The 411 MMA Top 10 09.30.13: Top 10 Bantamweights
Posted by Alex Rella on 09.30.2013
From Ronda Rousey, Miguel Torres and Renan Barao to Dominick Cruz, Eddie Wineland and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 bantamweight fighters of all time!
Top Ten Bantamweights of All Time
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the top ten bantamweights of all time. Last week I said I was going to do Sean Sherk's top ten this week, but I just didn't have enough time to watch his fights again so I'll just do that in a few weeks. Last week Renan Barao defended his UFC title against Eddie Wineland, so this week the men and women at 135 lbs get the spotlight. This is the last weight class I'll do an all time list for and at first I thought it was too shallow, but bantamweight has had some great fighters over the years and they keep getting better especially with the emergence of women's MMA. This week's list is based on records, championship reigns, title shots, performance against top competition, influence on MMA, and a little of my personal opinion. Please keep in mind this is an all time list and only based on the time the fighter spent competing at 135 lbs.
10: Brian Bowles
Brian Bowles starts the list off as he gets the edge over Bibiano Fernandes. Things haven't been going too well for Brian Bowles lately. He disappeared for eighteen months after losing to Urijah Faber in a number one contender fight at UFC 139. He returned at UFC 160 to lose to George Roop on the Facebook prelims. To make things even worse, his T/E Ratio was 20:1 after the fight. Before all this, Brian Bowles was one of the best bantamweights in the world. A former high school wrestler, Bowles was introduced to MMA by a former teammate and he won his first seven fights. After four victories in the WEC, Bowles earned a title shot against Miguel Torres at WEC 42. Bowles picked up the Knockout of the Night as he ended Torres' nice title reign and his seventeen fight winning streak. Bowles would lose the title in his next fight against Dominick Cruz as he broke his hand in the second round. He has only been 2-2 since losing the title. Hopefully Bowles can get his testosterone back on par and return to being a top fighter.
9: Joseph Benavidez
A longtime member of Team Alpha Male, Joseph Benavidez is the current UFC number one contender at flyweight and he has really earned his rematch with Mighty Mouse. But before Benavidez was a top guy at 125 lbs, he was one of the best bantamweights for years. In fact, he only lost twice at 135 lbs and both times were against Dominick Cruz. Benavidez would have likely won gold if it wasn't for Cruz. He's picked up big wins over Jeff Curran, Rani Yahya, Eddie Wineland, and Miguel Torres. Maybe Benavidez will move back up to bantamweight if he loses another title fight at flyweight.
8: Miesha Tate
Miesha Tate is the first female fighter on this week's list as she comes in at the eight spot. Tate made her MMA debut back in 2007, Strikeforce debut in 2008, and by 2010 she was one of the best female fighters in the world. She would submit Zoila Gurgel and earn a title shot after winning Strikeforce's one night four woman tournament. Tate submitted Marloes Coenen to win Strikeforce's bantamweight title, but would get submitted herself when she faced Ronda Rousey the next year. Tate rebounded with a hard fought victory over Julie Kedzie. She is currently coaching TUF to build up to her rematch with Rousey at the end of the year at UFC 158.
7: Sarah Kaufman
And a second lady makes an appearance this week as Sarah Kaufman is one of the greatest bantamweights of all time. Some of you may not know that much about Kaufman other than she lost to Ronda Rousey, but she's quite good and her UFC debut is one I'm really looking forward to. Kaufman (27) has a 16-2 record and has been fighting since 2006. Kaufman became Strikeforce's first women's bantamweight champion in 2010 when she defeated Takayo Hashi by unanimous decision and she would defend her title once against current TUF competitor Roxanne Modafferi. She won that one with a really nice slam in the third round. Marlos Coenen would defeat her for the title at the end of 2010, but Kaufman would rebound with three straight wins to get another chance at the title. Rousey submitted Kaufman pretty quickly, but Kaufman still has wins over top female fighters like Alexis Davis 2x, Shayna Baszler, Liz Carmouche, and Miesha Tate. She'll make her UFC debut next month against Jessica Eye who is pretty good herself so I expect a good fight.
