The flyweight problem in the UFC

The UFC on FOX 8 takes place this Saturday and the buzz isn’t quite there for this card like it has been for previous UFC on FOX cards.

That’s not to say there aren’t great fights – there are.

But, the UFC seems to have an issue in drawing interest in one of their most exciting divisions.

For the second time on FOX, the card will be headline by the flyweight division (125 pounds).

If you simply watch the UFC for fights, then this is no issue for you. The flyweight division provides plenty of excitement, and while the fights usually go the distance, but push a fast pace the entire time.

But, if you are FOX, or even if you are UFC brass concerned about ratings, the flyweights probably aren’t the ideal.

It would be easier for the UFC to market this card on the co-main event of Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger than it is to market it on Johnson for John Moraga. I am going to guess many casual UFC fans don’t even know who Moraga is.

There is a reason that the flyweights have yet to main event a UFC PPV card. It is because the UFC can’t sell tickets on a flyweight bout. It’s not even very often that a flyweight bout has been part of a UFC PPV main card at all.

What the UFC really needs is one of two things. They need a legendary fight to come from Johnson vs. Moraga or they need an amazing highlight-reel finish.

If Johnson and Moraga put on a legendary fight, something along the lines of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, it allows the UFC to market the two in a similar way and create some buzz for the division. People will want to see both men fight again, either against each other or against new opponents.

If that can’t happen, the UFC needs someone to emerge as the clear start of the division. To do that, the organization needs an incredible knockout or submission finish in the fight.

The reason Anderson Silva and Jon Jones draw like they do is because they can do some amazing things in the cage and people want to see that. If a flyweight can establish himself as a star, it will give the UFC the ability to market them as a PPV main event.

UFC pound-for-pound rankings

Image ALT text goes here.It has been a while since a pound-for-pound rankings has been done on this site, but there is no time like the present. Here we go:

1. Anderson Silva (33-4) – Silva is still the pound-for-pound king due to his dominance in the middleweight division and his ability to finish his opponents.

2. Jon Jones (18-1) – I put Jones ahead of GSP because Jones really hasn’t lost yet. His one loss was a DQ where he essentially finished his opponent. Jones has shown well-rounded skills, winning with strikers, submissions and wrestling. He has truly dominated a division that was stacked a few years ago, the 205-pound division.

3. Georges St. Pierre (24-2) – St. Pierre has been on top of the 170-pound division for five years now, but his inability to finish opponents has gotten tiresome. St. Pierre has great wrestling and striking, but he doesn’t have the finishing ability of the top two on this list.

4. Jose Aldo (22-1) – Aldo can start making an argument to move up this list if he beats Anthony Pettis later this year. A win there may earn him a lightweight title fight. Aldo has tremendous striking, but he has shown the ability to fatigue over 25 minutes. That could be a problem as he starts fighting elite-level fighters.

5. Cain Velasquez (11-1) – The heavyweight champion is very light on his feet and he pushes a pace that can’t be matched in the division. He may not be the top striker, but that didn’t matter against Junior Dos Santos, as he constantly forced JDS to use energy. Velasquez never tired, but JDS did quickly.

6. Benson Henderson (19-2) – Henderson has some great skills, but he also isn’t overwhelmingly winning his recent fights. He isn’t losing them either, but his razor-thin decisions hurt his ranking on this list.

7. Renan Barao (30-1) – Barao doesn’t get a lot of credit for being as impressive as he has been. He is arguably the bantamweight champion, since Dominick Cruz has been out for so long. Sure the 135-pound division isn’t filled with a lot of big-name talent, but Barao has dominated all of the would-be contenders, including Urijah Faber. Barao hasn’t lost since 2005 and has 20 finishes since that time.

8. Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1) – Johnson is the fastest fighter in the UFC and he has great wrestling and conditioning. The 125-pound division doesn’t have a lot of superstars yet, but Johnson is the king of that hill and has looked impressive on top.

9. Gilbert Melendez (21-3) – Melendez gave a good accounting for himself in his UFC debut, nearly beating Henderson for the lightweight title. After a lengthy run as champion in Strikeforce’s lightweight division, Melendez looks to be a real force in the UFC’s 155-pound division.

