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MMA Top 10 Bantamweights: Moving to the UFC

World Extreme Cagefighting is over, and its fighters are heading to the UFC -- which means the UFC now has, by far, the strongest bantamweight division in mixed martial arts.

In fact, although Japan was once home to most of the sport's best small fighters, in 2011 just about every single significant 135-pound fight will take place inside the Octagon.

The biggest fight will be the first UFC title defense for bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who's No. 1 in our bantamweight rankings and ready for a rematch with No. 2 Urijah Faber. See how the rest of the bantamweights stack up below.

Top 10 Bantamweights in MMA

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

1. Dominick Cruz (1): Some MMA fans complain that Cruz isn't a finisher, and there's some validity to that complaint: In seven WEC fights, Cruz went the distance six times. But none of those decisions was particularly close; five of them were unanimous and even in the one split decision, that one judge was just about the only person watching the fight who thought Cruz had lost. Cruz has separated himself from the rest of the bantamweight division.

2. Urijah Faber (NR): It hasn't been formally announced, but I'll be shocked if Faber doesn't get the first shot at the UFC bantamweight title. He's both the most deserving contender from a competitive standpoint and the only bantamweight on the roster who can sell a pay-per-view.

3. Joseph Benavidez (2): Benavidez has a lot of exciting fights ahead of him in the UFC, although his two losses to Cruz and his friendship with Faber mean he won't be getting a title shot any time soon.

4. Brian Bowles: This former bantamweight champion's career has been derailed by injuries, and he's fought just twice in the last two years. I'd love to see Bowles bounce back and have a big 2011, but his UFC debut still hasn't been scheduled.

5. Miguel Torres: This former bantamweight champion has a very bright 2011 ahead of him, starting on Feb. 6, when he makes his UFC debut against Antonio Banuelos. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see Torres fighting for the bantamweight belt again by the end of the year.

6. Masakazu Imanari: It's awfully tough to judge Imanari, the DEEP bantamweight champion, because he's never fought for an American promotion and has only a handful of fights against opponents that American MMA fans would recognize. I think Imanari would do quite well in the bantamweight division of the UFC, and I'm hoping we find out in 2011. But I'm not holding my breath: Imanari seems satisfied taking on overmatched opponents like the 0-1 Jae Hun Moon, who is supposed to face Imanari on Jan. 8 in China.

7. Scott Jorgensen: The Cruz fight was a terrible matchup for Jorgensen, but he'll still have a place in the UFC bantamweight division. I'd like to see him rematch Takeya Mizugaki, whom he beat in a Fight of the Night performance at WEC 45.

8. Wagnney Fabiano: I don't even know if Fabiano will be brought into the UFC, since he lost his last fight and has never been known for putting on exciting shows. I still believe he's a Top 10 bantamweight, though, and I hope he'll get a shot in the big show.

9. Takeya Mizugaki: Mizugaki went just 2-3 in the WEC, but the losses were to Torres, Jorgensen and Faber, and he always puts on an exciting fight. UFC fans are going to like him.

10. Charlie Valencia: Valencia should have a safe job in the UFC as long as he wants it because he brings competitive, exciting fights every time he steps into the cage. But as long as bantamweight is the UFC's smallest weight class, the 5-foot-3 Valencia is going to struggle. The UFC's addition of the featherweight and bantamweight classes is great. Here's hoping the flyweights are next.

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