You know the drill by now. Modern-day cage fighting begins and ends the same way it did in Bartertown.
Two men enter, one man leaves.
In this case, one man left with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Interim Bantamweight Championship, and his name is Renan Pegado, who continues to keep the seat atop the 135-pound throne warm for Dominick Cruz, as the reigning division titleholder undergoes grueling kneehab.
He's going to be a tough nut to crack.
Michael McDonald, the latest and greatest challenger to try to cut the line en route to a showdown against "The Dominator," had all the tools to win the , which went down earlier today (Feb. 16, 2013) at the Wembley Arena in London, England. 7 main event
Unfortunately, at just 22 years old, those tools weren't sharp enough (yet) to erase what on paper, reads like a work of fiction.
I'm talking, of course, about the ridiculous unbeaten streak of "Barao," which coming into the UFC a few years back appeared to have a foundation constructed of second-rate regional talent. Wins over Urijah Faber and the aforementioned "Mayday" instead confirmed what was a foregone conclusion following the Brazilian's mixed martial arts (MMA) debut back in early 2005.
Dominick Cruz vs. Renan Pegado is destiny, not fantasy.
The Brazilian has no real challengers left at 135 pounds. Don't expect any of those shenanigans that happen in other weight classes, because top featherweight contenders Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung are not going on a diet or sending text messages to UFC President Dana White, calling out the Interim champ.
Here's where that leaves us, as per the (cough) "official" UFC rankings:
Champion: Dominick Cruz
1. Renan Pegado (Interim Champion)
2. Michael McDonald
3. Urijah Faber
4. Eddie Wineland
5. Brad Pickett
6. Brian Bowles
7. Raphael Assuncao
8. Scott Jorgensen
9. Mike Easton
10. Ivan Menjivar
"Barao" has already blown through four of the top 10 contenders. Looking at the above list, I can't think of one possible match-up that carries genuine title implications. That means any future "Interim" fight that doesn't include Cruz is nothing but a tune-up.
Naturally, it all depends on the recovery timetable for "The Dominator," who hasn't competed since a unanimous decision win over Demetrious Johnson back in Oct. 2011.
And he's going to have to fill a pretty tall order upon his return.
While Pegado is picking off the competition, Cruz can't even go for a run on the treadmill and "ring rust" are two of the ugliest words in combat sports. Still, he's 19-1 for a reason and isn't going to just roll over. However, until he returns, we have a division that is officially on hold.
Get well soon, champ. We need you.