1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
Now 13 months removed from his successful title defense against Demetrious Johnson, the UFC’s 135-pound ace remains sidelined, rehabbing a torn knee ligament suffered in training over the summer. When he returns, he will have one of two problems to deal with: interim champ Renan Barao or top contender Michael McDonald, as they are set to square off in 2013.
2. Renan Barao (29-1, 1 NC)
After capturing the UFC interim bantamweight title in July with a five-round decision against Urijah Faber, Barao was expected to wait for the return of champion Dominick Cruz. However, with Cruz still healing an injured knee, UFC boss Dana White says Barao will be called on to defend his belt, likely against surging youngster Michael McDonald.
3. Urijah Faber (26-6)
In his fourth challenge for a Zuffa title, Urijah Faber was defeated once again. The former WEC featherweight champion was bested by the leg kick assault of Renan Barao over 25 minutes in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and walked away empty-handed at UFC 149.
4. Michael McDonald (15-1)
Pundits pegged McDonald as a potential future world champion when he was only 19 years old and fighting for California’s Tachi Palace Fights promotion. Two years and five straight Zuffa wins later, “Mayday” is primed to make good on those expectations. McDonald is expected to challenge Renan Barao for the UFC interim bantamweight title in 2013.
5. Brad Pickett (22-6)
In September in Nottingham, England, Pickett turned in his most stellar UFC performance to date, annihilating Yves Jabouin in front of his British faithful. Next up for Pickett is a Dec. 29 date with perhaps the division’s most ferocious power puncher in Eddie Wineland at UFC 155.
6. Eddie Wineland (19-8-1)
Consecutive 2011 losses to Team Alpha Male stars Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez had Eddie Wineland’s Zuffa employment on the ropes. However, his June crushing of Scott Jorgensen has earned him a UFC 155 bout with rising contender Brad Pickett in a fight laced with both potential excitement and divisional importance.
7. Scott Jorgensen (13-6)
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. He will have a chance to rebound on Dec. 8, when he meets the less-seasoned John Albert in Seattle.
8. Marcos Galvao (13-5-1)
For now, “Loro” is sitting pretty and waiting for his Bellator bantamweight title shot against fellow Nova Uniao representative Eduardo Dantas, who is coming off of his August upset loss to Tyson Nam in Shooto Brazil. Since his Zuffa release in March 2009, Galvao is 7-2 and could easily be 9-0 if not for highly questionable decision losses to Joe Warren and Alexis Vila.
9. Raphael Assuncao (18-4)
Since his drop to 135 pounds, the Brazilian has gone 2-0. After picking up a win over tough Brazilian striker Johnny Eduardo at UFC 134, Assuncao ran over Japan’s Issei Tamura with strikes in July and has emerged as a legitimate player in the UFC's bantamweight division.
10. Tyson Nam (12-4)
After his breakout win against Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas in August, contractual quagmires over Nam’s previously existing deal with Bellator seemed to put him on freeze. However, it appears at least for now that Nam will take on recent Miguel Torres tormentor Marlon Moraes at the yet-to-be-scheduled World Series of Fighting 2.
Other contenders:Eduardo Dantas, T.J. Dillashaw, Mike Easton, Bibiano Fernandes, Takeya Mizugaki
With no fights in the last 365 days and no fights scheduled in the next 90 days, previously fourth-ranked Brian Bowles exits the rankings.
With his Nov. 3 loss to Marlon Moraes, previously ninth-ranked Miguel Torres exits the rankings.
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