10. Johny Hendricks (15-1) – Hendricks doesn’t have the look of a dominant MMA star, but he keeps beating the big names that get thrown before him. A great wrestler already, Hendricks has developed the most powerful hands in the welterweight division and he has now cleared out the division, leaving himself and St. Pierre on top. The two will meet later this year and that should be an epic fight.

UFC 152 Results & Recap – Jones subs Belfort

nullJon Jones maintained his hold on the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on Saturday with a fourth-round submission win over Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC 152.

Jones came into the fight as the heavy favorite and he dominated most of the fight. Jones did nearly get caught in an armbar in the early going, but escaped and controlled the fight from there. Jones used his grappling and elbows to bloody up Belfort, and in the fourth round, caught the challenger in an Americana for the victory.

Belfort deserves credit for his effort and taking the fight on short notice in a bigger weight class, but Jones is just the better man.

With Dan Henderson dealing with his injury, there is no clear contender for Jones in the 205-pound division. That champion is becoming as dominant in his class as Anderson Silva is at 185 pounds.

In the co-main event, Demetrious Johnson won the first ever UFC Flyweight Championship with a decision victory over Joseph Benavidez.

The fight had a fast pace and was very competitive, as expected. The difference in the bout was the array of leg kicks that Johnson landed on Benavidez. The kicks slowly wore down Benavidez and allowed Johnson to control the pace. Benavidez still did enough to earn the victory on one of the scorecards, but Johnson was the victor on the other two cards, and in the eyes of most of the fans.

Johnson now is the first 125-pound champion in the UFC. It will be interesting to see how this division grows in the near future with a thin roster of talent in the weight class.

In another big bout, middleweight Michael Bisping defeated Brian Stann by decision to improve his ranking in the 185-pound class.

Bisping was able to out-point Stann with his technical striking and wrestling ability. Bisping actually utilized some nice takedowns in the latter stages of the fight to neutralize Stann.

Looking at Bisping, his resume is pretty strong and it appears he deserves a title shot. He has never been given a crack at the gold but has steadily been near the top of the division for years.

Check out the full results after the jump.

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UFC on Versus 6 Preview: Johnson vs. Cruz

nullThe main event of UFC on Versus 6 is for the UFC Bantamweight Championship with Dominick Cruz defending his UFC title for the second time against Demetrious Johnson.

The fight is a rare championship bout on free television, as the card airs on Versus this Saturday at 9PM ET.

Here is a look at both fighters heading into this title bout.

Dominick Cruz (18-1): The bantamweight champion is coming off his toughest fight to date, a unanimous decision win over Urijah Faber at UFC 132 back in July. The fight was exciting and very competitive, but allowed the champ to avenge his lone loss in his career. Cruz’ style is very difficult to prepare for as he uses very elusive footwork to work in a combination of punches and kicks and then get out of danger. He also has a very explosive wrestling background, which he tends to use late in rounds to secure 10 points with the judges. Cruz has shown the ability to take a punch when hit, and stuff opponents takedowns with great ease.

Demetrious Johnson (9-1) – Johnson has quickly surged up the bantamweight rankings, winning his last four fights in the Zuffa Organization since losing his debut with the brand to Brad Pickett back in April of 2010. His win streak has included the likes of Damacio Page, Kid Yamamoto, and Miguel Torres. Johnson has a strong wrestling base that has worked to his advantage, as he has been able to keep opponents on their back. While he has some good striking, he has a very short reach and probably will struggle to land clean strikes on the mobile champion. Johnson’s best bet to win will be to get Cruz against the cage and use his strength to force him to the ground. The more this fight is fought with distance, the worse his chances are.

Who will win? – I think Johnson has some promise, but this is not a good matchup for him and I am not quite sure he is ready for a title shot. He has not beaten any of the top four bantamweights in Cruz, Faber, Joseph Benavidez, or Brian Bowles. This is a big step up in competition and the fight is on a big stage. I see Cruz controlling the fight with his style and winning by decision once again.

Cruz vs. Johnson title fight to headline UFC on Versus 6

nullThe UFC will air its first live title fight in the history of the organization.

