UFC 132 helped produce the first big bantamweight bout in the history of the UFC, and more importantly one of the biggest bantamweight bouts ever. Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber helped bring attention to the newly formed featherweight and bantamweight divisions in the UFC.
Now that the lower divisions have been shined upon by two great bouts (Faber vs. Cruz and Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick at UFC 129) the remaining bouts this year should be more anticipated then ever before.
A lot of fights at the bantamweight and featherweight level are left this year, but only five make the list.
Which are the five best remaining fights this year?
Event: UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle
Leonard Garcia (15-7-1 MMA, 2-3 UFC)
Nine wins by submission, three by knockout, three by decision
Five losses by decision, two by submission
Alex Caceres (4-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Two wins by knockout, two by submission
Three losses by submission
Alex Caceres is coming off of a loss to Mackens Semerzier and is fighting for his UFC life in this bout. "Bruce Leeroy" as Caceres was dubbed, will have his back against the wall and that could bring out some deadly skills for this fight.
Leonard Garcia once fought for the WEC featherweight title and has racked up knockout victories over Hiroyuki Takaya and Jens Pulver. The one thing that sticks out to me though is Garcia's three "Fight of the Night" awards and the always interesting decision victories he ends up earning.
Event: UFC 133
Mike Brown (24-8 MMA, 0-3 UFC)
13 wins by submission, six by decision, five by knockout
Four losses by submission, two by knockout, two by decision
Nam Phan (16-8 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Seven wins by knockout, five by submission, four by decision
Five losses by decision, three by knockout
This should be a pretty interesting bout in my opinion. Brown is coming back from injury, and not only that, Brown is on a two-fight losing streak. Brown has beaten the likes of Mark Hominick, Leonard Garcia and has beaten Urijah Faber twice.
The former WEC featherweight champion will face TUF 12 veteran, Nam Phan who is coming off of a "Fight of the Night" loss to Leonard Garcia. Phan showed some really good striking in that bout and if Brown can showcase his old skills, it should make for one good fight.
Event: UFC 135
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto (18-4-0 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
13 wins by knockout, three by decision, two by submission
Three losses by decision, one by knockout
Damacio Page (15-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Eight wins by knockout, six by submission, one by decision
Five losses by submission, one by knockout
Both fighters are very entertaining and hold 21 total victories by knockout. Damacio Page is coming off of two straight losses to the top two contenders for the bantamweight title, Demetrious Johnson and Brian Bowles. Bowles has a staggering 14 wins by finishes out of a total of 15 career wins.
Yamamoto made a name for himself over in Japan but has career highlights that showcase just how awesome of a fighter he is. He is coming off of a loss to Johnson and if you don't believe me on how exciting he is, this Bleacher Report article on his career defining moments will help you shake that thought.
Event: UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle
Joseph Benavidez (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Eight wins by submission, three by knockout, three by decision
Two losses by decision
Eddie Wineland (18-7-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Nine wins by knockout, five by submission, three by decision
Four losses by submission, two by decision, one by knockout
Eddie Wineland is coming off of a loss to Urijah Faber at UFC 128, but he is a really exciting bantamweight fighter. Wineland holds 14 career wins by some sort of finish and nine of those were showcases of his great striking skills.
Wineland may be a former BMX athlete, but Wineland has found another strength in MMA becoming the first WEC bantamweight champion and holding two career "Knockout of the Night" awards.
Joseph Benavidez has two career losses and both of those come against the current bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz. One of those losses was by split decision for the bantamweight title. Benavidez has great ground skills and his striking is improving over at Team Alpha Male with fellow bantamweight, Urijah Faber, and top featherweight fighter, Chad Mendes.
Benavidez has one "Fight of the Night" award and one "Submission of the Night".
Event: UFC 133
Chad Mendes (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Six wins by decision, two by knockout, two by submission.
Rani Yahya (16-6 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
14 wins by submission, two by decision.
Three losses by decision, two by knockout, one by decision.
Chad Mendes was slated to fight Jose Aldo on this card but an injury to Aldo forced him off the card. Mendes now faces Rani Yahya who poses huge threats to Mendes' great ground game.
This fight should tell a lot about Mendes who is facing his toughest opponent on the ground. Mendes is risking a whole lot to fight Yahya and a win will separate him from the featherweight division and keep his title hopes alive.
Yahya could use another big name victory and Mendes might be that big name he needs to earn some more respect. Yahya is coming off a win against Mike Brown and now could put Mendes through a few submission attempts.
The title implications alone should make this entertaining to see if Mendes can keep the dream, and his unbeaten record, unscathed.