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UFC Bantamweight Division: Results, Ranking, History, Fighters to Watch

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UFC Bantamweight Division: Results, Ranking, History, Fighters to Watch

The UFC bantamweight division is widely considered as one of the UFC's best divisions. Boasting megastars like “Suga” Sean O’Malley, the weight class showcases a thrilling blend of speed, technique, and diversity. 

With a history of dynamic title changes, fierce rivalries, and exciting matchups, the division continues to captivate fans and showcase the full spectrum of martial arts skills. Known for its unpredictability, the UFC bantamweight division consistently delivers edge-of-the-seat entertainment, making it a must-watch for MMA enthusiasts.

In this article, we will dive into the complete history of the division, fighters to watch this upcoming year, and much more.

UFC Bantamweight Division Explained

The UFC bantamweight division, where fighters weighing 135 pounds on the scales compete, stands as a testament to the organization's commitment to showcasing talent across all weight classes. 

Bantamweight fights, much like other lighter weight classes, showcase lightning-fast exchanges, intricate footwork, and a diverse range of martial arts disciplines.

Over the years, the bantamweight division has transitioned from being perceived as an overlooked weight class to becoming one of the most high-profile and competitive divisions in the UFC. The division faced skepticism when it was initially introduced in 2011, but it quickly proved its worth with thrilling performances and a roster stacked with world-class talent.

The dynamic nature of bantamweight fights ensures that fans are treated to a fast-paced, action-packed spectacle each time these athletes enter the cage. The fighters in this division often possess a combination of knockout power, slick submissions, and the endurance to maintain a relentless pace for the entire fight.

Recent years have seen the emergence of new stars like Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and current UFC Bantamweight Champion Sean O’Malley, adding further intrigue and excitement to the division. These fighters have not only elevated the profile of the bantamweight division significantly, but have also drawn attention to the technical brilliance and entertainment value that this weight class consistently delivers. 

With a mix of established contenders and new rising stars, the bantamweight division continues to capture the attention of MMA enthusiasts, solidifying its place as a cornerstone of the UFC.

Recent UFC Bantamweight Results

Most recently at UFC 299, “Suga” Sean O'Malley absolutely dominated Chito Vera in a five-round fight. While Vera got the better of O'Malley in their first matchup in 2020, he had no answer for O'malley's offense in this rematch. 

Also recently Petr Yan produced an impressive win over Song Yadong during that same 299 card. With that win, Yan he reasserted himself as a force to be reckoned with among the division's elite. 

Upcoming UFC Bantamweight Fights

Upcoming at UFC 301, MMA legend Jose Aldo makes his return to the bantamweight division, after not having fought since August 2022. While Also was thought to have been retired, he seems to have been itching to return — and what better place to do so than his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?

Aldo will be facing off against a very tough, up and coming opponent on Jonathan Martinez.

Current UFC Bantamweight Champion

Current UFC Bantamweight Champion “Suga” Sean O’Malley can be described as many things. Flamboyant, dynamic, unique, even Mcgregor-esque, but most certainly remarkable, especially when talking about his rise to stardom. 

Nicknamed “Suga,” the vibrant haired and tattooed O'Malley has a fighting style as distinctive as his colorful appearance. Standing exceptionally tall for the bantamweight division at 5ft 11in, he possesses a slender frame that he uses in his rangy kickboxing approach to striking, which has led to an impressive seven knockouts in the UFC to date.

O'Malley burst onto the UFC scene in 2017, securing a contract on Dana White's Contender Series with a dazzling knockout that not only caught the attention of UFC president Dana White, but even the globally recognizable Snoop Dogg who was in attendance. 

Since then, he has become a fan favorite, captivating audiences with his unorthodox techniques and highlight-reel finishes. His striking game is characterized by fluidity, precision, and a diverse range of kicks, making him an ever present threat to all in the bantamweight division.

Notable among his victories is a spectacular knockout against Eddie Wineland, and of course his most recent performance: a second round knockout of Aljamain Sterling to claim the UFC bantamweight title, demonstrating his ability to seize the spotlight in high-stakes matchups. 

