The long-awaited rubber match between bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and rival Urijah Faber is scheduled to go down on Saturday at UFC 199 in Inglewood, California. Cruz and Faber, who each hold a win over the other, will square off in the co-feature that will have Cruz’s championship on the line.
To help understand the pecking order in MMA’s 135-pound weight division, here’s a guide to the division with UFC fighters separated into tiers plus some of the top non-UFC talent in the sport.
Dominick Cruz (21-1, 4-0 UFC)
Cruz, 31, hasn’t lost since Faber submitted him in 2007. He avenged the defeat by earning a close decision in 2011, and won once more before a series of injuries limited him to one fight during a four-year period and cost him his title. Cruz regained the crown by edging then-champion T.J. Dillashaw via decision in January.
T.J. Dillashaw (12-3, 8-3), Urijah Faber (33-8, 9-4)
Dillashaw made his name with a pair of TKO victories over former champ Renan Barao. Like Cruz, he relies on movement, combinations and his wrestling background to outwork opponents.
Faber, the former top featherweight in the world before the UFC adopted lighter weight classes, continues to beat all up the very best the UFC has to offer. This is likely the 37-year-old’s last chance at championship glory in the UFC.
Raphael Assuncao (23-4, 7-1), Michael McDonald (17-3, 6-2)
Assuncao has long been on the cusp of a title shot, but injuries have kept him from capitalizing on his success. He holds wins over Dillashaw (2013) and Bryan Caraway (2014).
McDonald, 25, likely was rushed into fights against Barao and Faber three years ago. after more than two years away, he returned to the octagon with a win in January.
Bryan Caraway (21-7, 6-2), John Dodson (18-7, 7-2), Takeya Mizugaki (21-9-2, 8-4), Aljamain Sterling (12-1, 4-1)
Sterling was on the cusp of title contention before suffering his first career loss to Caraway on Sunday, but he has defeated respected veteran Mizugaki.
Dodson recently moved up to 135 pounds after losing for the second time to flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. He previously won “The Ultimate Fighter” by knockout out Dillashaw in 2011.
Best of the rest
Iuri Alcantara (32-7, 7-4), Thomas Almeida (20-1, 4-1), Mitch Gagnon (12-3, 4-2), Cody Garbrandt (9-0, 4-0), John Lineker (27-7, 8-2), Erik Perez (15-6, 5-2), Jimmie Rivera (19-1, 3-0), Frankie Saenz (11-3, 3-1)
Garbrandt’s future his bright after a KO of previously unbeaten Almeida on Sunday. Both are young and poised to be top contenders at bantamweight in the years to come. Ditto for Rivera, who hasn’t lost since his pro debut in 2008.
Lineker, a powerful former flyweight, also could be on the rise. The rest of this collective is made up of talented gatekeepers who are unlikely to rise much higher in the rankings.
Outside the octagon
Darrion Caldwell (9-0, 0-0), Eduardo Dantas (17-4, 0-0), Bibiano Fernandes (19-3, 0-0), Marcos Galvao (17-6-1, 0-0), Marlon Moraes (16-4-1, 0-0), Joe Warren (13-5, 0-0)