Unlike some of MMA’s most glamorous divisions, bantamweight does not have a long history of fights under the brightest lights in the sport. That said, there have been a number of stars that have emerged from the 135-pound ranks to put their names into the sport’s history books.

While the decision of the No. 1 bantamweight was an easy one — Dominick Cruz standing out above the rest of the field — the debate over places two through 10 was fierce, with men who made their names in WSOF and Bellator battling their way onto the list.

Check out the bantamweight rankings according to votes cast by Brent Brookhouse, Brian Campbell and Brandon Wise, and make sure to check out our previous rankings for featherweightlightweight, welterweight and light heavyweight and heavyweight.  

10. Eduardo Dantas: A two-time former Bellator champion, Dantas has spent the better part of a decade as a constant at the top of the promotion’s bantamweight division. After starting his Bellator career by winning the Season 5 bantamweight tournament, Dantas won the title with a submission win over Zach Makovsky. He would successfully defend the title twice before losing a decision to Joe Warren. Two fights later, he would regain the title by winning a decision over Marcos Galvao, avenging his loss to Warren one fight later. Dantas has since moved up to featherweight, but his run at the top end of the division was enough to place him on the list. — Brookhouse

9. Brain Bowles: There was a time just over a decade ago when Bowles looked like the future of the division when he improved to 8-0 by knocking out Miguel Torres to end his 17-fight win streak and capture the WEC title. A broken hand suffered against Dominick Cruz in his first title defense lost him his title. Then came the UFC merger, a failed drug test, an unsuccessful comeback after two years and trouble with the law outside of the cage. At the age of 33, Bowles fought for the last time in 2013 to close a 10-3 career that forever teased bright potential. Nine of Bowles’ 10 career wins came via stoppage. — Campbell

8. Cody Garbrandt: Garbrandt started his career 11-0, capturing the UFC bantamweight title from Dominick Cruz by decision. That he defeated Cruz was impressive enough, but coming into the fight, most observers thought Garbrandt’s only path to victory was a knockout. Instead, he outworked the best bantamweight in history over five rounds to capture the title. While that reign would immediately end in his next fight, losing back-to-back fights by knockout to T.J. Dillashaw and then getting knocked out by Pedro Munhoz, being the only man to beat Cruz at bantamweight cemented Garbrandt’s spot in 135-pound history. — Brookhouse

7. Kyoji Horiguchi: The native of Japan has quietly built an incredible resume despite not yet turning 30. Horiguchi has held bantamweight titles in three promotions, including Bellator and Rizin. After pushing Demetrious Johnson to the final second of Round 5 in their 2015 UFC flyweight title bout, he began a 13-fight win streak that was only recently halted. How dominant has Horiguchi been regardless of promotion? He ran off a record of 22-1 between 2012 and 2019. — Campbell

6. Miguel Torres: Torres won 17 fights from 2000-2001, his first two years as a professional. He debuted in WEC in September 2007 with an incredible record of 32-1. After grinding as a warrior on the midwest regional scene, Torres quickly proved he was a legitimate world-class talent, submitting Chase Beebe in his second WEC fight to capture the promotion’s championship. He successfully defended the title three times, establishing himself as a must-watch action fighter and cementing him legacy as one of the best 135 pound fighters to ever compete before time and cage miles caught up to him. — Brookhouse

5. Urijah Faber: Although he won his only major title as a featherweight in WEC, Faber spent the majority of time in his legendary career at 135 pounds. One of the sport’s most popular fighters who served as the first crossover star of the lower weight divisions, Faber was a bit of a celebrity bridesmaid at times when he came up short in his final six attempts at a title in WEC and UFC. But he rarely fell out of the top three of the division over the same time and only lost consecutive bouts one time in a career that has spanned 46 pro fights over 17 years. Very few fighters, let alone those who turned pro at such a small weight, have been able to remain relevant and viable at age 40 like the UFC Hall of Famer. — Campbell

4. Marlon Moraes: After starting his career 6-4-1 as a featherweight, Moraes dropped to bantamweight and rattled off 12 consecutive victories in the division. Moraes made his WSOF debut in their first event, beating Miguel Torres in just his second fight as a bantamweight. After winning four straight WSOF fights, Moraes won the inaugural bantamweight title by beating Josh Rettinghouse. After moving from WSOF to the UFC without ever losing his title, Moraes lost a split decision to Raphael Assuncao in his Octagon debut, though the decision was almost unanimously viewed as an injustice. Moraes was stopped by Henry Cejudo in a fight for the vacant UFC championship, but not before he gave Cejudo one of his toughest challenges. There’s still plenty of time for Moraes to build his legacy in the division as he’s coming off a win over Jose Aldo in December. — Brookhouse

3. Renan Barao: At the peak of his prime at age 27 and ranked among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world as the reigning UFC champion, Barao held a record of 32-1 with wins over Urijah Faber (twice), Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett. He also ran off a 31-fight streak after suffering a loss in his pro debut. Even though his career has plummeted since those days, going 2-8 and being cut by the UFC, the native of Brazil cemented himself as one of the greatest 135-pound fighters in history. Barao didn’t just win in his heyday, he did so decisively which made his eventual fall thanks to two stoppage defeats in title bouts to TJ Dillashaw all the more alarming. — Campbell

2. T.J. Dillashaw: Like Moraes, Dillashaw has a controversial split decision loss to Raphael Assuncao on his resume. Setting that loss aside, Dillashaw’s career losses have only come in elite situations, first to John Dodson in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 then a back-and-forth battle with Dominick Cruz. He also lost to Henry Cejudo, though the loss came at flyweight. Dillashaw holds two wins over Renan Barao, the first winning him the UFC bantamweight title, and a pair of wins over Cody Garbrandt, the first of those kicking off his second run as champion. While a failed drug test for EPO has tainted Dillashaw’s legacy, his bantamweight run remains as elite as any bantamweight other than Dominick Cruz. — Brookhouse

1. Dominick Cruz: While injury has robbed the two-time UFC champion and former WEC king of nearly a full decade of his prime, it hasn’t stolen from his overall greatness. Cruz’s insanely dominant run from his WEC debut in 2008 to his first major injury in 2011 has only been exceeded by the courage and persistence he has shown in multiple comebacks, including one in 2016 to reclaim the his UFC title. At 35, Cruz is threatening yet another one and currently has a title shot lined up despite not competing since losing his belt to Cody Garbrandt in a 2016 bout that saw him enter with more injuries. Despite his many layoffs, Cruz’s victories over Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez (twice), Brian Bowles, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber (twice), Demetrious Johnson, Takeya Mizugaki and TJ Dillashaw make him a clear choice as best in history. — Campbell





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