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Breaking Down Each UFC Weight Class

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2013

Breaking Down Each UFC Weight Class

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Fighters come in all different shapes and sizes.  From a heavy-handed Irish featherweight to a 240-pound Brazilian submission specialist, the vast pallet of UFC talent never ceases to forge masterpieces.

    Over the years, these elite athletes have been tagged and bagged in order to secure the future of a promotion challenging the world for supremacy.  As a result, the UFC has reaped the benefits.

    Timely title threats, infamous rivalries and explosive young phenoms have been the foundation for nine growing weight classes.

    But as it is in any sport, things are bound to change.  Revered champions, perennial challengers and boastful finishers are all destined to fall.  Luckily, each durable and self-regenerating division supports itself from within.

    Here is a breakdown of each UFC weight class and which key names play increasingly intricate roles within their respective divisions.

Women's Bantamweight

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Champion: Ronda Rousey

    Top Contenders: Miesha Tate; Cat Zingano; Sara McMann; Liz Carmouche; Sarah Kaufman

    Rising Prospect: Bethe "Pitbull" Correia

    Gatekeeper: N/A

    Most to Prove: Miesha Tate

    Divisional Stock: Slowly Rising

    Divisional Outlook

    Considering the women's bantamweight division is still relatively new to the UFC pecking order, it's difficult to pinpoint its future outlook.

    The current installment of The Ultimate Fighter should shed some light on the young and promising athletes capable of making noise in 2014, but nothing is for certain.

    As of now, barring a setback in her upcoming rematch with Tate, Rousey remains the divisional queen.

    Maybe a wrestler like McMann or a brawler like Correia can challenge her down the line, but it's too early to tell.

Flyweight

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Champion: Demetrious Johnson

    Top Contenders: Joseph Benavidez; Ian McCall; John Dodson

    Rising Prospects: John Lineker; Tim Elliot; Darrell Montague

    Gatekeeper: Jussier Formiga

    Most to Prove: Ian McCall

    Divisional Stock: Steady

    Divisional Outlook

    There just isn't enough talent at 125 pounds to fill the UFC flyweight division like every other weight class.

    The guys who are already in place have shown glimpses of greatness, but at this point, the division's future isn't that bright when you consider that the short list of top contenders never seems to change.

    That's not to take away from Johnson's elite status and recognition as a pound-for-pound menace, but outside of Benavidez, he's quickly running out of worthy opponents.

    Maybe the addition of a wily Scott Jorgensen can shake things up a bit.

Bantamweight

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Champions: Dominick Cruz; Renan Barao (interim champ)

    Top Contenders: Urijah Faber; Michael McDonald; Raphael Assuncao

    Rising Prospects: T.J. Dillashaw; Erik Perez; Sergio Pettis

    Gatekeepers: Brad Pickett; Ivan Menjivar

    Most to Prove: Dominick Cruz

    Divisional Stock: Slowly Falling

    Divisional Outlook 

    The bantamweight universe has received a youthful injection of late with the rise and maturation of McDonald and Dillashaw, but the fact remains that the division's true champion is still out of commission.

    Once Cruz makes his return, we're finally going to find out if the sensational Barao can take one of the shallowest weight classes in the UFC to higher ground.

    Now don't get it wrong—veterans like Faber and Assuncao have looked remarkable of late, but they don't possess the necessary tools to dethrone either titleholder.

    Hopefully Anthony Pettis' younger brother can rejuvenate a rather dull title scene.

Featherweight

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Champion: Jose Aldo

    Top Contenders: Chad Mendes; Ricardo Lamas; Cub Swanson; Frankie Edgar; Dustin Poirier; Chan-Sung Jung

    Rising Prospects: Nik Lentz; Conor McGregor; Dennis Bermudez; Diego Brandao; Rony Jason

    Gatekeepers: Clay Guida; Dennis Siver

    Most to Prove: Erik Koch

    Divisional Stock: Rising

    Divisional Outlook

    For years, the featherweight roster was the low point of the UFC.  It never seemed to pack the punch that nearly every other weight class did, which failed to properly test the divisional reign of King Aldo.

    But after much sifting and combing, the division has become one of the most jam-packed and deepest collection of fighters in the UFC.

    Veterans like Mendes, Lamas and Swanson are more dangerous than ever, while top prospects like McGregor and Bermudez flash future championship potential every time they step inside the cage.

    It's a weight class destined for greatness and one that can get even better if Poirier can finally put it all together.

