Last night, Calgary witnessed the top bantamweights in the sport battle for the UFC interim bantamweight championship. For 25 minutes, the fighters exchanged strikes without any desire to go to the ground.
With never-ending cardio, the bantamweight division may go to the judges scorecards more often than not, but the fights are always exciting to watch. Just like the limitless footwork of the division's top stars, it seems as if the rankings at 135 pounds never seem to stand still.
Five months after the creation of the flyweight division, along with the rise of new stars like Renan Barao, Michael McDonald and Mike Easton, let's take a look at the radically different landscape of the UFC bantamweight division.
Compiling a record of 4-2 since dropping to the bantamweight division, Brad Pickett has earned victories over former contender Demetrious Johnson, Ivan Menjivar and Damacio Page.
The losses during this time came at the hands of reigning interim champion Renan Barao and former contender Scott Jorgensen.
Set to fight Yves Jabouin in September, Pickett will look to improve his record to 22-6 and earn his first win in his native country of England since joining the Zuffa family.
Scott Jorgensen has been a mainstay of the bantamweight division since joining the WEC, where he put together a 7-3 record, which includes a failed bid at capturing the division's championship from Dominick Cruz.
Big wins over Takeya Mizugaki, Brad Pickett and Jeff Curran have been bullet points of Jorgensen's career, although he has run into some trouble recently.
Now suffering back-to-back losses to Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland, it looks as if Jorgensen will need to refocus and come out strong if he hopes to remain a top star in a division that desperately needs colorful characters.
Sitting at 13-1 in his professional career, Mike Easton made a statement when he defeated Ivan Menjivar earlier this month at UFC 148. The win was the eighth consecutive victory for the Alliance MMA fighter, and it moved him to 3-0 in the UFC.
Easton trains with champion Dominick Cruz, and received a bump in notoriety by coming in as a coach for Team Cruz on The Ultimate Fighter: Live earlier this year.
Now holding notable wins over Menjivar, John Dodson and Chase Beebe, Easton is an up-and-comer who fans should keep their eye on.
The former WEC bantamweight champion ran into a young bulldozer named Michael McDonald in his most recent Octagon appearance, and it wasn't pretty. The loss was only the third (deserved) of Torres' past 24 contests.
Despite a decision loss to Demetrious Johnson, many believe that Torres should have won the UFC 130 contest due to his highly active guard. Additionally, the contest is commonly used as an example of why judging criteria needs to change.
The only men to defeat Torres are either no longer in the division, a current champion or a current contender. Perhaps a fight with Urijah Faber is in his future.
Winning five of his past seven fights, Eddie Wineland became the first man to knockout Scott Jorgensen. The fight was desperately needed after coming up short in contests with Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez.
Wineland earned Fight of the Night for the win, and won Knockout of the Night is his two victories prior to the fight.
Could he be making his way back towards a shot at the title? Only time will tell. But being on the better side of 30, he's got plenty of time to make his case.
Former champion Brian Bowles has won six of his seven UFC contests via stoppage. That impressive feat includes a knockout victory over Miguel Torres to capture the WEC bantamweight championship back in 2009.
With a 10-2 record, the only men to defeat Bowles are champions Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz.
Could the powerhouse striker with well-rounded skills find a way to defeat interim champion Renan Barao? As of now, he is one of few options to challenge the newly crowned champion.
The rankings have been too kind to Urijah Faber for far too long. In fact, Faber was ranked as the No. 2 bantamweight in the world despite being 5-4 in the nine fights leading up to UFC 149. In fact, Faber was given the undeserved spot after only two fights in the division.
Last night, Faber lost his fifth consecutive championship opportunity and will likely be out of the title picture for the foreseeable future.
At this point in his career, should consider bouncing between bantamweight and featherweight to create interesting matchups. This Rich Franklin-esque role would allow Faber the opportunity to take big fights in multiple divisions and compete with some of the best.
At UFC 145, Michael McDonald was given the opportunity to challenge former champion Miguel Torres. Who could have guessed that the 21-year-old fighter from Oakdale would need less than a round to separate Torres from his senses?
McDonald has gone 5-0 since signing with Zuffa in 2010. His current eight-fight winning streak includes a KO victory over Cole Escovedo that avenged his only career loss.
Now sitting atop the ladder of contenders, McDonald is the most likely candidate to challenge Renan Barao for his newly acquired interim championship.
Renan Barao has been considered a fighter to watch for some time now. Since joining the UFC, the Brazilian stud out of Nova Uniao has subdued three fighters on this list and former WEC champion Cole Escovedo.
Last night was the greatest night of Barao's life as the emotional fighter could not contain his excitement upon hearing his name read in association with "New UFC Interim Bantamweight Champion!"
The lovable Brazilian has well-rounded skills that pose a threat to everyone in the division. There is a strong possibility that Barao will have time to defend his belt twice before the return of Dominick Cruz.
With McDonald and Wineland coming off wins against former champions and title contenders, Barao looks to have his dance card full for the foreseeable future.
Dominick Cruz has been recognized as the best bantamweight in the world since defeating Brian Bowles to win the WEC championship back in 2010. With four successful defenses of his championship, and wins over both fighters in the UFC Flyweight championship bout, Cruz might just be the best fighter in the lighter weight divisions of the UFC.
When he returns from surgery on his torn ACL, it is likely that the dangerous Renan Barao will still be holding the interim championship. After last night, Cruz needs to take his time in the recovery stage, because if he comes back at less than 100 percent, it's unlikely that The Dominator will be able to get past the well-rounded game of his challenger.
Until that time, Cruz must be viewed as the best bantamweight alive. His incredible movement makes him hard to hit, and he lives up to his nickname in every fight. We wish the champion a speedy recovery and hope to see him back in action sooner rather than later.