With both the promotion and fans behind him, newly crowned champion Sean O'Malley stands as a promising and marketable superstar. He injects even more excitement and anticipation into the UFC bantamweight division, ensuring that the “Suga” show remains a can’t miss event for all MMA fans globally.

Current UFC Bantamweight Division Rankings

The current UFC bantamweight rankings as of February 2024 are:

   (C) – Sean O’ Malley

  1. Merab Dvalishvili
  2. Cory Sandhagen
  3. Petr Yan
  4. Marlon Vera
  5. Henry Cejudo
  6. Deiveson Figueiredo
  7. Song Yadong
  8. Rob Font
  9. Umar Nurmagomedov
  10. Kyler Phillips
  11. Dominick Cruz
  12. Mario Bautista
  13. Jonathan Martinez
  14. Pedro Munhoz
  15. Ricky Simon

These division rankings are of importance in determining the next challengers for the champion, as well as giving guidelines to matchmakers in making the most exciting and important fights for the division. 

Rankings also allows fighters to know where they stand within the company, and be able to plan their path to the top of the division. Fighters often call out one another in order to move up the rankings too, and when two ranked opponents face each other, it adds even higher stakes to a bout.

UFC Bantamweight Fighters to Watch

Merab Dvalishvili

Nicknamed “The Machine” Georgian powerhouse Merab Dvalishvili is most certainly a fighter to watch in this red hot UFC bantamweight division. Known for the non-stop relentless pace he puts on his opponents, Merab comes from a freestyle wrestling background which he puts on full display in all his fights. 

Most notably, he did so in his 2023 bout against former UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan where the Georgian attempted 49 takedowns across 25 minutes. The number one ranked fighter in the bantamweight division is coming off an impressive win over former double champ Henry Cejudo at UFC 298, and looks to be next in line for a title shot.

Cory Sandhagen

Enter “Sandman”, Cory Sandhagen is a dynamic force in the UFC's bantamweight division and has been since his UFC debut in 2018. With a background in kickboxing, Sandhagen’s unique kickboxing based style combines precision with unpredictability, making him a difficult puzzle for his opponents. 

Known for his highlight-reel knockouts, such as his devastating 2021 flying knee knockout over former champ Frankie Edgar, and slick submissions like his 2019 armbar over currently ranked Mario Bautista, Sandhagen has showcased why he is one of the very top fighters in this division. Riding a three-fight win streak, with all wins being over ranked competition, Sandhagen is looking to make a big splash in 2024.

Umar Nurmagomedov

The Nurmagomedov name is mixed martial arts royalty, with father Abdulmanap fostering UFC all time great Khabib Nurmagomedov and current UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev. Also hailing from Dagestan is 16-0 undefeated UFC bantamweight Umar Nurmagomedov, cousin of Khabib and hailed by many as the best of all the Nurmagomedov’s. 

With a perfect blend of grappling dominance and striking finesse, Umar has already showcased his skills in dominant performances, including most recently his first round knockout of Raoni Barcelos. Umar Nurmagomedov's evolving skill set and the guidance of his esteemed lineage make him a compelling prospect in the division, suggesting a future filled with exciting challenges and potential championship contention.

History of UFC Bantamweight Division

The UFC bantamweight division has undergone a captivating evolution since its inception in the 2010’s, carving out a unique story in the mixed martial arts landscape. The division has produced some of the most thrilling and technically impressive battles in UFC history to date.

The journey of the bantamweight division began with its introduction on March 3, 2011, with Dominick Cruz and Uraijah Faber facing off for the inaugural title at UFC 132. Cruz emerged victorious, marking the beginning of his reign as the first UFC Bantamweight Champion. Cruz's elusive footwork and exceptional wrestling skills set him apart, making him a unique force in the division.