     

Lightweight

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    Champion: Anthony Pettis

    Top Contenders: TJ Grant; Josh Thomson; Gilbert Melendez; Benson Henderson; Rafael dos Anjos

    Rising Prospects: Khabib Nurmagomedov; Myles Jury; Al Iaquinta; John Makdessi

    Gatekeepers: Donald Cerrone; Joe Lauzon; Melvin Guillard; Jim Miller

    Most to Prove: Gray Maynard; Nate Diaz; Diego Sanchez; Michael Chiesa

    Divisional Stock: Steady

    Divisional Outlook

    The future balance of the lightweight division lies with Pettis and his ability to defend the title.

    If "Showtime" is able to knock off key contenders like Thomson, Melendez, Grant and Maynard, then the weight class will have its first polarizing champion since BJ Penn.

    If the Milwaukee kid can't flourish under his new role, then it will be left in the hands of one of the new Strikeforce standouts.

Welterweight

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Champion: Georges St-Pierre

    Top Contenders: Johny Hendricks; Carlos Condit; Demian Maia; Rory MacDonald; Robbie Lawler; Jake Ellenberger

    Rising Prospects: Erick Silva; Kelvin Gastelum; Gunnar Nelson; Hyun-Gyu Lim; Brandon Thatch

    Gatekeepers: Josh Koscheck; Mike Swick; Nate Marquardt

    Most to Prove: Matt Brown; Thiago Alves; Hector Lombard

    Divisional Stock: Slowly Rising

    Divisional Outlook

    With the old core of names moving out—such as Koscheck, Marquardt and even Nick Diazpound-for-pound beast St-Pierre finally has a new group of eager title threats.

    From a heavy-hitting Hendricks to a slick moving MacDonald, GSP will have his hands full for at least another two years.

    In addition, young guns like Silva, Gastelum and Nelson bring re-energized promise to a usually elder-heavy weight class.

Middleweight

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Champion: Chris Weidman

    Top Contenders: Anderson Silva; Ronaldo Souza; Lyoto Machida; Vitor Belfort; Michael Bisping; Luke Rockhold; Tim Kennedy; Mark Munoz

    Rising Prospects: Francis Carmont; Brad Tavares

    Gatekeepers: Alan Belcher; Chris Leben

    Most to Prove: Chris Weidman

    Divisional Stock: Rising

    Divisional Outlook

    For years, the middleweight division struggled to maintain a group of relevant contenders.  Mostly due to Silva's dominance and ability to finish top names with ease, the weight class never seemed to take off.

    However, in an era run by an undefeated wrestler, all-new matchups are readily available.  New divisional additions like Machida, Souza, Rockhold and Kennedy provide the UFC with the ability to feed a hungry champion worthy and marketable foes.

    Of course, this all goes out the window if "The Spider" is able to reattach his web and infect the weight class with his deadly venom once again.

Light Heavyweight

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Champion: Jon Jones

    Top Contenders: Glover Teixeira; Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis, Gegard Mousasi; Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

    Rising Prospect: Jimi Manuwa

    Gatekeeper: Mauricio Rua

    Most to Prove: Rashad Evans; Dan Henderson; Ryan Bader

    Divisional Stock: Falling

    Divisional Outlook

    In a division headed by the best pound-for-pound fighter in the galaxy, counting on aging veterans like Evans, Henderson, Rua and Chael Sonnen isn't going to cut it.

    Instead, forging long-lasting trilogies opposite Gustafsson, Davis or Mousasi may be the light heavyweight division's only option to stay afloat and keep an evolving Jones interested.

    Once the champ's focus and determination to beat up declining veterans dissipates, he will make a move to heavyweight, forcing the weight class to enter an unavoidable reconstruction period.

Heavyweight

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Champion: Cain Velasquez

    Top Contenders: Junior dos Santos; Fabricio Werdum; Daniel Cormier; Josh Barnett; Travis Browne; Roy Nelson

    Rising Prospects: Stipe Miocic; Shawn Jordan

    Gatekeeper: Frank Mir

    Most to Prove: Daniel Cormier; Alistair Overeem

    Divisional Stock: Slowly Rising

    Divisional Outlook

    Once the maturation of rising stars like Browne, Miocic and Jordan come to fruition, the heavyweight division will have more athleticism at its disposal than ever before.

    Now whether those promising names carry the key to defeat the winner of Velasquez vs. JDS III has yet to be determined. 

    However, with big-draw names like Mir and Overeem declining by the minute, it's nice to know the heavyweight title scene will have some relevant pieces to work with if Cormier makes a move to light heavyweight and/or Barnett fizzles out.

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