After TJ Dillashaw recently failed a drugs test and vacated the UFC bantamweight belt (putting serious doubt on the legacy of his career in the process), the question of who is the best bantamweight of all time is now a hot topic for the MMA community.
The agile Dominick Cruz, prizefighter Miguel Torres and Brazilian brawler Renan Barao are all in contention for the best bantamweight of all time.
DOMINICK CRUZ (22-2)
‘The Dominator’ is the two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion and the former WEC Bantamweight Champion. Beginning his career in 2005, the Alliance MMA athlete has been awesome to watch, winning a trilogy of fights against UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber as well as defending his title against Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson (arguably one of the sport’s greatest of all time).
With a hypnotising style full of feints and jabs, Cruz is one of the most dynamic and talented fighters on the roster. He particularly utilises the slide step to attack from lots of different angles. His career has suffered a series of setbacks from various injuries including tearing his ACL. Despite a career plagued by injury, Cruz would defeat TJ Dillashaw in one of his comeback fights to claim the 135 lbs title – a feat frequently described as the greatest comeback of all time in MMA history.
A well-respected television analyst, MMA fans can’t wait for Dominick Cruz to return to the Octagon. He recently confirmed with ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani that he expects to fight again in the final third of 2019. A rematch with Cody Garbrandt (currently on a losing streak) would be great to watch. With the division wide open, the timing couldn’t be better for Cruz to prove his dominance against the new young blood and reclaim his rightful belt.
MIGUEL TORRES (44-9)
Miguel Torres is the former WEC Bantamweight Champion. Fighting out of Tristar Gym and trained by Firas Zahabi, Torres was widely considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world during the heights of his career. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he also trained under Carlson Gracie Jr.
A well-rounded fighter with a distinctive mullet, Miguel Torres defended his WEC title three times. He also notably submitted former champ Chase Beebe via guillotine choke and defeated MMA veteran Antonio Banuelos on his UFC debut.
Torres fought across multiple promotions throughout his career and earned the title of Breakthrough Fighter of the Year in 2008. Although he has a fighting record of 8-4 in the UFC, at his peak Torres tore through the bantamweight division. His career somewhat declined after a surprise knockout loss to Michael McDonald although he did lose a contentious close decision fight to Demetrious Johnson. A lion-hearted fighter, he finally retired in 2017 but like many veterans probably should have retired far sooner.
RENAN BARAO (34-8)
‘The Baron’ is the former UFC Bantamweight Champion who also fought in the WEC Bantamweight division. Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado (to give him his full name) held one of the longest unbeaten runs in MMA history. After his debut loss, Barao went on a 31 fight win streak through the division.
The American Top Team fighter also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a training partner of MMA superstar and featherweight Jose Aldo. The Brazilian veteran holds significant victories over Urijah Faber (twice), Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett.
Lately, his career has been on a downward spiral kickstarted after two knockout losses to TJ Dillashaw. Admittedly, he did bounce back with a Performance of the Night submission over Mitch Gagnon via arm-triangle choke but Barao’s last victory came back in 2016. Nevertheless, his unbeaten tear through the bantamweight division shall never be forgotten by dedicated MMA fans.