Back in July of 2012, then UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz went down with an ACL injury and was forced to pull out of his anticipated rubber match with fan favorite Urijah Faber. Instead of the rubber match, Faber took on Renan Barão and what we saw was the Brazilian dynamo walk away with a dominating performance plus the interim title.
Now 19 months later, another injury to Cruz has made Barão the full-time champion of the division and he is set to face Faber once again. Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s championship rematch.
Urijah Faber (30-6)
When you see the million dollar smile of Faber you’d never guess he is a world-class bad-ass. Aside from his NCAA division I wrestling, Faber has incredible speed to match his fantastic striking and footwork. He is also the owner of arguably the best guillotine choke in all of MMA.
In 2013 Faber went on an absolute tear in the division and if it wasn’t for Chris Weidman, he might of been fighter of the year. He disposed top notch competition such as McDonald, Jorgensen and Menjivar with ease.
The x-factor in this fight for Faber can very well be the addition of new head-trainer and former UFC welterweight Duane “Bang” Ludwig. Since joining Team Alpha Male Ludwig’s fighters have improved and evolved immensely but none have looked better than Faber has. In his first loss to Barão, Faber was kept on the outside by the longer fighter and wasn’t able to get off any combinations. He was never allowed to setup his rhythm and couldn’t land a takedown either.
Faber was never out of the fight but he damn sure wasn’t winning it. This time around it would benefit the challenger to get inside of Barão’s longer reach as often as he can by countering the jab. Once he gets under or over the jab look for Faber to start combinations with uppercuts and short right hands. Faber must get off first to disrupt the champion’s frantic pace.
Renan Barão (31-1)
When you talk about the “new breed” of fighter or whatever you’d like to call it you must take a good hard look at the UFC Bantamweight champ Barão. One of the most technical Brazilian fighters we’ve ever seen, Barão is as well rounded as they come. He truly mixes everything together and he is without a doubt one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Did we also mention he is the training partner of UFC Featherweight kingpin José Aldo?
Barão hasn’t lost a fight in the UFC. In fact, he is the owner of an impressive eight year unbeaten streak. In order for the champ to retain his title he must simply keep Faber on the end of his strikes. Both men seemed to nullify each others’ ground game in the last bout and Barão was able to control the action on the feet with his wonderful jab.
If he is able to control his opponent with his three inch reach advantage as he did in the first bout, look for Barão to unleash hard leg kicks, flying knees and perhaps something we’ve never seen before. Each time we see him he has vastly improved and we expect nothing less this time around from the champ.
The Bottom Line
According to Bodog, Barão (-280) is the slight favorite over the challenger Faber (+220) and we couldn’t agree more. Will this fight be closer than the first fight? Probably. Faber has looked incredible over the past year and he must know this might be his last chance to get his hands on a UFC title. Barão has been remarkable for quite some time and we still don’t know how great he truly can be. Saturday night will be a great measuring stick for two of the hottest fighters in the sport.
Who are YOU picking?
Zachary Hutton is the lead boxing writer and an MMA contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can see what he’s up to at his band’s website myunclethewolf.com or also subscribe on Facebook.