MMA Power Rankings -- BANTAMWEIGHT

Updated: February 21, 2012, 1:56 PM ET
By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com
Monday, Feb. 6
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It feels absurd to call Renan Barao a prospect in the 135-pound division, yet heading into UFC 143 that's what public perception of the Brazilian amounted to. Not anymore. Pegado beat a very tough yet overmatched Scott Jorgensen for three solid rounds, strafing him on the feet with precision jabs and working rhythmic combinations that looked entirely too easy. Afterwards he made his case for a title shot against the winner of Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, and it's really hard to argue. Barao is now 3-0 in the UFC, and before then he was 2-0 in the WEC, and before then ... well, he hasn't lost since his MMA debut 30 fights ago. Those aren't numbers of a prospect, but of a serious challenger.

If Barao does get a title shot he's going to have to wait a long, long time while TUF 15 plays out to its natural crescendo. Faber/Cruz III will go off in the summer after they have coached the new season of the reality series, and the earliest that the winner could be ready would be fall. In other words, look for Barao to have at least one more fight before he gets a chance for the bantamweight strap. Who will he go against? Good question. Some of the division's best -- Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson -- are migrating to the newly established flyweight division, leaving scant few names in the top 10. One possibility is the winner of the Miguel Torres-Michael McDonald fight set to take place at UFC 145 in April. However it shakes out, Barao is one step closer to turning the division on its ear.