One of the divisions that has really flipped in 2020 is the UFC‘s bantamweight division. I’m not sure anyone saw the division going the way that it did when the year started. Granted, I don’t think anything about 2020 went as planned.
When the year started, Henry Cejudo (16-2) was the reigning UFC bantamweight king. He was angling for a fight with former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (29-7), after Aldo lost by split decision to Marlon Moraes.
Cejudo and the UFC brass felt that Aldo won the fight. The two men were scheduled to fight in May. However, after the pandemic hit, Aldo was not able to travel for UFC 249 to take on Cejudo.
That’s when former UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz (22-3), stepped to the plate. Cruz had been out since 2016, but in that fight he lost his world title. The two men met at UFC 249.
That night, Cejudo finished Cruz in the second round then retired after the fight. The promotion decided to give Aldo a title shot after he was promised one and paired him against top contender, Petr Yan (16-1) for the vacant title.
At UFC 251 on Fight Island, Yan and Aldo met for the bantamweight championship. Aldo had some good moments early, however, Yan took over late. Ultimately, Yan finished Aldo in the fifth round to become bantamweight champion.
UFC’s Bantamweight Division in 2021
We already know the first title fight, we just don’t know when. Yan was supposed to defend his title against Aljamain Sterling (19-3) at UFC 256. However, Yan had to pull out for undisclosed reasons. That fight is supposed to be setup early in 2021.
An interesting wrinkle in the division is the return of former champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw never lost his UFC title in the ring, but his suspension forced him to be stripped of the 135 pound title.
Dillashaw’s two-year suspension is up in January and he’s looking to get right back in the mix. Jose Aldo is one of the men that wants a shot at Dillashaw. Aldo is coming off of a big win against Chito Vera at UFC Vegas 17.Â
The two former UFC champions could make for a very compelling matchup. Another key matchup early in the year is the matchup between Cory Sandhagen (13-2) and former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar (24-8-1).
That matchup on February 6th might be a title eliminator. Rob Font (18-4) might be the one contender to watch in 2021. Font just knocked out Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 17. His hands looked incredibly crisp and he’s busted into the top five at bantamweight.
The UFC‘s bantamweight division is absolutely stacked. I didn’t even mention the matchup between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera that’s booked on January 20th. So many incredible matchups in that division.
Petr Yan looks like a world-beater. However, his division is full of guys who are waiting to take away that crown. So many interesting storylines and potential matchups surround the UFC’s bantamweight division entering 2021.