1. Dominick Cruz (22-1)After reclaiming the UFC bantamweight crown in an outstanding and particularly close fight with T.J. Dillashaw in January, Cruz does not have a more righteous challenger now than Dillashaw, who rebounded nicely at UFC 200 by avenging a loss to Raphael Assuncao. Nonetheless, while Dillashaw might be the legitimate top contender at 135 pounds, Cruz has instead taken to calling out Dillashaw’s former Team Alpha Male teammate, Cody Garbrandt, laying early groundwork for a future showdown between the two.
2. T.J. Dillashaw (13-3)Many thought Dillashaw won his first fight with Raphael Assuncao back in October 2013, but the former UFC bantamweight champion gained revenge at UFC 200, soundly outworking and outpointing Assuncao in his first performance since losing the UFC title to Dominick Cruz in January. With the UFC 135-pound division lacking many viable contenders at the top of the division, the win may firm up Dillashaw for a rematch with Cruz later this year.
3. Marlon Moraes (17-4-1)In Moraes’ first encounter with Josh Hill back in February 2015, the WSOF bantamweight champion dominated his challenger for 25 minutes with his counterpunching and brutal leg kicks. In their rematch at WSOF 32 on July 30, Moraes was even more impressive, clobbering the Canadian with a nasty head kick and punches at just 38 seconds of round two. Moraes has now won 12 straight bouts and has not lost in nearly five years. However, he remains a massive fish in a tiny pond, and it remains questionable if the WSOF can continue to provide worthwhile opposition for the Brazilian.
4. Cody Garbrandt (10-0)Garbrandt was expected to knock out Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 202, but “No Love” got the job done faster than expected, taking just 48 seconds to destroy his Japanese foe. Better for the Team Alpha Male product: He smashed Mizugaki 13 seconds faster than UFC champion Dominick Cruz did two years ago. That gives him some bragging rights over Cruz, who has recently started to call out Garbrandt in public, promoting a potential future showdown between the two.
5. Urijah Faber (33-9)Faber at UFC 199 started fast against Dominick Cruz, but ultimately, the fourth UFC title challenge for “The California Kid” morphed into the bout we expected, as Cruz danced and delivered volume punching for 25 minutes. The 37-year-old Faber is now 3-3 in his last six bouts dating back to February 2014. He will be back in the cage at UFC 203 on Sept. 10, when he confronts the surging Jimmie Rivera.
6. Raphael Assuncao (23-5)Assuncao returns to these rankings after spending nearly two years away from the cage. However, his re-eligibility comes on account of a loss, as he could not replicate his close decision win over T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 200, getting outworked by the former champion over 15 minutes. Nonetheless, Assuncao remains one of the sport’s top bantamweights, with recent wins over divisional standouts Bryan Caraway and Pedro Munhoz.
7. Bryan Caraway (21-7)Through his eight bouts inside the Octagon, Caraway has gotten a little bit better each time out. Those incremental improvements finally turned into a big payoff for “Kid Lightning,” as he overcame a tough first five minutes to come back and take a split decision over the previously unbeaten Aljamain Sterling on May 29, vaulting him into these rankings.
8. Aljamain Sterling (12-1)For the first five minutes of his May 29 bout with Bryan Caraway, Sterling looked every bit a dominant, undefeated prospect. However, when Caraway battled back over the final 10 minutes, he managed to outwrestle and outhustle the Serra-Longo Fight Team product, handing “The Funkmaster” the first loss of his pro career.
9. Thomas Almeida (21-1)Almeida entered his May 29 showdown with Cody Garbrandt, not just as a slight favorite but as favorite to earn a UFC bantamweight title shot in the near future if he stayed on his current trajectory. Garbrandt rejected that narrative wholesale, socking up Almeida from the outset before crushing him unconscious with a right hook early in the first round and handing “Thominhas” the first loss of his career.
10. Takeya Mizugaki (21-10-2)After more than seven years under Zuffa employ, through both World Extreme Cagefighting and the UFC, Mizugaki’s role in the bantamweight division is that of “gatekeeper to the stars.” Therefore, he was a big underdog to unbeaten knockout artist Cody Garbrandt heading into UFC 202 on Aug. 20. Unfortunately for Mizugaki, things got even nastier than expected, as Garbrandt lit him up in just 48 seconds, handing the Japanese fighter his third loss in his last four fights.
Other Contenders: Eduardo Dantas, John Lineker, Jimmie Rivera, Joe Taimanglo, Eddie Wineland.
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