1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
The UFC’s 135-pound ace has been dealt another frustrating setback, only this time in the form of a torn ACL instead of his recurring hand injury. The wound forced Cruz out of a scheduled third meeting with Urijah Faber at UFC 148, but an interim title bout between Faber and Renan Barao, now at UFC 149, will ensure Cruz has a worthy challenger upon his return.
2. Urijah Faber (26-5)
It’s a different opponent, in a different country, on a different date and only an interim title, but Urijah Faber won’t be denied a chance to challenge for a slice of the UFC’s bantamweight crown. After being slated for his rubber match with rival and fellow “Ultimate Fighter” coach Dominick Cruz on July 7, the champion’s injury coupled with the injury of featherweight champion Jose Aldo has led to Faber meeting Brazilian Renan Barao for an interim strap at UFC 149 on July 21 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
3. Renan Barao (28-1, 1 NC)
The first time Renan Barao fought outside Brazil, he notched his first win under the Zuffa banner at WEC 46 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Now, he’ll be afforded the chance to return to the province of Alberta, as his interim title bout with Urijah Faber was moved from UFC 148 on July 7 to UFC 149 on July 21.
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 31-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. Michael McDonald (15-1)
It seems the sky’s the limit for the 21-year-old from Northern California, whose latest feat was a first-round drubbing of former divisional ruler Miguel Torres. The win extended McDonald’s current winning streak to eight in a row -- five of those by way of knockout -- and thrust the youngster firmly into the logjam atop the division.
6. Brad Pickett (21-6)
Last November, Brad Pickett’s return to fight in his native Britain for the first time in two years went disastrously, as upstart Brazilian Renan Barao ran roughshod over him. “One Punch” is looking to rectify his rep in his homeland and he’ll have the chance come Sept. 29 when he meets Yves Jabouin at the UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottingham, England.
7. Eduardo Dantas (14-2)
Michael McDonald isn’t the only young bantamweight who broke into the big time in April. For now, Eduardo Dantas gets to sit in the shade and enjoy the spoils of being one of the sport’s most dynamic young fighters. However, we do know one thing about Dantas’ first Bellator bantamweight title challenger: it’ll be a Brazilian. Dantas’ Nova Uniao Marcos Galvao meets a former “Dudu” victim, Luis Alberto Nogueira, on Aug. 24 at Bellator 73.
8. Eddie Wineland (19-8-1)
Eddie Wineland’s first two Octagon spots were tough, debuting against Urijah Faber and following with Joseph Benavidez. However, the third time was the charm for the Indiana native, as he put his fearsome punching power on brutal display on June 8 against Scott Jorgensen, turning in a spectacular second-round stoppage and halting his two-fight skid.
9. Scott Jorgensen (13-6)
After passing his first two UFC assignments, “Young Guns” has hit a rough patch. After dropping a unanimous verdict to Renan Barao in February, Jorgensen took a nasty nap in the second round against Eddie Wineland on June 8, losing consecutive bouts for the first time in his career.
10. Miguel Torres (40-5)
While Miguel Torres’ outside-of-the-cage battles stemming from his now-infamous “rape van” tweet were difficult, they couldn’t possibly stack up to the unenviable outcome of his UFC 145 bout with hot prospect Michael McDonald. Torres, who was knocked out in grim fashion in the first round, is 3-4 in his last seven bouts after losing just once in his previous 37 outings.
Other contenders:Raphael Assuncao, Chris Cariaso, Bibiano Fernandes, Marcos Galvao, Zach Makovsky.
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