UFC 145: Where Does Michael McDonald Rank in the Bantamweight Division?

Craig Amos@@CAABRMMAFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2012

UFC 145: Where Does Michael McDonald Rank in the Bantamweight Division?

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    Michael McDonald continued his rapid ascent toward the top of the bantamweight division Saturday night by stopping Miguel Torres in the first round of their 135-pound clash.

    At 21 years of age, McDonald is already one of the division's best fighters and could challenge for Dominick Cruz's strap sooner rather than later.

    This is a post-UFC 145 look at where "Mayday" fits in the with the rest of the bantamweight elite, in the UFC.

10: Ivan Menjivar

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    Menjivar has reeled off three consecutive victories, but will enter a July showdown with Renan Barao as a heavy underdog.

    While his 3-1 record as a bantamweight and 24-8 career mark speak to the talent of Menjivar, his sloppy first-round win over John Albert suggests that holes remain in his game.

    Menjivar is a well-rounded fighter, but he lacks one specialty, a la McDonald's quick hands, to put him up there with the division's elite.

9: Miguel Torres

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    Obviously, Torres has to rank lower than McDonald here or it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense, now would it?

    Like Menjivar, Torres is a very well-rounded fighter. His jiu-jitsu is at a level superior to that of any one of Menjivar's skills, which is why he comes in ahead of the El Salvadorian. 

    Torres will have the opportunity to rebound from the loss to McDonald, but the result should leave no doubt in anyone's mind who is the better fighter.

    The match was a passing of the torch of sorts.

8: Eddie Wineland

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    Wineland is a tough guy who constantly finds himself in tough fights.

    He is coming off back-to-back losses against Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez, but will get no reprieve as he is slated to take on Scott Jorgensen this June.

    Like McDonald, Wineland is a stand-up specialist, but he lacks the hand speed of the younger fighter. 

7: Brad Pickett

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    Pickett's impressive showing is enough to tempt me to place him a bit higher, but not enough to make me actually do it.

    Like McDonald, Pickett is a well-rounded fighter who prefers to keep the fight standing more often than not. 

    While he is a dangerous striker in his own right, Pickett lacks the explosiveness of McDonald, who throws quicker, harder punches. 

    This makes Pickett less of a danger than McDonald, which is why he is following, not ahead of the 21-year-old rising star.

6: Brian Bowles

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    Bowles, a former WEC champion, was passed in the bantamweight rankings by McDonald last night. 

    The accolade of WEC champion gets Bowles a lot of credit, but aside from his win over Torres, the best name on his hit list is Damacio Page. 

    Granted, he has only lost to Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz, but he is not on the level of Michael McDonald.

5: Scott Jorgensen

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    Jorgensen is the epitome of "close, but not close enough." There are few bantamweights in any organization that can defeat him, but he has never been able to threaten the best of the best.

    Over his last four bouts, Jorgensen is 2-2, with wins over Ken Stone and Jeff Curran, and losses to Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao.

    With his win over Torres on Saturday night, McDonald joins the group of "can beat Jorgensen" bantamweights, and ranks higher than the title figure of that card-carrying club.

4: Michael McDonald

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    Here he is!

    McDonald's win over Torres is enough to get him this far, but to crack the top three he will have to beat one of the top three.

    McDonald has power rarely seen at 135 pounds to complement an underrated ground game. At 21 years of age, there is little doubt that the American will one day be a UFC champion.

3: Urijah Faber

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    I am fully aware that I am in the minority that has Faber outside the top two, but there are a number of things that I can use to justify this ranking.

    Since 2007, Faber's longest win streak has been two. And that has only happened once. 

    Yes, the majority of his fights since 2008 were at featherweight, but he was outclassed by Dominick Cruz in the 2011 contest between the two. 

    Furthermore, his win over Eddie Wineland last year was a close call that should have been a wash.

    Still, he ranks higher than McDonald for now. That said, I would expect the positions to swap in no more than a year's time.

2: Renan Barao

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    Barao surpasses Faber without having to fight the man himself because of how impressive he has looked of late.

    On a ridiculous 28-win streak, Barao has knocked off top contenders Brad Pickett and Scott Jorgensen with relative ease.

    He is known for his superb ground game, but has flexed his striking muscle recently, dominating Pickett and Jorgensen on the feet, both of whom are accomplished strikers themselves.

    While it is difficult for an up-and-comer to look more impressive than McDonald has, Barao has done just that, and ranks higher than him on this list.

1: Dominick Cruz

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    Of course!

    Cruz has been dominant as the UFC's bantamweight champion. He has garnered some criticism about his inability to finish fights, but he just keeps winning.

    Cruz's striking arsenal is more diverse than McDonald's and his overall game is more sound. As McDonald continues to develop, a showdown between the two is looming on the horizon.

    It should be a good one.