According to NBCSports.com’s Ariel Helwani, the UFC will have Dominick Cruz defending his UFC bantamweight championship against Demetrious Johnson at UFC Live on Versus 6, which will take place from the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Oct. 1.

There was much speculation about who would be next up for Cruz following his hard-fought decision win over Urijah Faber at UFC 132. Many felt Brian Bowles was in line to get a rematch, but it appears the UFC felt otherwise.

Johnson (9-1) has won four straight, including a decision win over Miguel Torres at UFC 130. His short size and speed could pose a problem for Cruz, who relies on his movement to win fights.

The UFC once aired a light heavyweight title fight between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Dan Henderson on free television, but that was on tape delay. This will be the first live on TV title fight in UFC history.

With this fight announced, the UFC will be putting on four title fights in the month of October with Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard and Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian taking place on Oct. 8 and Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz taking place on Oct. 29. It should be quite a month of fights.

Top 10 Bantamweight Rankings

nullUFC 132 established who the top bantamweight in the world is.

The rankings haven’t changed too much in the last few months, but here is the latest top 10 in the 135-pound division.

1. Dominick Cruz (18-1) – Cruz (AP Photo) avenged his only loss in the division by taking a decision win over Urijah Faber. Cruz controlled the style and pacing of the fight and landed a lot more strikes. The bout was close, but Faber didn’t show me much to think he deserved to get the title.

2. Urijah Faber (25-5) – Faber gave Cruz the toughest fight he has to date in the division. He landed a few big punches and avoided the takedowns of Cruz. Faber proved he still has something left in the tank, but he needs to make some adjustments to beat Cruz. It will be interesting to see who is next for “The California Kid.”

3. Joseph Benavidez (14-2) – Benavidez has been relatively quiet as of late as he hasn’t fought since UFC 128, but he will take on Eddie Wineland at UFC Live 5. Benavidez has been in a tough spot as his teammate, Faber, has been contending for the title. Benavidez now has a chance to get back into the spotlight, but he needs an impressive showing.

4. Brian Bowles (10-1) – Bowles has earned a rematch for his title as he has two solid wins since coming back from his injury. Bowles lost to Cruz because of a broken hand, not because he was clearly beaten by the champion, so there is some question as to what he could do against Cruz. Given the way he lost the title, I think he deserves the next shot at it.

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Who should get the next shot at Dominick Cruz?

nullAs always, after a champion defends his title, the question is always: who is next?

Dominick Cruz won a very close decision over Urijah Faber at UFC 132, but the fight was close enough to warrant Faber some discussion of an immediate rematch.

But, if not Faber next, then who deserves the shot?

Here is a look at four possible candidates.

1. Urijah Faber – Faber gave Cruz the toughest fight he has had at bantamweight, even tougher than his teammate Joseph Benavidez. Faber has the quickness to match Cruz, but he still wasn’t able to force Cruz out of his style. He was out-struck and to a degree, out-wrestled. It is hard to see Faber winning without a KO against Cruz. Faber has also lost his last four title fights and one has to wonder if he deserves an immediate rematch with a 4-4 record in his last eight fights.

2. Brian Bowles – Bowles is 10-1 in his career with his lone loss coming against Cruz after 10 minutes. Bowles wasn’t stopped by Cruz, he simply broke his hand. Bowles was getting beat at that point in the fight, but still, it wasn’t decisive. Bowles had a year off after the loss to Cruz due to the injury, but he has bounced back with two-straight wins. Considering the way he lost the belt, he probably deserves some strong consideration for a rematch with Cruz.

3. Demetrious Johnson – Johnson has won four straight fights in the division, including wins over “Kid” Yamamoto and Miguel Torres. The small and scrappy wrestler may struggle with the movement of Cruz, but he appears to have some athleticism to maybe pose a challenge to the champion.

4. Brad Pickett – Picket is the lone loss for Johnson, but he has been largely inactive due to injuries. He lost a tough decision to Scott Jorgensen last August, but rebounded with a win over Ivan Menjivar. Pickett is a scrapper that has some good hands and good wrestling. Pickett would certainly bring the fight to Cruz, but he hasn’t been in the public eye much and has actually yet to fight in the UFC.

