Gabe Killian’s Thoughts on the Current UFC Bantamweight Picture

ufc-londonChris Weidman was set to defend his UFC middleweight title against Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC 173 in May, but the champion suffered an injury in training and the bout has since been rescheduled for UFC 175 in July. That left UFC 173 without a headliner. Enter Renan Barao. After defending his bantamweight title against Urijah Faber at UFC 169 two months ago, the UFC 135 pound champion is making a quick turnaround for another title defense, this time against a training partner of Faber’s in TJ Dillashaw. Dillashaw was scheduled to face Takeya Mizugaki on the very same UFC 169 card, and was pulled from the bout to save the show by fighting Barao in a five-round title fight, an opportunity he could not pass up. The UFC went to the Team Alpha Male product after going to Raphael Assuncao, who was unable to accept the challenge due to injuries. Some may find it surprising that the UFC offered the fight to Dillashaw instead of Takeya Mizugaki, since Dillashaw is only on a one-fight winning streak, while Mizugaki has won four in a row, and six, if you include the robbery against Chris Cariaso at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan. Others could argue that Dillashaw looked impressive in his last outing, while Mizugaki lost the third round of his last match-up. That said, people are not complaining about the bout, as it’s a fight fans expected to see sooner or later. Stepping in for Dillashaw to square off against Mizugaki is Francisco Rivera, who is riding an impressive winning streak in his own right, except unlike Mizugaki, the Mexican has been finishing his opponents; five of his last six, in fact. Provided Assuncao is healthy, I think he is next in line to take on the winner of Barao vs Dillashaw, but after him, I believe the winner of Mizugaki vs Rivera would be the rightful number one contender. Erik “Goyito” Perez will be taking on Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres at the TUF Nations finale on April 16th, and I believe the winner of that contest will enter the title picture. If Assuncao faces the winner of Barao vs Dillashaw, then rather than having the winner of Mizugaki/Rivera sitting on the shelf, I could see them instead facing the winner of Perez vs Caceres for a shot at the title. Mizugai has already beaten Perez via split decision on his current streak, but the fight was very close and very entertaining, so I could definitely see a rematch happening. I look forward to the aforementioned contests, but another match-up I would like to see at bantamweight is Iuri Alcantara vs Michael McDonald. It would be a rare winner vs loser match-up, but I think it would make for an exciting fight between a pair of contenders. It would undoubtedly be a great fight, and a win would be big for both. This should continue to be an interesting year in the UFC’s 135 pound division. There are several match-ups to look forward to, and several more to wish for. Regardless of how it all plays out, the bantamweights will continue to impress, as they remain one of the most entertaining divisions to watch.

Written by Gabe Killian

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