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The UFC bantamweight rankings are a showcase of some of the very best fighters in MMA as the division has slowly evolved to become arguably the most talent-rich in the entire sport. Where the lightweight was once considered the deepest weight class in the promotion, 135 pounds has surpassed it with an impressive and wide variety of fighters.
With that in mind, here is the official Sportsnaut top-10 for the organization’s bantamweight class.
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10. Dominick Cruz (24-4)
Dominick Cruz is still a pretty good fight in 2022, however, he is no longer an elite competitor and title contender. His knockout loss to Marlon Vera in August solidified that truth. There certainly is the option of a legends matchup, but if he isn’t striving to be champion for the third time, it seems hard to believe Cruz will continue his career at 37.
- Next Fight: TBD
9. Umar Nurmagomedov (16-0)
Umar Nurmagomedov has quickly become a fighter to watch in the UFC bantamweight division. Not just because he shares a last name with one of the best fighters in promotion history, but because he is an elite prospect with world-champion potential.
He has been impressive over his first three bouts in the UFC and continued that impressive start with a filthy KO win at UFC Vegas 67. Not only can he grapple, but he a sledgehammer opponents must be wary off.
- Next Fight: TBD
8. Ricky Simon (20-3)
After a pair of momentum-killing losses in 2019, Ricky Simon has been on a tear. He has won five straight and three were finishes. He is one of the best wrestlers in the division and has continued to evolve his striking game to a point where it deserves respect. He has earned a matchup with a top-10 fighter in his next outing. The question is, does a competitor among the bantamweight elites take a risky scrap against a red-hot fighter that is ranked lower than them?
- Next fight: TBD
7. Rob Font (19-6)
After winning five straight and becoming a serious title contender for the first time, the Boston native has suffered back-to-back losses against top competition in the UFC bantamweight rankings. Now, he’s plummeted in the rankings and will need a couple of wins to earn back all that momentum he’s lost. Nevertheless, he is a hard out and remains a dangerous matchup.
In April he will has been matched up with a similar competitor in talented boxer Adrian Yanez. It is another risky fight for Font but one with “Fight of the Year” potential in 2023.
- Next Fight: vs. Adrian Yanez at UFC 287 on April 8
6. Sean O’Malley (16-1-1)
Aside from an odd setback against fellow ranked fighter Marlon Vera two years ago, O’Malley has been stellar in his eight UFC appearances and has been a wrecking machine in many of his wins. Unfortunately, his UFC 276 clash with Pedro Munhoz ended in a no-contest after an eye-poke from O’Malley ended the bout early. However, he got the chance to redeem himself in a fight-of-the-night clash with Petr Yan at UFC 280.
While it seemed like he lost the bout, the judges awarded him the biggest win of his career. Whether you agreed with the decision or not, O’Malley proved once and for all that he really is an elite fighter and not just a hype train waiting to be derailed.
- Next Fight: TBD
5. Cory Sandhagen (14-4)
Despite his recent setbacks to TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen is still one of the most dangerous fighters in the division. He showed that once again at UFC Vegas 61 when he sliced open rising star Yadong Song with an elbow, and eventually got a fourth-round TKO from a doctor stoppage.
Sandhagen is now booked in one of the most anticipated scraps of 2023 when he battles fellow striking animal Marlon Vera in a UFC Fight Night main event in February. The winner of this one is sure to be in a title fight next.
- Next Fight: vs. Marlon Vera on Feb. 18
4. Petr Yan (16-4)
Petr Yan has now lost three of his last four bouts, including a shocking defeat to O’Malley at UFC 280. While it seemed like he did enough to get the decision nod against the American, the judges did not see it that way. He has two losses to the champ and is on the first losing streak of his career.
In March he will be once again in a headlining role when he faces off with relentless Georgian wrestler Merab Dvalishvili. A win over Aljamain Sterling’s bestie would go a long way in getting him back into serious title contention.
- Next Fight: vs. Merab Dvalishvili on Mar. 11
3. Merab Dvalishvili (15-4)
Merab Dvalishvili is without a doubt the best wrestler in the entire division. Part of his grappling dominance comes from a relentless style and gas tank that really is second to none. However, he also offers up a high striking output that keeps opponents off balance and out of rhythm. He showcased all of the above in a major win against Jose Aldo at UFC 278.
In beating the MMA great, “The Machine” firmly established himself as a legitimate elite bantamweight in the world. He will now face one in March when he headlines his first UFC event against former division king Petr Yan.
- Next Fight: vs. Petr Yan on Mar. 11
2. Marlon Vera (20-7-1)
Vera continues to evolve as a fighter and is now legitimately one of the best bantamweights on the planet. And now he has knockout wins over a pair of UFC immortals in two of his last three wins. His victory over Dominick Cruz at UFC San Diego was classic “Chito.” He got off to a sluggish start, seemed down early, then turned the tide destructively. Following Yan and Dillashaw’s recent losses, he had a strong case to face the champ next.
However, with former two-division champ Henry Cejudo jumping back into the title picture, Vera will take a very dangerous fight against former interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen. In what will be the most anticipated fight in the first quarter of 2023.
- Next Fight: vs. Cory Sandhagen on Feb. 18
1. Aljamain Sterling (22-3)
Love him or hate him, Sterling is the best bantamweight in the world and was able to achieve what no other fighter in the UFC has, and legitimately scored a victory over Yan. While his first win over the former champ is disputed, there was no doubt about his victory at UFC 273. He earned another questionable win at UFC 280 against TJ Dillashaw. A fighter that apparently entered the bout with a serious shoulder injury that the promotion kept secret on fight week.
A possible clash with O’Malley, Vera, or “retired” former two-division champ Henry Cejudo seem possible next.
- Next Fight: TBD