Cruz successfully defended his title for 4 years against the greatest flyweight of all time Demetrious Johnson and Urijah Faber for a second time. However, injuries plagued Cruz's career, leading to prolonged periods of inactivity and eventually him vacating the title in 2014. This created the opportunity for other contenders to rise to prominence in the division and the potential for the division to gain more popularity.

In 2014, at UFC 173, T.J. Dillashaw shocked the mixed martial arts world by dethroning 33 fight unbeaten interim Bantamweight Champ Renan Barão to become the new Bantamweight Champion. Dillashaw's performance showcased his crisp striking and relentless pace, earning him widespread recognition. He successfully defended his title against Barão in a rematch, and Joe Soto, before losing his title to former Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz in a razor close fight at UFC Fight Night 81.

The division saw another twist to the tale though as Dominick Cruz faced Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 in 2016. Garbrandt, known for his knockout power and unorthodox striking, delivered a masterful performance, ending Cruz's reign and becoming the new champion in what is widely regarded as one of the best performances in UFC title fight history. Garbrandt's victory marked a changing of the guard and set the stage for a new era in the division.

Garbrandt's title defense, however, was short-lived as he faced a formidable challenge from T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 217. Dillashaw reclaimed the Bantamweight Championship by stunning knockout, before defending in a rematch against Garbrandt and knocking him out again. 

Dillashaw's reign was halted short in 2019 however, when after failing to capture double champ status in a flyweight title bout loss to Henry Cejudo, Dillashaw tested positive for EPO, a banned performance enhancing substance, which led to him vacating his title immediately and being suspended from the sport for 2 years.

A new champion needed to be crowned with Dillashaw’s departure, and up stepped Henry Cejudo, moving up from Flyweight and looking to become a double champion against Marlon Moraes at UFC 237’S vacant title bout. After a tough first round, Cejudo displayed his resilience and versatility by securing a third round victory. The new Bantamweight Champion Cejudo became the fourth fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously. After defending against former champ Dominick Cruz, Cejudo retired from the sport, leaving the title vacant once again.

In 2020, new contender Petr Yan, known for his aggressive striking and well-rounded skills, faced former Featherweight Champ and all time great Jose Aldo for the vacant title at UFC 251. Yan's relentless pace and technical prowess earned him the championship, making him the latest addition to the list of bantamweight titleholders.

Yan was tasked with his first title defense in 2021 against top contender Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. The bout ended controversially with Yan disqualified for an illegal knee after dominating the latter rounds of the fight, leading to Sterling being crowned the new Bantamweight Champion.

Sterling would defend his title 3 times across the next 2 years against 3 former champions, before stepping up to face colorful young contender “Suga” Sean O’Malley. In the second round O’Malley would crack Sterling with a perfectly timed right hand, leading to the finish and O’Malley capturing the title.

As the bantamweight division moves forward, it continues to gain popularity and remains a hotbed of talent and intense competition. The ever-evolving list of titleholders and the introduction of new contenders ensure that the division stays at the forefront of the MMA landscape, and remains one of the hottest in the sport.

Common Bantamweight Division FAQs

Who Is the current UFC Bantamweight Champion?

The current UFC Bantamweight Champion is “Suga” Sean O’Malley. He captured the title against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292 in August 2023.

What Is the Weight Limit for the UFC Bantamweight Division?

The weight limit for the UFC bantamweight division is 135 pounds, with fighters being allowed to weigh in up to 136 pounds for non title fights.

When Was the First UFC Bantamweight Fight?

The first UFC bantamweight bout took place on December 10th 2010, with Will Campuzano and Nick Pace competing on the prelims of The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale card. Pace defeated Campuzano historically too, landing the first submission via pillory choke in UFC history.

Who Has the Most Wins at Bantamweight in UFC History?

Former Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling holds the record for the most wins in UFC bantamweight history with 14 wins.

How Many Bantamweight Fighters Are There in the UFC?

Currently as of February 2024, the UFC has 68 active bantamweight fighters.

Bren Gray is our resident Kiwi, and has been writing about sports since he could first string words together. He first fell in love with boxing when David Tua took on Lennox Lewis in 2000, and hasn't looked back since.