6: Eddie Wineland
Eddie Wineland was on the wrong end of an awesome spinning back kick last week, but he's still been good enough to make the top bantamweight list. Wineland has used his great boxing and takedown defense over the past ten years to amass a 20-9-1 record. During this time, Wineland has consistently been one of the best bantamweights in the world and in 2006 he became the inaugural WEC champion at 135 lbs. He would never successfully defend the title, but he does have wins over George Roop, Scott Jorgensen, and Brad Pickett. I don't see Wineland getting another title shot, but he should be a top ten bantamweight for the rest of his career.
5: Urijah Faber
Yea the California Kid makes an appearance this week. Urijah Faber spent the first six years of his career competing at featherweight. His years at 145 lbs were clearly his best as he was a great WEC featherweight champion that defended his title five times. After he was unable to reclaim his title from Mike Brown or Jose Aldo, Faber made the move down to 135 lbs at the end of 2010. A two time UFC number one contender, Faber has gone 6-2 since then with wins over Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, Eddie Wineland, and Brian Bowles. Faber has a huge fight coming up with Michael McDonald which could have title implications depending on when Dominick Cruz returns.
I admit I was a little torn on where to rank Rousey this week. She may go down as one of the most historically significant fighters in the history of the UFC and MMA in general, but shes only fought three times at bantamweight. She beat Tate for the title in her 135 lb debut, defended it against former champion Sarah Kaufman, and made her UFC debut submitting Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157. Some of MMA's other leading ladies argue that they have contributed just as much to women's MMA as Rousey, but she's the reason they're in the UFC today. Her personality, looks, and dominance are the reason the ladies of MMA are all getting the attention and opportunities they deserve. Without Rousey, the women would not be showcased on TUF every week. Nor would they have the potential to earn top money in the UFC. Maybe four is a little high based on her limited fights, but you can't deny her impact on the sport.
3: Miguel Torres
I personally think Miguel Torres is a tool, but he was the first truly great bantamweight to compete in MMA. From 2000 until 2009, Torres and his mullet were close to untouchable racking up a 37-1 record and almost all of these fights were in Indiana. He made his WEC debut in 2007 and defeated Chase Beebe for the bantamweight title in only his second fight with the company. Torres became one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world as he defended the title three times before getting knocked out and losing the title to Brian Bowles. He finished up his WEC/UFC run going 3-3 and was cut after getting viciously knocked out by Michael McDonald. He's currently signed with WSOF and there have been rumors of an eventual fight with Tyson Nam. I doubt he'll come close to being a top fighter again, but he has a very good 40-6 record and is still a nice fighter for the WSOF to have on the roster.
2: Renan Barao
At this point Renan Barao is the real UFC bantamweight champion and the best active fighter in the world at 135 lbs. Barao hasn't lost since his MMA debut eight years and thirty two fights ago. He went 2-0 in the WEC, but his UFC run has been nothing short of awesome. He has wins over former WEC featherweight champ Cole Escovedo, Brad Pickett, and former number one contender Scott Jorgensen. Then at UFC 149 he stepped in for Dominick Cruz to take on Urijah Faber for the interim title. Barao won by unanimous decision and has since defended it twice against Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland. Barao will either take on Dominick Cruz or the winner of Faber/McDonald next.
1: Dominick Cruz
Dominick Cruz is one of the best fighters in the world, but unfortunately he hasn't fought since 2011. Knee injuries have kept him out of action and it's a real shame that he's missing some of his prime fighting years. Undefeated at lightweight and a number one contender at featherweight, Cruz made his bantamweight debut at WEC 34 when he defeated Charlie Valencia. He beat Ian McCall, Ivan Lopez, and Joseph Benavidez on his way to the title. Cruz defeated Brian Bowles for the WEC title at WEC 47 and defended it against Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen before coming over to the UFC. He avenged his loss against Faber at UFC 132 in one of the best bantamweight fights ever and later defended his title against Mighty Mouse. He was supposed to finish his trilogy with Faber, but then the knee injury happened. Cruz is supposed to return early 2014 and an immediate fight with interim champion Renan Barao wont be an easy one.
So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter out that you thought should be in the top 10.
As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
Next week will be the top ten bantamweight title fights.