's ever beaten him, Urijah Faber.

2. Joseph Benavidez (2): It's harder to find good match-ups for the No. 2 bantamweight, because he's already lost to Cruz twice. Until the WEC implements a flyweight class so Benavidez can drop down to a more comfortable weight of 125 pounds, he'll be facing bigger guys without much hope of fighting for a belt.

3. Brian Bowles (3): The former champ will try to bounce back from his first career loss, to Cruz, when he takes on Wagnney Fabiano in November. That's a very dangerous fight for Bowles, who could find himself tapping out if he isn't careful, but if Bowles is healthy I expect him to win a decision.

4. Miguel Torres (4): Despite the back-to-back losses to Benavidez and Bowles, the 29-year-old Torres still presents all kinds of match-up problems to anyone in the bantamweight division. He's long and good at using his reach advantage in the stand-up game, and he's capable of submitting anyone on the ground. I think he's in store for a big year in 2011.

5. Scott Jorgensen (5): At the moment I don't think much of Jorgensen's chances against Cruz, but if he proves me wrong in December, he'd have to go on the very short list of Fighter of the Year candidates. He's already 3-0 in 2010, and adding a fourth win while earning the world bantamweight title would be a major accomplishment.

6. Masakazu Imanari (6): It's hard to know where to rank Imanari. He's the only top bantamweight who's not in the WEC, and he fights on Japanese cards that American fans can usually only watch on YouTube. I think he'd do well against most of the WEC bantamweights. I know I'd love to find out.

7. Wagnney Fabiano (7): The WEC hasn't done much to promote Fabiano, usually sticking him on the non-televised portion of the undercard, but his fight with Bowles represents a major opportunity to make a major statement that he's one of the truly elite fighters at 135 pounds.

8. Takeya Mizugaki (8): If there's ever been a fighter stepping into the cage for a fight his promoters hope he loses, it's Mizugaki at WEC 52 in November, against Faber. Faber is still the WEC's biggest star, and the WEC would love to see him win his bantamweight debut and fight for the 135-pound title in 2011.

9. Charlie Valencia (9): Like Benavidez, Valencia is stuck in the wrong weight class. He's a handful for anyone at 135 pounds, but he should really be fighting at 125. I hope the WEC gives him the opportunity to do that some time soon.

10. Antonio Banuelos (NR): His win over Chad George at WEC 51 moves him narrowly ahead of Rani Yahya in the 10 spot. Also worth keeping an eye on coming up is the Bellator bantamweight title fight between Zach Makovsky and Ed West, both of whom could stake a claim for Top 10 status with a win.

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