Bantam roosters are famous for their aggressive disposition in correlation to their diminutive size. Oftentimes, the word “bantam” is used to describe little men who tend to have a sensationalized opinion of themselves when it comes to fighting. You may have heard it referred to as “Little-Man’s Disease.” Generally, to be called a bantam has a negative connotation. However, some bantams have the bite to follow up their proverbial bark…or, to put it in rooster terms: the cock-a-doodle-doo to follow up their peck.
Who am I talking about? These six bantams (which fall in the bantam and feather weight classes) are the cock-of-the-walk in mixed martial arts. If you ruffle their feathers, you are bound to get a beat-down.
6. Wagnney Fabiano, 5’6, 145 lbs. Record: 10–1 Of all the bantams on this list, Fabiano has the best BJJ. He is a 3rd degree black belt, and six of his ten wins have come via submission. But Fabiano also has shown that he possess good power in his hands. Ask Shad Lierley. Fabiano knocked him out with a crisp right hook 37 seconds into their IFL title match.
Fabiano’s one loss was a controversial split decision at the hands of Jeff Curran in 2006—a fight many people thought Fabiano won with his superior grappling. Look for Fabiano to continue to climb the little-man ladder this December when he takes on Japanese featherweight Akitoshi Tamura at WEC 37.
5. Brian Bowles, 5’7, 135 lbs. Record: 6-0 Bowles is a bantam in every sense of the word. He is a true bully inside the cage. Of his six professional fights, none have gone the distance, and that includes three WEC wins over Charlie Valencia, Marcos Galvao, and Damacio Page.
Bowles is a smart, well-rounded fighter with crushing power in his hands and solid grappling. His biggest test comes at WEC 37 when he will take on the dangerous Brazilian, Will Riberio.
4. Urijah Faber, 5’6, 145 lbs. Record: 21-2 Faber is the definition of “well-rounded.” He’s also the epitome of “cardio.” Faber can fight you on his feet or on the ground. He can knock you out or choke you out. He can out-point you or he can ground-n-pound you. In other words, Faber can do it all. His resume includes wins over Jens Pulver, Jeff Curran, Chance Farrar, and Charlie Valencia.
One aspect of Faber’s fight game that is not mentioned enough is that he is a quick lil’ bantam. True, Faber got a little over zealous throwing that crazy elbow against Mike Brown, but remember, those exciting, unorthodox tactics are part of his fight game. You live by the “flash” and you can die by the “flash.” No worries for Faber. He will be back kicking ass before you can say “California Kid.”
3. Mike Brown, 5’6, 145 lbs. Record: 20–4 Brown is an American Top Team veteran who has been around the fight scene for the last decade. He is a big 145-pounder to say the least, possessing power in his hands, skilled takedowns, and raw toughness. Before his explosive TKO of Urijah Faber, not many casual fans knew who he was, but Brown has posted victories over Jeff Curran, Yves Edwards, and Mark Hominick
Brown has been a perennial top-10 ranked 145-pounder and is currently on an 8-fight win streak. Look for Brown to capitalize on his newfound fame in his first WEC title defense. Who will it be against? Wait and see.
2. Miguel Torres, 5’10, 135 lbs. Record: 34–1 Basically, Torres has been beating up everyone that’s been put in front of him for the past 10 years. The lone exception is a decision loss to Ryan Ackerman in 2003. Torres later avenged that loss with a first-round armbar victory in 2005.
The lanky Mexican-American is a black belt in BJJ under Carlson Gracie, Jr, but he also possesses crisp striking and a strong Muay Thai clinch. Torres has the reach of a heavyweight and can virtually punch you in the face from one side of the cage to the other. In addition, he’s tough. And you can’t teach toughness. Look for Torres to be back in action at WEC 37 against Manny Tapia.
1. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, 5’4, 140 lbs. Record: 17–1 Kid Yamamoto is probably the most entertaining fighter that casual MMA fans have never seen. Yamamoto has only fought on U.S. soil twice. The rest of his fights have been in Japan under the K-1 and Shooto organizations, and he hasn’t fought in about a year.
Nonetheless, Yamamoto has the best wrestling of all the bantams on the list, plus he likes to mix it up with flying knees, soccer kicks, and submissions. He is well-rounded and superbly entertaining in every way. Will he ever fight on U.S. soil again? Only time will tell.
The Future Bantam Badass: Josh Grispi, 5’11, 145 lbs. Record: 12¬–1 At only 19 years of age, Grispi is powering his way to the top of the bantam heap. Training since the age of 13, Grispi is quickly making a name for himself in the world of MMA. His 12–1 record and first-round, rear-naked choke victory over Mark Hominick in February and his first-round TKO of Micah Miller in August served as notice to WEC 145-pounders that Grispi is for real. Grispi will be back in action again at WEC 37 against Diego Nunes.