A Beginner’s Guide to a Grown Man’s Fantasy: The UFC in 2014 Part II

By: Justin Nearon

Men’s Flyweight – 116 to 125 lbs

This tiny weight class is so often overlooked (pun intended) that not many people realize that Demetrious Johnson is one of the five best ‘pound for pound’ fighters in the world (for those new to combat sports, ‘pound for pound’ is when we compare fighters as if they were of identical height and weight).

Not only did ‘Mighty Mouse’ defend his belt three times last year, but but destroyed the notion that he’s just point fighter with a crushing one punch knockout of Joseph Benavidez on December 14th.

Joseph Benavidez (left) and Demetrious Johnson (right)  – ESPN.go.com

“DJ” is likely to retain his belt through 2014, if only because he’s already beaten any one of note in this rather shallow division.  Benavidez may be the 2nd best fighter at flyweight, but he won’t get another chance at the belt any time soon, having lost twice to Johnson in the past 15 months.

If it was just based on performance, the next title shot would go to John “Hands of Stone” Lineker.  This Brazilian has finished his last three opponents by knockout, but he repeatedly fails to make weight.  He’ll get one more chance against heavy handed Ali Bagautinov at “UFC 169”.  If he comes in over 125 lbs again, Lineker will be forced up to Bantamweight or cut from the UFC.

John Lineker (right)  – UFC.com

It’s hard to tab a “Rising Star” in this weight class, because the difference between say, the 5th ranked fighter and the 15th, is so small.  If I had to choose one, former ‘Bellator’ champ Zach Makovsky might be your man.

Zach Makovsky (left) and Scott Jorgensen (right)  – Zuffa LLC

“Fun Size” was considered little more than a sacrificial lamb when he signed on to fight veteran Scott Jorgensen on just 3 weeks rest back in December. Jorgensen was taking a step down from bantamweight with the expectation of becoming an immediate title contender, but Makovsky threw a wrench into that plan with a unanimous victory.  Two more wins like that and it will Makovsky who earns that top contender status.

Men’s Bantamweight – 126 to 135 lbs

Dominick Cruz was the official bantamweight champ, despite being out for two years with a leg injury. In his absence Renan Barao won the interim belt, and the two were supposed to unify the title at “UFC 169” on February 1st.

Dominic Cruz (left) and Renan Barao (right)  – FOX Deportes

Unfortunately after re-injuring himself in camp Cruz has had to vacate the belt and will be replaced in that fight by Urijah “The California Kid” Faber. (By the way, is there any better entrance song in MMA than Urijah’s “California Love” by Tupac?)

Urijah is the biggest star in MMA under 136 lbs and a championship belt around his waist could really help elevate the smaller weight classes global prominence.  I just can’t see him beating Barao and it’s doubtful that Cruz would then get the next title opportunity after what could amount to two and a half years of ring rust.

Mike McDonald (left) and Urijah Faber (right)  – FOX Sports

This would leave 23 year old phenom Michael McDonald, as the only other capable contender in 2014.  “Mayday” is probably the most talented guy in the division, but has proven out of his depth against veteran champions.  Another years worth of experience might be the only thing keeping him from the belt.

For a “Rising Star” lets go deep into the division with “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner Chris Holdsworth. ‘TUF’ winners haven’t fared well in recent years, but Chris may prove to be the exception.

Chris Holdsworth  – FOX Sports

Training with the high level talent at “Team Alpha Male” is as tough as just about anything he’ll face in the pros. Teammate Urijah Faber attended three of Holdsworth’s fights on the TV show, suggesting they think a lot of his talent, even if he’s still a couple of years away from real contention.

Urijah Faber – MMANYTT.se

Up next: Part 3 – Men’s Featherweight and Lightweight.

Part 1: Women’s Bantamweight and Strawweight

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