On Saturday at UFC 259, Aljamain Sterling became the first fighter ever to win a Ultimate Fighting Championship title via disqualification, as he was dazed by a flagrantly illegal knee from Petr Yan late in the fourth round of their championship bout. It was a disappointing end to a good fight — for Sterling as well as Yan — and leaves the two with some unfinished business.
Beyond the near-certainty of an immediate rematch between Sterling and Yan, the bantamweight title picture is suddenly haunted by ghosts of champions past. T.J. Dillashaw, whose two-year suspension for performance-enhancing drugs expired in January, is due to return to action any time now, and is likely no more than one fight away from a shot at the belt he never lost in the Octagon. And in a bit of a surprise for some, Dominick Cruz, the division’s first champion, put on a sensational performance in Saturday’s feature prelim, outclassing top prospect Casey Kenney. In doing so, Cruz looked sharper than he has in several years, and while he is probably at least a couple of wins away from serious contention, he showed that we may have written him off a bit too soon.
Here is the history of the UFC men’s bantamweight title and the times it was won, lost or defended. Interim title fights are omitted, other than the ones involving Renan Barao, since he was promoted to undisputed champ without a title unification bout.
Sherdog.com/Ben Duffy illustration