UFC on Fuel 7 Results: Top 10 Bantamweights in the UFC
UFC on Fuel 7 featured two of the world's finest bantamweight mixed martial artists in the night's main event, and the 135-pound fighters did not disappoint the London crowd.
Interim champion Renan Barao and hugely hyped youngster Michael McDonald engaged in a back-and-forth war for four rounds before Barao proved exactly why the belt belongs in Brazil. He sank in a deep arm-triangle choke that forced the 22-year-old McDonald to tap.
McDonald, too, saw moments of success in the fight thanks to his stone fists, and he hurt Barao early but failed to seal the deal, which ultimately resulted in his demise.
The young American slowed late, and Barao slowly found his groove and began to pick McDonald apart on the feet before securing the fight-ending choke.
In all, the fight was phenomenal, and it showed both fighters belong firmly at the top of the heap at 135 pounds.
Just where, though?
Start the slideshow to see where the night's winner and loser find themselves in the division's pecking order after Saturday's action.
Note No. 1: Somebody pretty important is missing from this list: the champion. Dominick Cruz has not fought since October 2011, and while his reasons are legitimate, I cannot justify his placement in the top 10 until I see him in action again.
Note No. 2: Recent performances weigh heavily in my eyes, but a career's worth of work is better than a recent big win. With that in mind, I try to balance out a fighter's potential with his actual proven results to determine where he stands.
No. 10: Brian Bowles
Brian Bowles flashed moments of brilliance inside the cage and briefly held the WEC bantamweight championship strap, but he cannot stay active enough to establish himself as a true force in the 135-pound rankings.
The last time we saw Bowles in UFC action, he was losing to Urijah Faber at UFC 139 in November 2011, so until he bounces back with a win, he's holding down the fort at No. 10.
P.S. That's Bowles in the picture, right? It's been a while since I've seen him...
No. 9: Ivan Menjivar
Veteran fighter Ivan Menjivar is adequately skilled in all facets of the game.
The problem, however, is that he does not have an overwhelmingly impressive skill set in one area, and he has faltered against top competition in the past.
Menjivar is coming off an impressive first-round armbar victory over highly touted prospect Azamat Gashimov at UFC 154, and he will have the chance to vault up the rankings on Feb. 23 at UFC 157 against Urijah Faber.
The bout with Faber will prove where Menjivar belongs in the division. Has he made the improvements necessary to hang with the big dogs, or will he fall into the role of gatekeeper for the remainder of his career?
No. 8: Mike Easton
Mike Easton baffles me a bit.
After defeating Jared Papazian and Ivan Menjivar in back-to-back bouts under the Zuffa banner, I sipped on some Kool-Aid laced with Easton's hype and promptly paid heavily for my belief.
The young bantamweight looked lackluster against Raphael Assuncao at UFC on Fox 5, and he dropped a unanimous decision for his efforts (or lack thereof).
"The Hulk" needs a big win in his next outing if he wishes to reclaim the status of potential title challenger.
No. 7: Raphael Assuncao
Raphael Assuncao has skills, ya'll.
After a disappointing first-round knockout loss to Erik Koch at UFC 128, Assuncao dropped to bantamweight and rattled off three straight wins.
Revitalized at 135 pounds, Assuncao is a force and a frightening matchup for any opponent. Until he beats somebody better than Mike Easton, however, I cannot put him any higher on this list.
No. 6: Brad Pickett
Brad Pickett will never be the bantamweight champion, but his boxing skills, strength and conditioning are enough to give 90 percent of the division fits and that's good enough for me.
Since losing to Renan Barao at UFC 138, Pickett saw back-to-back victories via stoppage before running into a brick wall known as Eddie Wineland at UFC 155.
Pickett could not match Wineland's speed and accuracy on the feet, and he lost via decision.
Still, losses to Wineland and Barao are nothing to be ashamed of, and Pickett slides in comfortably at No. 6.
No. 5: Scott Jorgensen
Is this too high for Scott Jorgensen?
According to the official UFC rankings, I'm off by a mile, but Jorgensen has repeatedly shown signs of dominance inside the Octagon.
The only guys he has lost to since October 2009 can be recognized by their last names only: Barao, Wineland and Cruz.
Not too shabby, eh?
Most recently, Jorgensen smashed John Albert at UFC on Fox 5, and the scary, powerful wrestler that showed up in that fight is a tall task for anybody in the division.
If you disagree with my placement of Jorgensen at No. 5, ask yourself this: Whom do you favor to beat him from No. 6 to No. 10 on the list?
No. 4: Eddie Wineland
Eddie Wineland has looked phenomenal of late.
The 28-year-old Texan has defeated Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett in back-to-back bouts, and he will undoubtedly get a big name in his next fight.
With fast and powerful striking and fantastic takedown defense, Wineland will jump into title talks sooner than later.
No. 3: Urijah Faber
Urijah Faber, like Frankie Edgar and Kenny Florian, consistently comes up short in title fights inside the Octagon.
"The California Kid" ruled the WEC cage in his heyday, but he has failed in title bids under the bright lights of the UFC against Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao.
Faber has a well-rounded skill set and is always in phenomenal shape, so I predict he will continue to rank highly until he decides to hang them up.
The problem, though, is that he is just a fraction of a step from being truly elite like he once was, so he will never strap on the championship belt again.
Third place isn't too bad though, is it?
Michael McDonald came up short in his quest to become the youngest UFC champion in history at UFC on Fuel 7, but he proved that he is one hell of a fighter in the process.
At just 22 years old and with explosive skills, McDonald will only get better in the upcoming years, and that is a scary thought for 135-pound fighters across the globe.
McDonald certainly had his moments against Barao, but the interim champ proved he owns the belt for a reason. The young McDonald slowed late, eventually succumbing to an arm-triangle choke in Round 4.
The loss stings for now, but the future is still bright for McDonald.
No. 1: Renan Barao
"What have you done for me lately?" matters to me, and Barao has done plenty lately to earn his spot atop the bantamweight rankings.
Barao earned the interim bantamweight championship by beating Urijah Faber decisively at UFC 149, but he solidified his spot as the UFC's top active bantamweight by submitting Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel 7.
The fourth-round submission win was Barao's 30th in a row, and considering defeat lurks around every corner inside the Octagon, that streak is absolutely ridiculous.
Barao is sensational, and I believe he will eventually prove his worth as the undisputed 135-pound champ.