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Tracking the championship: UFC bantamweight division

After years of avoiding smaller weight classes, the UFC added a 135-pound title in 2010. Here's the short history of the bantamweight division.

Dominick Cruz

Successful title defenses: 2 Cruz was named the
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Eric Jamison

Successful title defenses: 2

Cruz was named the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion in the only UFC title fight held on another promotion's card on Dec. 16, 2010 (although both were owned by Zuffa). In the final WEC event before its merger with the UFC, Cruz fought Scott Jorgensen for the last WEC and first UFC belts at 135 pounds. Cruz put together his typical dominating performance, winning 50-45 on all scorecards. In his first title defense in the UFC, Cruz defeated the only man to ever beat him, Urijah Faber. He followed that with a victory over current longtime flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson before repeated injuries forced the UFC to strip him of the title after more than two years of inactivity.

Renan Barao

Successful title defenses: 3 While Cruz was sidelined,
Photo Credit: Mario Gonzalez

Successful title defenses: 3

While Cruz was sidelined, Renan Barao and Urijah Faber faced off for an interim belt with Barao taking a unanimous decision on July 21, 2012. He defended the interim title twice, but a unification bout never came to fruition as Cruz was stripped in January 2014. The interim tag then was dropped, and Barao defended title in his first bout as the official UFC bantamweight champion, once again defeating Faber, this time by TKO.

T.J. Dillashaw

Successful title defenses: 2 Barao had not lost
Photo Credit: AP / Jeff Haynes

Successful title defenses: 2

Barao had not lost a fight since his professional debut in 2005 when he faced T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173, a string of 32 wins and one no contest. But Dillashaw, a protégé of Faber and a former runner-up on "The Ultimate Fighter," was able to solve the Brazilian's puzzle on May 24, 2014. After a big knockdown late in the first round, Dillashaw used his superior agility and movement to pick apart Barao, culminating in a fifth-round stoppage. A rematch was set for UFC 177, but Barao was hospitalized while cutting weight the day of weigh-ins, setting up another knockout victory for Dillashaw against replacement Joe Soto. The rematch finally happened in July 2015 with Dillashaw again slicing through Barao for a fourth-round TKO.

Dominick Cruz

Successful title defenses: 1 While Barao and Dillashaw
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Maddie Meyer

Successful title defenses: 1

While Barao and Dillashaw ruled the division, Cruz kept working on his comeback from two torn ACLs and a groin tear. A knockout of Takeya Mizugaki seemed to signal his resurgence in September 2014, but a torn ACL in the other knee again sidelined him yet again. It wasn't until Jan. 17, 2016, that Cruz was finally in the cage to win back the belt he never truly lost. He and Dillashaw fought an extremely technical fight that went the distance, but it was Cruz who came out on top in a split decision with three wildly different scorecards. In his first title defense of his second reign, Cruz settled the score with Faber, winning a unanimous decision in their trilogy fight.

Cody Garbrandt

Successful title defenses: 0 Cruz had never lost
Photo Credit: AP / John Locher

Successful title defenses: 0

Cruz had never lost at bantamweight entering UFC 207. His challenger, Cody Garbrandt, had never lost in his professional career. Something had to give, and that turned out to be the legs of Cruz. The young Garbrandt was able to tag Cruz multiple times in their fight, scoring two knockdowns and taunting the veteran in the cage. Cruz landed more significant strikes, but Garbrandt's ability to stop the takedown and land the most damaging strikes of the fight gave him the UFC gold.

T.J. Dillashaw

Garbrandt's first opponent as bantamweight champion was an
Photo Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

Garbrandt's first opponent as bantamweight champion was an easy pick. The Team Alpha Male fighter already had built a rivalry with former champion T.J. Dillashaw, calling out his ex-teammate soon after beating Cruz. After coaching against each other on The Ultimate Fighter, the pair finally met at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Garbrandt looked on his way to retaining the title in the first round, knocking down Dillashaw and nearly finishing the fight. But a Dillashaw hook put down the champion midway through the second round. He followed with a few strikes on the ground to end it, screaming in Garbrandt's face as the referee separated them.

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