Bantamweight ace Dominick Cruz seems destined for a third dance with Urijah Faber. | Photo: Dave Mandel
1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
The “Dominator” was dominant once again as the start of the first cable-televised bantamweight title bout in UFC history. Desite suffering yet another hand injury in the process, Cruz earned a five-round unanimous decision -- his fourth in a row -- by holding off small-but-strong challenger Demetrious Johnson on Oct. 1.
2. Urijah Faber (26-5)
The “California Kid” was in top form on Nov. 19, beating down fellow ex-WEC champ Brian Bowles before squeezing out a second-round guillotine choke. The win put Faber on course for a third meeting with divisional ace Dominick Cruz in 2012; the pair’s July encounter ended in a five-round decision loss for Faber.
3. Joseph Benavidez (15-2)
He might not get another shot at 135-pound gold any time soon, but Benavidez continues to bulk up his bantamweight resume. At UFC Live 5 on Aug. 14, the Team Alpha Male product turned in a solid unanimous decision performance against the heavy-hitting Eddie Wineland.
4. Brian Bowles (10-2)
Bowles suffered his first submission loss on Nov. 19 by way of Urijah Faber guillotine choke, and with it was dealt his first setback in the Octagon after wins over Takeya Mizugaki and Damacio Page. For now, the 21-year-old from Georgia moves down a rung in the ever-deepening UFC bantamweight division and takes a step back from a potential rematch with the man who took his WEC title, Dominick Cruz.
5. Scott Jorgensen (13-4)
Since dropping a lopsided, five-round decision to Dominick Cruz in his final WEC appearance, it’s been back to business for Jorgensen. “Young Guns” has won seven of his last eight starts and has started out his UFC career at 2-0, knocking out Ken Stone before outpointing tough vet Jeff Curran on Oct. 29.
6. Demetrious Johnson (9-2)
“Mighty Mouse” was banged up but never beaten over 25 minutes in his Oct. 1 decision loss to dominant UFC bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz. While the defeat predictably amplified calls for Johnson to become the first member of the UFC’s 125-pound class, the Matt Hume pupil says his sights are set on 135 for the time being.
7. Renan Barao (27-1, 1 NC)
Competing in his highest-profile bout to date, Barao placed himself on the brink of contendership with yet another sterling performance. In the co-main event of UFC 138 on Nov. 5, the 24-year-old Brazilian served up a first-round submission of tough Brit Brad Pickett, extending Barao’s remarkable unbeaten streak to 28 in a row.
8. Miguel Torres (40-4)
The former king of the bantamweights won a lopsided decision against an overmatched Nick Pace on Nov. 19 thanks to a diverse and rangy striking game. Torres has won two of three UFC starts since transferring from World Extreme Cagefighting, the lone loss coming in a contentious May decision against Demetrious Johnson.
9. Brad Pickett (20-6)
Pickett’s home-turf UFC debut on Nov. 5 did not go as planned. The trilby-wearing Englishman won “Fight of the Night” honors at UFC 138 in Birmingham, but lost via first-round rear-naked choke to Brazilian contender Renan Barao.
10. Masakatsu Ueda (14-1-2)
Ueda has returned to top form, rattling off four consecutive wins since his shocking submission loss to Shuichiro Katsumura in March 2010. On Sept. 14, the former Shooto 132-pound world champ moved up to the retiring Royler Gracie in Brazil; two divisions above his natural weight, Ueda walked away with a handy decision victory.
Other contenders: Bibiano Fernandes, Zach Makovsky, Michael McDonald, Takeya Mizugaki, Eddie Wineland.
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