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State of the Bantamweight Division: Cruz-Faber III?

Vinny Craig

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With the UFC’s Bantamweight division seeing its former champ Dominick Cruz regain the belt, the divisions young up and comers now get to throw themselves inside an ever growing contender pool. The division is not much different now with Dillashaw essentially only defending his belt against one person in Renan Barao.  With that, the division shakes up like this now

Champion

Dominick Cruz

The new/former champion Cruz had a performance like we’re used to seeing from him. He moved and stuck Dillashaw for the entire five rounds en route to the most Significant Strikes he has ever landed with 112, but also got hit the most we’ve ever seen from Cruz (109 Sig. Strikes for Dillashaw). The division is almost as he left it with guys like Faber and Assuncao near the top, but a more solid three through nine guys will make this a great time to be the champ.

 

 

Next-In-Line

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Urijah Faber

The two-time title challenger is probably at it again. All signs point to the 36-year-old Team Alpha Male guy fighting the champ next if the times align. Faber has a rib injury and Cruz has a hurt foot, meaning both could be ready at the same time. If the fight does not come to fruition, a title-eliminator with Dillashaw or a Raphael Assuncao in the meantime would put more weight on the future fight. With three straight 135 wins, the title that has eluded him so many times could finally be his.

 

TJ Dillashaw

We have seen in so many situations that a rematch was not warranted, happen anyway. Dillashaw fought the fight and took the card of one judge and many media members. A rematch is usually not the best situation, but with so many guys just on-the-edge of a title shot a rematch would, at least, make sense at this point. If Cruz is out extensively with a foot injury, a title-eliminator with Faber or a rematch with Assuncao could be in the works.

 

The Present

Raphael Assuncao

A lot of new fans don’t have a clue who Assuncao guy is. A winner of seven straight with big names, Assuncao has been linked with title fights and title eliminator bouts since being injured after UFC Fight Night 54. Assuncao has been out with a broken ankle and symptoms arising from that since that time and isn’t in the immediate plans. He beat the former champ Dillashaw by Split-Decision at UFC Fight Night 29. Fights with either Faber, Dillashaw or Cruz should be awaiting him when he comes back.

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Bryan Caraway

Despite losing two fights ago, this division needs a guy like Bryan Caraway in the mix. A very talented guy who picked up a win over Eddie Wineland in his last fight, Caraway has seen tough competition since joining the UFC ranks. It may take bigger wins and more of them for Caraway to be considered right there, but he’s definitely in the mix.

Aljamain Sterling

Disclaimer, we don’t even know if this guy is going to be in the UFC. If he is, the young Serra-Longo product has been on a roll with four straight wins with the last three by stoppage. Big fights with guys like Assuncao, Michael McDonald and Thomas Almeida have come up and any of those would be fights of relevance to get him to the title.

 

The Future

Thomas Almeida

A young prolific striker is always someone the fight game needs. With four straight UFC wins and an undefeated record overall, Almeida is making his way through the division. With no big name wins on his resume yet, it’s hard to justify a higher looking fight. At just 24 years old, the sky is the limit with the talent of this rising star. Fights with anyone in the top 10 would go a long way for Almeida in this relatively light division.

Michael McDonald

It’s crazy to think that McDonald has already fought for an Interim title and eight UFC fights at just 25. He is 6-2 in the UFC with the losses coming at the hands of Renan Barao (for the Interim title) and Urijah Faber. With two years between his last fights, McDonald just needs to be active and win to get back to where he was. Fights with Almeida, Sterling or anyone inside the top 10 would be where he should go next.

 

 

Long Shot

Renan Barao

Despite being the Interim and undisputed champ just a year and a half ago, two losses to Dillashaw have put Barao into a state of no return. After his last loss to Dillashaw, a rumored move to 145 has surfaced with no real look at where he is exactly. Despite a unification bout between him and Cruz being scheduled already before, Barao is far removed from that position.

 

Worth a Mention

*I have made a new category for this guy alone because he needs to be mentioned, but doesn’t fit anywhere else

John Dodson

After his second title loss at Flyweight, John Dodson has decided to move up the 135 where he won The Ultimate Fighter over the former champ Dillashaw. With five Flyweight wins and the only two losses coming to the champ Demetrius Johnson, Dodson is extremely talented and should she a power surge up one division. He’ll be giving up a ton of size and reach, but will have a speed advantage.

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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