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UFC bantamweight rankings: Dillashaw set to challenge Sterling at UFC 280

Jason Burgos
ufc bantamweight rankings

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.

10. Sean O’Malley (15-1-1)

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.

In the end, the popular star will still get rewarded with a major matchup against former champion Petr Yan in October.

  • Next Fight: vs. Petr Yan at UFC 280 on Oct. 22

9. Dominick Cruz (24-3)

ufc bantamweight rankings
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

At the close of 2020, it seemed like Dominick Cruz had finally grown old and was no longer a top-10 fighter. However, since then he’s patched together a pair of seriously respectable wins and has held on to his decade-long relevancy. If the greybeard can overcome a red hot “Chito” Vera for a third straight win next, then we will start talking about the 36-year-old being in title contention.

  • Next Fight: vs. Marlon Vera on August 13

Related: UFC tonight: Fight card, betting odds, and watch times for Saturday’s UFC event

8. 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 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.

  • Next Fight: TBD

7. Merab Dvalishvili (14-4)

ufc bantamweight rankings
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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. Against Marlon Moraes in his last fight, he finally showed he needs to be respected as a striker now as well. He’ll get the ultimate litmus test against MMA legend Jose Aldo next. If he can overcome the “King of Rio” he deserves a big bump up in the UFC bantamweight rankings and title fight consideration.

  • Next Fight: vs. Jose Aldo at UFC 278 on August 20

6. Marlon Vera (19-7-1)

ufc bantamweight rankings
Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Vera continues to evolve as a fighter and is now legitimately one of the best bantamweights on the planet. In his win over Rob Font, he proved he is far more than just an entertaining fighter, but a dangerous athlete with a serious skillset and an unbreakable will. His next bout against Dominick Cruz will be the greatest test yet of his technical skills.

  • Next Fight: vs. Dominick Cruz on August 13

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. But if he wants to get back into title contention there are no ifs, or buts about it, he needs to beat Yadong Song in his next fight and definitively.

  • Next Fight: vs. Yadong Song on September 17

4. TJ Dillashaw (17-4)

After over two years away serving a PED suspension, TJ Dillashaw returned in 2021 and showed he is still an elite bantamweight at 36 years old. Recent rumors suggest he will be next in line for champion Aljamain Sterling. If he can beat the champ — following recovery from an ACL tear — Dillashaw will not only move to the top of the UFC bantamweight rankings but he’ll also be back in the pound-for-pound rankings too.

  • Next Fight: vs. Aljamain Sterling at UFC 280 on Oct. 22

Related: UFC predictions for the promotion’s card on Saturday night

3. Jose Aldo (23-4)

ufc bantamweight rankings
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The former featherweight king is on the cusp of another shot at the bantamweight title. It’s pretty stunning after 38 fights and at 35 years old, but Jose Aldo truly is a special talent. If he can derail the relentless wrestling train that is Merab Dvalishvili in his next fight, there will be no question he is next in line for a 135-pound championship opportunity.

  • Next fight: vs. Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 278 on August 20

2. Petr Yan (16-3)

Apr 8, 2022; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Petr Yan on the scale during weigh ins for UFC 273 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

While he was a sizable favorite in his rematch with Aljamain Sterling, Petr Yan suffered a second straight defeat to the reigning champ. Even though they were both close fights, and he was winning the first until his illegal knee ended it early, the Russian has two defeats to Sterling and is out of the title picture for the rest of the year.

However, the Russian will stay busy and is now booked in a highly anticipated matchup with the division’s most popular fighter Sean O’Malley in October.

  • Next Fight: vs. Sean O’Malley at UFC 280 on Oct. 22

1. Aljamain Sterling (21-3)

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 score a victory over Yan. While his first win over the former champ is disputed, there was no doubt about his victory at UFC 273. Now he will take on the challenge of another division king in TJ Dillashaw in October.

  • Next Fight: vs. TJ Dillashaw at UFC 280 on Oct. 22