February's Key Fights
Miguel Torres vs. Antonio Banuelos (UFC 126)
Many people began complaining about Miguel Torres after his unanimous decision victory over Antonio Banuelos at UFC 126. The old excuse of, "He played it too safe."
Maybe so, but he is fighting the best of the best in the UFC now. This is the big leagues, and if you don't win in the big leagues, you don't last long. Not that this was his excuse but it's true.
Also, Banuelos was riding along in the same boat of safe strategies, so you can't place sole blame on Torres for the lackluster fight. Torres stayed on the outside and established his striking while the shorter Banuelos darted in, before quickly darting back out and landed nothing of significance.
Say what you want about Torres, but it takes two to tango.
Norifumi Yamamoto vs. Demetrious Johnson (UFC 126)
Many stateside fans were ecstatic to learn that Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto would finally be fighting for the UFC. It's funny that many of these stateside fans hadn't even heard of Demetrious Johnson, or at least, it appeared so as Johnson was picked to lose in many MMA forums.
Johnson is one of those fighters that proves cutting weight may not be as much of an advantage as one would think. The smaller Johnson came in with unparalleled speed and had "Kid" uncomfortable throughout the fight with constant movement and takedowns.
The unanimous decision victory came easily to Johnson, who now looks for a top-10 opponent to start his title run.
March's Key Fights
Brian Bowles vs. Damacio Page (UFC on Versus 3)
Brian Bowles makes his long-awaited return to the cage after missing nearly a year with various injuries with his hands and feet. In his return, Bowles gets a chance to prove that his first meeting with the savage Damacio Page wasn't a fluke.
Page has evolved somewhat since the first meeting, becoming a more well-rounded fighter as opposed to being a brawler on a head-hunting mission, which cost him the win last time out.
While Page will likely get the cardio doubts due to his last fight, it should be Bowles under the microscope this time around after missing a lot of time from the cage.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Reuben Duran (UFC on Versus 3)
It's official, Takeya Mizugaki is a zombie. After being choked to death by Urijah Faber, Mizugaki looks to reestablish his spot among the top 10 with a victory over UFC newcomer Reuben Duran. With his opponent's skill set, Mizugaki will likely rock the same plan as always, which is to box until the takedown presents itself.
Pressure, pressure, pressure! Mizugaki is a very calculated opponent, and that's why it's essential for Duran to come in with relentless pressure and make Mizugaki think on the fly. Duran has nothing to lose as he's flying under many radars, so his explosive style may shock many people and catapult him into the mix of blossoming division.
Urijah Faber vs. Eddie Wineland (UFC 128)
Although these rankings currently list Brad Pickett as the No. 1 contender, the UFC 128 co-main event between Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland will likely generate the next contender for Dominic Cruz's belt.
Faber made a big splash in the division by choking out former title contender Mizugaki into a realm of unconsciousness in his very first fight in the bantamweight division. With the division being so shallow, in addition to his name value, Faber is likely one win out from a title shot and rematch with long-time nemesis Cruz.
Wineland is looking to spoil Faber's quest and earn his long-awaited chance to regain what was once his. Having a record of 4-1 in his last five, Wineland is looking to steal Faber's thunder with his highly accurate, yet somehow underrated striking.
He had better hope he is shoring up his submission defense as that is the kink to his armor and the razor sharp edge to Faber's blade.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian Loveland (UFC 128)
With his two lone losses coming from current UFC champion Dominic Cruz, it's a general consensus that Joseph Benavidez is the No. 2 bantamweight in the world in terms of power ranks. However, since those losses came to the current champ, it's highly unlikely that another title shot will be coming any time soon.
That being said, a win will keep him among the rest of the title contenders, so that if Cruz loses anytime soon, Benavidez will be right there at the top in line for the shot.
Now, as for Ian Loveland, it's your time to shine! Although he already earned his first UFC victory in his debut with quick combinations and relentless ground-and-pound, he's still flying under the radar. However, his balls-to-the-wall style will get him some attention, especially against a high-caliber fighter such as Benavidez.
Noteworthy- Wagnney Fabiano (14-3) & Norifumi Yamamoto (18-4-0-1)
10- Charlie Valencia (12-6)
9- Takeya Mizugaki (13-5-3)
8- Scott Jorgensen (11-4)
7- Demetrious Johnson (9-1)
6- Eddie Wineland (18-6-1)
5- Urijah Faber (24-4)
4- Brian Bowles (8-1)
3- Miguel Torres (38-3)
2- Joseph Benavidez (13-2)
1- Brad Pickett (20-5)
Champion- Dominic Cruz (17-1)