The UFC 149 main event will see two of the best bantamweight fighters in the world collide when former WEC champion Urijah Faber takes on rising Brazilian star Renan Barão for the interim 135-pound title.
While we will not be treated to a bantamweight championship trilogy bout between Faber and Dominick Cruz, fans will get to see arguably a much more interesting match-up in Faber vs. Barão.
First and foremost, let’s establish that Barao is a killer. He is unbeaten in 29 fights and has the skill set to control and end the fight wherever it goes. Barão trains with José Aldo out of Nova União in Brazil. They’ve developed what can be described as an “evolved sprawl and brawl” fighting style, a lot like what Chuck Liddell did when he was whooping dudes. Add to that an impeccable submission game and incredible explosiveness, Barão makes for a truly impressive fighter.
It’s exactly this combination of skills that poses such a challenge for Faber. The numbers don’t lie; according to fight metrics, and reported by James McDonald over at BleacherReport.com: “Barão’s career statistics are nothing short of extraordinary, in many ways mirroring those of his Nova União teammate José Aldo. Indeed, they each shake off over 90 percent of takedown attempts against them, while landing over 60 percent of their own attempts—an incredible 78 percent success rate in Barão’s case.”
So what can Faber do to stop Barão’s sensational streak? Yes, he’s the bigger, stronger man, but he’s at a disadvantage stylistically. One thing he should do is implement more kicks into his game. Effectively kicking will let Faber control the distance in the stand up game, as well as take some of the pep out of the step of the energetic Brazilian, which will come in handy during the later rounds of this fight. Faber also needs to establish early on that he is not afraid to stand with Barão.
When Barão fought Scott Jorgensen at UFC 143 earlier this year, Jorgensen was forced to pull guard in order to get the fight to the ground because he could not take Barão down and was so adverse to standing and trading. I don’t think Urijah will have this problem. He is so mentally sound that he takes each fight very seriously and comes in prepared for the style of each opponent. All he needs to do is connect on Barão on the feet to gain respect and swing the momentum of the fight in his favor.
On the flipside, all Barão really needs to do to secure a win is implement his normal game. It’s going to fall on Faber evolve his game to the level that it needs to be, which he should be able to do. Let’s not forget that while Barão’s win streak may be uber-impressive, he has not fought anybody as skilled as Faber. Faber, on the other hand, has fought someone a lot like Barao in UFC featherweight champion José Aldo. Faber referenced this in a recent interview when he stated, “Yeah, of course I know what Renan is going to do, he’s going to kick me in the leg, that’s probably what Aldo is telling him to do. I can’t let him kick me in the legs that much.”
While this is a bad stylistic match-up for Faber, “The California Kid” is tough for any man to deal with. I think he’ll rise to the occasion in the UFC 149 main event and this fight with Barão will be a much more entertaining title fight than Faber vs. Cruz III would have been.