Chances of Each Top 10 UFC Bantamweight Capturing the Title

Craig Amos@@CAABRMMAFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2013

Chances of Each Top 10 UFC Bantamweight Capturing the Title

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    The UFC bantamweight division is currently ruled by two champions: the absentee king Dominick Cruz and his placeholder Renan Barao. Both champions have proven themselves capable of defending MMA's top prize at 135 pounds, and both just now seem to be entering their prime.

    But, the inherent rivalry shared by competing champions is only the beginning. Beneath lies substantial reservoirs of raw talent, which most divisions cannot match up to.

    With a number of veterans hitting their stride and some young up-and-comers fighting their way into contention, the UFC bantamweight division is rapidly becoming a ground for some of the most intriguing MMA action there is. The prevailing question is: Can the field catch up with those currently sporting gold?

    Here, we assess the UFC bantamweight class' current landscape and examine the title aspirations of each of the division's top 10 fighters, as ranked by the UFC.

    Each contender has been tagged with a probability that identifies the likelihood of them ever gaining the strap. That probability is based on a number of factors, including ability, age and current station within the division.

    Read on to see who is most likely to adorn bantamweight gold before they call it quits.

10. Ivan Menjivar

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    Menjivar has carved out some real estate in the UFC's bantamweight division, but he's not exactly next door to a title shot. 

    During his most recent run with the promotion, Menjivar has posted a solid 4-2 record but has failed to defeat anyone of particularly impressive stature. He recently attempted to buck that trend by taking out Urijah Faber, but the result—a first-round submission loss—only confirmed that he's nearer the division's mid-tier than its top.

    Menjivar is only 30, so he has some time left to go on a title run or two. But, his ceiling just isn't that high, and the likelihood that he one day wears the belt is practically non-existent.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 2 percent

9. Mike Easton

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    Since joining the UFC in 2011, Easton has enjoyed a fair measure of support from fans who have forecasted him to do big things in the promotion. But since stopping Byron Bloodworth in his debut, Easton really hasn't done much to prove he deserves all the attention.

    He performed well in a recent loss to Brad Pickett, but he still lost, and for the second straight time. Before that he edged out decisions over Ivan Menjivar and Jared Papazian.

    Easton is a very strong fighter, hence his "Hulk" nickname, but his skill set isn't anything to write home about. He's a good-not-great striker, has solid takedown defense but not much wrestling offense, and is a good-enough grappler but not an offensively dangerous one.

    To me that is the description of an above-average fighter, but above-average rarely translates to a UFC title.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 5 percent

8. Brian Bowles

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    The only guys who have beaten Bowles are Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber. There is nothing about this fact that implies Bowles can never be a UFC champion.

    The more concerning issue is that both Cruz and Faber handled Bowles without too much difficulty, stopping him within two rounds (the stoppage against Cruz was injury related, but Cruz was clearly winning the match).

    Even more troubling is Bowles' history with injuries. He has been limited to five fights over the last four years and is already 32, which means he may not have that long to make a title run. And if his recent loss to Faber is any indication, even if he positions himself for a shot, it may not end with the belt in his hands.

    Still, his odds would be five-to-10 points higher if not for issues with injury.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 5 percent

7. Scott Jorgensen

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    Jorgensen is reeling right now, having lost three of his last four. His strength of schedule has been horrendous, but the results still don't bode well for a title hunter.

    Furthering the bleakness of Jorgensen's championship outlook is that his loss to Faber marks defeat by an opponent that was recently outclassed by both the division's title holder as well as its interim title holder.

    At 30, Jorgensen may have peaked. It's not inconceivable he undergoes a career rejuvenation and starts marching toward that divisional crown, but it is unlikely. Very unlikely, in fact.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title:  5 percent

6. Raphael Assuncao

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    Assuncao has spent the majority of his career as an above-average featherweight, but a drop to bantamweight in 2011 may have marked a turning point for him.

    Since shaking things up, the Brazilian has gone 3-0 in the UFC, recently outpointing Mike Easton with relative ease. 

    His accomplishments alone are not enough to convince me that he could take out a Renan Barao or Dominick Cruz, but even so, he is an intriguing dark horse right now, one that could surprise a lot of people over the next year or two.

    I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on him to take home the strap, but crazier things have happened.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 8 percent

5. Brad Pickett

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    Pickett is 34, which means he isn't going to wait out the fighters currently ruling the division and swoop in to claim a title after they all decline. If he is to ever grasp UFC gold, he'll have to do it soon and against the guys ranked ahead of him.

    That probably isn't great news when you look at that roster—Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, Urijah Faber, Renan Barao and Dominick Cruz. Especially since Barao crushed him back in 2011, and Wineland convincingly defeated him in 2012. That the latter match was judged as a split decision is laughable.

    So while Pickett is a very good competitor, it doesn't seem like he is quite where he needs to be to win a bantamweight title. And given that he is in the back half of his prime, it might just be a case of competing at the wrong time.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 7 percent

4. Eddie Wineland

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    After a rough 0-2 run to begin his UFC tenure, Wineland has looked outstanding in back-to-back wins over Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett. So outstanding, in fact, that he has been given the chance to fight for the interim title this June.

    Wineland will enter his fight with Renan Barao as an underdog, but he wields uncommon power for a 135er, which means he has a chance every time he competes. And given how good he's looking recently, his chances against Barao may be greater than most believe.

    Additionally, should Wineland suffer disappointment this spring, he'll still have time for subsequent runs, as he is only 28.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 27 percent

3. Michael McDonald

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    McDonald just had the chance to become a UFC champion but faltered against Renan Barao. Yet, in spite of the fact he was finished in the bout's fourth frame, he kept it competitive for the most part, which is more than most of Barao's victims can claim.

    Though McDonald's hit-list isn't gilded with a bunch of big names just yet, his 4-1 UFC record speaks volumes about his talent, and two first-round knockouts with the promotion speaks volumes about his power.

    Equally as impressive as that power, which sets him apart from most 135ers, is that McDonald has risen to prominence at just 22 years of age. So even though he's coming off of a missed championship opportunity, it's doubtful—very doubtful—that it will be the last one he has.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 70 percent

2. Urijah Faber

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    Though Faber is ranked higher than Michael McDonald, he has 11 fewer years to capture the title, which heavily mitigate his odds. Recent wins over Ivan Menjivar and Scott Jorgensen keep those odds alive, but don't necessary inflate them to an optimistic level.

    What has come to define the latter part of Faber's career is a firmly entrenched position between the best and the rest. Case in point: since November 2008, Faber has gone 7-5 while fighting in the UFC and WEC. Each of his five losses have come in title fights, while all seven of his victories have been over non-champions.

    There are some who still believe Faber will finally capture the UFC title that has thus far eluded him. I am not one of them. I am open to the possibility but believe it to be rather improbable.

    With Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao both operating at a higher level, and Michael McDonald rapidly gaining ground, the bantamweight division looks to be shaping up as a three-horse race, and Faber appears to be the odd man out.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title:  15 percent

1. Renan Barao

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    This one is unnecessary since Barao is the interim UFC bantamweight champion. Obviously, that accolade puts his odds at 100 percent.

    For the purpose of making this slide somewhat worthwhile, I'll add that I'd put Barao's odds pretty close to even against Dominick Cruz right now.

    And in terms of his chances of one day being the undisputed champ, I'll go somewhere in the 85 percent range.


    Chances of capturing UFC bantamweight title: 100 percent