When former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz came back to defeat Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178 earlier this year, it seemed like “all systems go” for a clash between Cruz and reigning UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, who was coming off of his first title defense against Joe Soto at UFC 177, which came when former champion Renan Barao failed to make weight for the planned rematch with Dillashaw. Dillashaw’s teammate Urijah Faber adamantly declaring he would not fight Dillashaw, and Raphael Assuncao, then on a six-fight winning streak, was booked to face Bryan Caraway at the time, so the Dillashaw-Cruz booking made perfect sense..

Unfortunately, Cruz would not be able to catch the break he fought so hard to earn, as he revealed that an ACL tear would force him to miss much of 2015. To make matters worse, Assuncao, announced an ankle injury at around the same time as the news of Cruz’s ACL tear. Naturally, when the MMA world learned of both injuries, they tried calling once again for Dillashaw-Faber, but to no avail.

Though a great number of fans and experts can certainly applaud Dillashaw for fighting whoever the MMA juggernaut puts in front of him, there is no question that the UFC now faces a serious dilemma. Though other very credible names like Michael McDonald. Eddie Wineland, and Bryan Caraway, among others, stand among the top 15 bantamweights in the division, they’re either coming off of losses or fresh off wins that many expected them to get.

In other words, while men like Iuri Alcantara and Johnny Eduardo looked good in recent performances, they still need to secure some more wins against higher-ranked fighters. It certainly doesn’t help matters that Faber himself almost always finds himself racking victories on top of victories in non-title fights, and yet he may not make a serious bid for the title unless someone defeats his teammate.

That leaves Barao, who was thoroughly decimated by Dillashaw and has had the champion’s name in his mouth ever since. Submitting Mitch Gagnon in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 58 tilt in Barueri last weekend, despite Gagnon’s strongest efforts in the second round, was a step in the right direction, and with both Cruz and Assuncao out, the only man Barao may have left to challenge on his road back to the title is Faber, provided Dillashaw doesn’t end up saying yes to another fight with Barao.

If not Barao, though, then who? Dillashaw himself has expressed a desire to go up to featherweight and fight reigning 145-pound champion Jose Aldo, while The Ultimate Fighter 14 bantamweight winner John Dodson, now a flyweight, has opened up to the idea of a rematch with Dillashaw. At this point, the only certainty about Dillashaw is that he will return when he returns, but until then, the UFC will have quite the task ahead of them when it comes to letting the UFC bantamweight title picture sort itself out in the absence of the only two men that, logically speaking, deserve the absolute next crack at the throne.

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.