Why It's Time to Fast-Track Rising UFC Bantamweight Johnny Eduardo

Kristian IbarraFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2014

May 10, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Johnny Eduardo (blue gloves) celebrates after knocking out Eddie Wineland (not pictured) in the first round of a preliminary bantamweight bout at US Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Rio de Janeiro’s Nova Uniao has already given UFC fans so much.

It gave them the reigning featherweight king, Jose Aldo. It gave them the former bantamweight champion who, until recently, boasted a near 10-year unbeaten streak, Renan Barao.

Now, it’s giving them the stellar bantamweight fighter who’s poised to make headlines in the months to comeJohnny Eduardo. 

Eduardo was last seen standing across from Eddie Wineland at UFC Fight Night 40 in Cincinnati, Ohio. A massive underdog against the now-No. 5-ranked bantamweight, Eduardo stepped into the Octagon to shock the MMA world.

He only needed one round and three head strikes to do so. 

Eduardo first told MMAFighting.com's Guilherme Cruz:

It was really cool because I was seen as the underdog, some people thought I had no chance at all. I was judged in a negative way, I heard that I wouldn’t be able to survive in the first round, that Wineland was far superior to me and that he would knock me out. I took all the pressure and used it in a positive way.

The first-round knockout not only earned Eduardo his first Performance of the Night award, but it also skyrocketed him into the top 10 of the UFC’s bantamweight rankings. With 27 wins and nine losses under his belt, the 35-year-old No. 9 bantamweight doesn’t have much time left to prove his worth inside the cage.

Having seen his hand raised in 14 of his last 15 fights, Eduardo’s performance against Wineland is obviously no fluke.

He’s only lost once since 2008a unanimous decision against now-No. 3-ranked bantamweight Raphael Assuncao at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro in 2011.

Assuncao will likely be the first to challenge UFC bantamweight TJ Dillashaw’s reign as champion. 

With a few more victories against top-10 opponents, Eduardo is bound to challenge for UFC gold before his near-20-year career comes to an end.

Aside from fighters such as Nova Uniao-teammate Barao, former champion Dominick Cruz and No. 2 bantamweight Urijah Faber, Eduardo only has one major obstacle standing between he and the belthimself. 

Since joining the UFC in 2011, the Rio de Janeiro native has only been healthy enough to enter the Octagon three times. He was expected to face title-contending Michael McDonald at UFC 139 but had to withdraw, effectively keeping him out of the cage for the rest of 2011. Eduardo was fortunate enough to remain healthy to earn his first UFC victory in 2012 when he took Jeff Curran to a unanimous decision at UFC on Fuel TV 3. 

Citing multiple injuries, Eduardo didn’t step foot inside the Octagon in 2013.

Now, with all of the injuries behind him and more top-10 opponents on the horizon, he is in position to rack up a few more victories en route to the bantamweight title before he hangs up his gloves for good.

If nothing more, Eduardo will remain a staple that secures Nova Uniao’s dominance as one of the best camps for any sub-170-pound fighter on the planet.