A few thoughts from UFC 130

nullWell, UFC 130 is in the books.

The PPV was a little uneventful but still had plenty of intriguing storylines emerge. Here are some thoughts I took away from Saturday’s event.

- Rampage had a solid performance despite what the fans thought – The main event might have had a number of boos surround it, but I thought that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had a solid performance against Matt Hamill. You have to consider a few things. First, Rampage had a fractured hand coming into the bout and still peppered Hamill with some big punches that didn’t manage to send him down. Second, Rampage stuffed each and every takedown attempt Hamill had with ease. To me, Rampage looked about as good as I have ever seen him and I think a healthy Rampage that shows that kind of takedown defense could pose a real threat to Jon Jones, if he is indeed the next in line for a title fight.

- Roy Nelson really needs to do something with himself – In the co-main event, Frank Mir had little difficulty winning a decision over Roy Nelson. Mir simply had to survive the opening five minutes and then Nelson could barely breathe for the final two rounds. Nelson has the talent to be a real impressive fighter. He has the ground skills and the punching power to contend with anyone, but his lack of conditioning and his desire to stick with his obese physique is hampering his career. I would like to see Nelson commit to losing weight and see where that takes him. Maybe he fights as a smaller heavyweight, or maybe he can even cut down to light heavyweight. The window for him to succeed is closing, and the blueprint for beating him is out there. It is only a matter of time before his UFC run ends because he fails to commit to change.

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A look at the UFC 130 prelims

nullWith the recent addition of the WEC roster, the UFC now has stacked Pay-Per-View cards from top-to-bottom.

That includes the prelims, which now typically includes a few fights that are worthy of being on the PPV broadcast, but don’t quite make the cut.

At UFC 130, to top bantamweights collide as Miguel Torres (39-3) faces Demetrious Johnson (8-1). The winner of this fight immediately jumps into the top-5 contender status. Torres may already be there and there are plenty of exciting fights for him. Johnson is on the rise after beating “Kid” Yamamoto in his UFC debut back at UFC 126. Torres is now training at Tri-Star Gym in Montreal and his style has changed. He isn’t quite the reckless fighter he was before, but now he is taking criticism for being too cautious. Johnson will look to get inside the long reach of Torres and score takedowns to work his way for a victory on the ground.

Another featured prelim is a middleweight contest between Kendall Grove (12-8) and Tim Boetsch (12-4). Boetsch is making his middleweight debut and both fighters may need a win in order to keep a job in the UFC. Boetsch will come in looking to strike with his powerful fists while Grove will look to get the fight to the ground or in the clinch where he can use his knees. The big question for this fight will be Boetsch ability to not get winded against Grove, who pushes a fast pace.

Other bouts on the prelim card include Renan Barao vs. Cole Escovedo in a bantamweight contest, Chris Cariaso vs. Michael McDonald in a bantamweight fight, and Gleison Tibau vs. Rafaello Oliveira in a lightweight clash.

Top 10 Bantamweight Rankings

nullAfter weeks of rankings, we have finally reached the bantamweights.

The 135-pound division is strong from top to bottom and filled with exciting fighters.

Here is a look at my top 10 bantamweights in MMA.

(If you need to go back and find my pound-for-pound, heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, or featherweight rankings, click on the links)

1. Dominick Cruz (17-1) – Cruz gets my top spot as he is the UFC champion and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Cruz’ style has been very tough for his opponents to figure out as he is constantly on the move. His striking is crisp and his wrestling goes very unrecognized and is really what allowed him to beat the likes of Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen.

2. Joseph Benavidez (14-2) – Benavidez could arguably be a flyweight but he still excels at 135 pounds. His explosive wrestling and striking have allowed him to beat the best in the division and a pair of decision losses to Cruz are the only black marks on his record. Benavidez is somewhat stuck in the shadows of teammate, Urijah Faber, who will get the next title fight and perhaps leave Benavidez without a place to go in the division.

3. Brian Bowles (9-1) – There is still a lot to be discovered with the former WEC champion. His lone loss was against Cruz, where he suffered a broken hand that stopped the fight. Bowles has big power and some good chokes. He gets Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 132, which should be a good test to see if he is ready to make another run at the title.

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