Once 2016 got rocking and rolling last January, we were treated to a nearly immediate restructuring of the bantamweight division. It is only fitting that the year ended in a similar fashion.
Twelve months ago, Dominick Cruz recaptured the Ultimate Fighting Championship 135-pound title, earning a split decision over T.J. Dillashaw in one of the year’s finest fights. However, after not losing an MMA fight for nearly 10 years, Cruz’s reign would not last until 2017, as a former Dillashaw stablemate at Team Alpha Male, Cody Garbrandt, turned in a stupendous performance at UFC 207 to take the UFC title and bantamweight supremacy.
For 25 minutes, the heavy-hitting Garbrandt danced, mocked and pelted Cruz on the feet in a way no one ever has. His outstanding championship title capture was not only a technical sight to behold, but the win was Garbrandt’s fourth this year. In a year full of outstanding campaigns, few had a 2016 as good as Garbrandt, who was clearly the year’s breakout fighter.
Of course, speaking of 135 pounds, Garbrandt-Cruz was not even the UFC 207 main event. That honor belonged to Amanda Nunes, who made her first successful UFC title defense by positively destroying and humiliating MMA superstar Ronda Rousey in the “Rowdy” one’s anticipated Octagon return.
Rousey, who was blasted by the Brazilian’s heavy-punching offense from the outset, lasted only 48 seconds in her deflating loss. The UFC women’s bantamweight title changed hands three times in just over seven months, but Nunes appears to have the division on lockdown, at least temporarily. However, the more pressing question is whether or not Rousey, who had dominated the 135-pound division since her 2011 pro debut, will ever fight again.
While Rousey has yet to officially exit our rankings, this update does feature some smaller, notable exits. While he was no longer in our top 10, former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar’s UFC 200 win over Mark Hunt had him floating on our bubble list; however, with Lesnar accepting a one-year suspension from his failed United States Anti-Doping Agency test last summer, the victory is now a no-contest and Lesnar is off of our contenders list. Also, after blowing weight again before being defeated by Neil Magny at UFC 207, former No. 1 welterweight Johny Hendricks is bounced from our bubble list, as well.
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