1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
The UFC’s 135-pound ace knows who he’ll face when he returns to the cage, since Renan Barao has opted to wait for “The Dominator” instead of defending his interim belt. Exactly when the title unification bout might take place is still unclear, as Cruz is still on the mend from June knee surgery to repair a torn ACL
2. Renan Barao (29-1, 1 NC)
Barao will be gunning for win number 30 the next time he steps inside the Octagon, but the UFC interim bantamweight titleholder isn’t in a rush to reach that milestone. Instead, after two dominant wins in 2012, Barao will sit back and wait for champ Dominick Cruz to come back and unify the belts.
3. Urijah Faber (26-6)
In his fourth challenge for a Zuffa title, Urijah Faber was defeated once again. The former WEC featherweight champ was bested by the leg kick assault of Renan Barao over 25 minutes in Calgary, Alberta, and walked away empty-handed once again at UFC 149.
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 (22-6)
The man in the trilby hat had a triumphant return to England with a first-round knockout of Yves Jabouin on Sept. 29 in Nottingham. The win put Pickett at 2-0 on the year, following his April submission of fellow WEC import Damacio Page.
7. 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.
8. 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’ll have a chance to rebound Dec. 8 when he meets the less-seasoned John Albert in Seattle for a match which could earn the loser a pink slip.
9. Miguel Torres (40-5)
It’s been a rough 12 months for Torres, who was released by the UFC after a controversial tweet, only to be rehired, knocked out by hot prospect Michael McDonald, then released again. The former WEC champ seems to have landed on his feet, however, as he became one of the high-profile acquisitions of the upstart World Series of Fighting organization. Torres is set to face Brazilian transplant Marlon Moraes on Nov. 3 at the company’s inaugural show in Las Vegas.
10. 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.
Other contenders:Raphael Assuncao, Eduardo Dantas, Mike Easton, Bibiano Fernandes, Tyson Nam.
With his Aug. 25 loss to Tyson Nam, previously sixth-ranked bantamweight Eduardo Dantas falls to the contenders list.
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