UFC and Bellator bantamweights take center stage

Maggie Hendricks

The old adage in combat sports is that smaller athletes never bring the same amount of interest as the big fighters. That truism will be put to the test this weekend for the UFC and this fall for Bellator, as both promotions rely on the little guys to bring in plenty of pay-per-view buys and ratings.

At UFC 132, the UFC is putting their faith in the hands of two exciting bantamweights on what is traditionally one of their biggest weekends. Over the past two years, PPV king Brock Lesnar has headlined the 4th of July card. This year, the UFC has swung to the other end of the weight classes, as they rely on 135-lb. champ Dominick Cruz and former champ Urijah Faber to bring in the eyeballs.

Faber is already a big name who has headlined a pay-per-view. At WEC 48, Faber and Jose Aldo headlined a card that was considered a success by WEC standards. Through lots of promotion and smart sponsorships, Faber has become more well-known than any other WEC fighters, even among those who still hold their belts.

Cruz is not in the same boat. Though he's defended his championship belt twice, all of his fights have been on WEC cards. What will help fans get to know Cruz is his beef with the normally mild-mannered Faber.

The two fought early in Faber's run as the WEC featherweight champ, and since Faber won that bout with a guillotine, enmity has simmered between them. On Twitter, in interviews and in the "Countdown" show, they've talked about their dislike for each other. That will add heat to what promises to be an exciting bout.

Similarly, Bellator is hoping that their bantamweight tournament will draw in fans when its season starts on September 24. It has firepower. Featherweight champ Joe Warren is dropping down, and in the first round will face Alexis Vila, an Olympic bronze medal-winning wrestler from Cuba who like Warren, holds a world championship in wrestling.

The other first-round match-ups are Eduardo Dantas vs. Joe Soto (a former Bellator FW champ), Luiz Nogueira vs. Ed West, and Chase Beebe (former WEC champ) vs. Marcos Galvao (WEC veteran).

Will the 135-lbers deliver? Speak your mind in the comment section or on Facebook.

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