Breaking Down The UFC Featherweight Division

Current UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo via cdn0.sbnation.com

Continuing with the series of in-depth divisional breakdowns that started earlier today with a look at the Bantamweight division (read it here), we move on to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight division.

With the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in the middle of one of its longest stretches of down time in months, (and with the summer season jam-packed with events), I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to take an in-depth look at all the divisions to clearly identify who is in the title picture, who isn't, who is building themselves into a contender and whose jobs are on the line.

The UFC is essentially an endlessly on-going tournament, with two brackets: One for match winners and one for match losers. Just about the only time that Joe Silva and Dana White match up a guy coming off a win with a guy coming off a loss is if the guy coming off a loss was fighting for a title. Otherwise, it's almost always winner vs winner and loser vs loser.

It's a pretty sensible way of doing things, ensuring that there will always be guys with a few wins in a row and others with a couple of losses in a row, opening up the chance for new blood to enter into the company.

So anytime you are looking at a division and trying to see what the future will hold, it's mandatory to know who are the fighter's on win streaks and who are the fighters on losing streaks. As such, I've been organizing each division by wins and losses for a few months now and throughout today I'll be posting up my take on each division based on this data. I'm not going to be doing an in-depth feature on the flyweight division, as there has only been two fights in the division thus far.

Therefore, we move on to the Featherweight division (145 pounds):

(**Wins/Losses include World Extreme Cagefighting fights**)

Eleven Wins: Jose Aldo
Five Wins: Dustin Poirier
Four Wins: Erik Koch
Three Wins: Yuri Alcantara
Two Wins: Chan Sung Jung, Darren Elkins, Ricardo Lamas, Jim Hettes, Hatsu Hioki, Daniel Pineda, Steven Siler
One Win: Diego Nunes, Robert Peralta, Mike Brown, Javier Vasquez, Raphael Assuncao, Felipe Arantes, Bryan Caraway, Jonathan Brookins, Diego Brandao, Marcus Brimage, Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira, Cub Swanson, Issei Tamura

Rookies: Dennis Siver, Maximo Blanco, Akira Corassani

One Loss:
Chad Mendes, Tyson Griffin, Michihiro Omigawa, Rani Yahya, Vagner Rocha, Stephen Bass, Bart Palaszewski, Pablo Garza, Mackens Semerzier, Nam Phan, Cole Miller, Josh Clopton, Antonio Carvalho, Dennis Bermudez, Pat Schilling, Eddie Yagin, Max Holloway, Eric Wisely
Two Losses: Mark Hominick, Josh Grispi, Junior Assuncao, Leonard Garcia, Jason Young, George Roop, Zhang Tiequan
Three Losses: Manny Gamburyan

Another division with a dominant champion, as Jose Aldo is way out front of his peers, having won 11 straight bouts. Dustin Poirier has the second longest streak in the division, with five straight wins. He is main eventing UFC on Fuel TV 3 against Chan Sung Jung, which suggests that the promotion is positioning him as the next challenger for Aldo. There are rumors that Aldo may fight at UFC 149 in July, and if that is the case, it's likely that Hioki gets the fight. Another guy with a good case for a title shot is Erik Koch, but he is not quite there and as he's currently without a fight he won't likely get a real look until after the summer.

BOOKED FIGHTS:

The featherweight division is often accused of being the weakest in the UFC and I would agree that it has been weak in the past, but these fights are evidence that it is starting to heat up. I count no fewer than five important fights, starting with Dennis Siver's featherweight debut and ending with four fights featuring young stars. Jung vs Poirier will have a lot of eyes on it, but what about the divisional debut of TUF champion Diego Brandao? Or how about Daniel Pineda going for his third straight stoppage victory to start his UFC career? And don't forget Jimy Hettes vs Steven Siler in a battle of two young phenoms who have began their UFC careers with two straight wins. By the time the summer is over there is going to be a handful of highly regarded young fighters in this division, so don't sleep on this division anymore.

UNBOOKED WINNERS:

Erik Koch, Yuri Alcantara, Ricardo Lamas, Hatsu Hioki, Robert Peralta, Javier Vasquez, Raphael Assuncao, Felipe Arantes, Bryan Caraway, Jonathan Brookins, Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira, Cub Swanson, Issei Tamura

Fourteen guys still waiting for a dance card. Koch leads the pack with four straight wins, Alcantara has three under his belt and Lamas and Hioki both have a pair of consecutive wins, while the rest of the guys on the list are sitting with just one win. With Hioki looking like he's going to be the next challenger, we will probably see Koch matched up with Alcantara or Lamas. Alternatively, Koch could end up getting the winner of Jung/Poirier, leaving Alcantara and Lamas to battle each other. Of the guys sitting with one win keep an eye on Brookins, Pearson and Oliveira, as they all came down from the lightweight division and all looked pretty good in their last fights. Any one of those three would be a good match up for Alcantara and Lamas if they don't end up being paired up.

UNBOOKED LOSERS:

Chad Mendes, Tyson Griffin, Michihiro Omigawa, Rani Yahya, Vagner Rocha, Stephen Bass, Bart Palaszewski, Mackens Semerzier, Nam Phan, Cole Miller, Josh Clopton, Antonio Carvalho, Pat Schilling, Max Holloway, Josh Grispi, Junior Assuncao, Leonard Garcia, George Roop, Tiequan Zhang, Manny Gamburyan

Many guys on the losing end of things, with 20 fighters waiting to see where they will end up. Some of these guys are likely going to be cut but there are definitely some good fighters on the list that could get right back in the hunt with a victory. Leading that pack is Mendes, who of course recently lost to Aldo for the title. Mendes could find himself getting a winner and facing say, Koch, but if he doesn't he is almost surely going to get Griffin, a long time UFC Lightweight who is 1-1 since dropping down to the featherweight division. Other decently regarded 145-pound fighters coming off losses are Omigawa, Palaszewski, Yahya, Roop and Gamburyan. I think we're probably going to see Gamburyan and Roop get together in a loser leaves town match with some name value. As for the rest of the list, Phan and Miller would be a nice fight and I wouldn't mind seeing more of Max Holloway, who was giving Poirier all he could handle on the feet before he got taken down and submitted.

That wraps up the featherweights. With nine fights upcoming and a whole heap of guys waiting to be booked, this division is for sure one of the ones to keep track of. How do you think things will play out? Is anyone on the UFC roster capable of beating Aldo or are we likely to see his reign continue for a couple more years?

Share your thoughts below.

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