You know, guys...
I felt like the division was really weak. Plain and simple. The second somebody looked even remotely good, they entered the title picture. As soon as a member of the MMA media could fantasize about Jose Aldo having even a slight bit of trouble against somebody, he became the next in line for a shot at the belt.
While that was only a few months ago, things have changed in a profound way. Now, the featherweight division seems like, perhaps, one of the best in the UFC. In the time since my last derisive article about the 145-pounders, things have completely reversed course.
Just about six months ago, the UFC was in an incredibly bad spot. Chad Mendes had just had his skull kneed out of the rest of his head, and there simply were no real opponents left for champion Jose Aldo. The UFC had two people to choose from; Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch.
Neither fighter had any wins over big-name opponents. Hell, they had not even fought anybody especially good.
Hatsu Hioki became the presumptive top contender with wins over George Roop and Bart Palaszewski who, to this day, have a combined 8-9-1 record in Zuffa. Hioki opted to not fight Aldo, which forced the UFC to turn to Koch.
Koch, though he himself had a 5-1 record under the Zuffa umbrella, owned wins over Jameel Massouh, Bendy Casimir, Francisco Rivera, Raphael Assuncao and Jonathan Brookins. None of those fighters, by the way, has better than a .500 record as featherweights in the WEC or UFC. The cherry on top is that Koch's lone loss was to Chad Mendes (who, again, Aldo had beaten just months earlier).
Past Koch and Hioki, the title picture was comparably dismal, with a pileup of no-namers that included Dennis Siver, Diego Nunes, Ross Pearson and Eddie Yagin. None of these fighters had name value. None of these fighters had a winning streak.
Time passed, though, and crazy things have happened.
While people remain quite excited about Chan Sung Jung (though this writer remains skeptical), Cub Swanson has taken it upon himself to raise the finish rate of the featherweight division, rattling off back-to-back-to-back knockout victories. Ricardo Lamas is currently sitting on a three-fight winning streak, and has a “W” over both Swanson and Hioki.
More importantly, the UFC has finally begun attracting high-profile lightweights to drop a few extra pounds.
While there were a few early adapters, most famously Kenny Florian, there had been very few especially exciting additions to the division until the last month, which has seen Frankie Edgar and Clay Guida, two top-10 lightweights, drop to featherweight. That combination of new talent and rising stars offers great matchmaking opportunities and adds some serious star power to the division's top 10.
The last few weeks have made a believer out of this writer.
Be excited, folks! The featherweight division is shaping up to be one of the best in the UFC.