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Ten Great Bantam Battles

Get ready for February 16th's Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald clash with a look at some of the UFC's best bantamweight bouts...

McDonald vs. FigueroaThe championship showdown between Renan Barao and Michael McDonald on February 16 is expected to be an early Fight of the Year candidate, but that’s not surprising to fans of the bantamweight division, which has been providing Octagon thrills since the UFC brought the 135ers over in late 2010. To get ready for Barao vs. McDonald, here are ten of the best bantam battles.

Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber II
UFC 132
Result – Cruz W5
The grudge between bantamweight stars Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber was real, so before their UFC 132 main event in July of 2011, there was a fear that the fighters wanted so badly not to lose to their rival that they would be too cautious. Not a chance. Instead, Cruz and Faber fired off all their tricks at one another, fought at the insanely high pace 135-pounders are known for, and gave the fans a 25 minute fight to remember that Cruz won by unanimous decision. In the process, he evened the score with the only man to ever beat him.

Watch UFC 132 here

Renan Barao-Brad Pickett
UFC 138
Result – Barao Wsub1
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Renan Barao’s first visit to England to fight local hero Brad Pickett packed more action into four minutes and nine seconds than most fights do in three or five rounds. Both fighters went to war from the opening bell, mixing in wild standup exchanges with equally frantic ground scrambles. When it was over, it was Barao leaving the UK with a first round submission win and a Fight of the Night bonus check.

Watch the entire fight here

Michael McDonald-Edwin Figueroa
UFC Fight Night
Result – McDonald W3
Michael McDonald came into the UFC with a lot of hype in March of 2011, and he has since lived up to every ounce of it. But to make the first impression that he did, you need a willing dance partner, and Edwin Figueroa was the perfect fit for the two young guns to put together a back and forth Fight of the Night scrap won by “Mayday” via unanimous decision.

Watch the entire fight here

Eddie Wineland-Scott Jorgensen
UFC on FX 3
Result – Wineland KO2
There are heavy-handed fighters, and then there’s Eddie Wineland. A former WEC bantamweight champ, Wineland didn’t get to show off his full range of skills in his first two UFC bouts against Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez, but the third time was the charm for the Indianan, as he battled past a nasty cut on his forehead to win a punishing standup battle with Scott Jorgensen by way of an even more punishing second round knockout.

Watch the entire fight here

Dominick Cruz-Demetrious Johnson
UFC Live
Result – Cruz W5
With UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz currently rehabbing a knee injury that has kept him out of action since this October 2011 bout with Demetrious Johnson, this fight is a reminder of just how good Cruz is. Yes, this five rounder was fast-paced and competitive, but when it was over there was no doubt about who the winner was, something made more impressive by Johnson’s subsequent run through the 125-pound weight class that earned him the UFC’s first flyweight title.

Scott Jorgensen-John Albert
UFC on FOX 5
Result – Jorgensen Wsub1
Let’s not mince words – there are those who boo as soon as a fight hits the mat. They must not have seen Scott Jorgensen and John Albert go at it last December. Showing just how exciting the ground game can be when contested at a high level, Jorgensen and Albert battled back and forth on the canvas until Jorgensen finished his foe off via rear naked choke with one second left in the first round.

Yves Jabouin-Walel Watson
UFC 140
Result – Jabouin W3
If you’re a fan of technical and creative striking, this 2011 bout between Yves Jabouin and Walel Watson was for you. Trading punches and kicks in a “can you top this” fashion for 15 minutes, Jabouin took a razor-thin split decision, but the fans who got to see this were the real winners.

Watch the entire fight here

Mike Easton-Jared Papazian
UFC on FX 1
Result – Easton W3
Technical battles are great, and high-level chess matches make mixed martial arts great, but sometimes, a wild-swinging toe-to-toe brawl just hits the spot, and that’s what Mike Easton and Jared Papazian gave fight fans in January of 2012. Add in a little (okay a lot) bad blood between the two, and it was a clear reminder that when all is said and done, this is a fight.

Ivan Menjivar-John Albert
Result – Menjivar Wsub1
You’ve got to feel bad for John Albert. As competitive and exciting the Ultimate Fighter alum has been in his four UFC bouts, he only has one win to show for it. His February 2012 bout with veteran Ivan Menjivar was typical of Albert’s woes, as a near finish of Menjivar was followed by a furious comeback from “The Pride of El Salvador” that resulted in a rear naked choke win and a tough loss for “Prince” Albert.

Watch the entire fight here

Bryan Caraway-Mitch Gagnon
UFC 149
Result – Caraway Wsub3
Things didn’t look too good for Bryan Caraway early in his UFC 149 bout against Mitch Gagnon, but by round two, the Ultimate Fighter alum got his bearings back, dug up his second wind, and roared back to finish Gagnon in the third and final round of a Fight of the Night winning bout that once again proved that when it comes to compelling action, the bantamweights have got it covered.

Watch the entire fight here