Eddie Wineland knows what it’s like to be a champion, and this weekend at UFC 165, the former WEC bantamweight champ will go for UFC gold against interim champion Renan Barao.
The task ahead is a massive one as Barao hasn’t lost in his last 31 MMA fights. The champ is 5-0 in the UFC, having won the interim belt by decision against Urijah Faber at UFC 149 and successfully defended once against Michael McDonald, submitting the talented 22-year-old in the fourth round of their clash in England.
Wineland is a prohibitive underdog heading into this fight, which was originally set to take place at UFC 161 but had to be rescheduled because of a Barao foot injury. Wineland is known for his toughness and his very strong boxing skills. He has 10 knockouts in his career and another five victories via submission.
His start in the UFC was a rocky one as he suffered defeats to both Faber and Joseph Benavides. However, Wineland has since recovered nicely with a knockout victory over the tough Scott Jorgenson and recorded a split decision win over Brad Pickett at UFC 155.
Most consider Barao to be a much more diversified fighter than Wineland as he has showcased his superior skills against his Octagon opponents. While lacking Wineland’s power, Barao has managed six knockouts during his career. The interim champion has good defense as he isn’t easy to hit, and he’s obviously a tough guy in his own right, having never been knocked out or submitted.
The champ also possesses brutal leg kicks, and his high-end ground game has produced 14 submission victories. That could spell danger for Wineland, who has been submitted on three occasions in his career.
The prevailing theory seems to be that Wineland does have a puncher’s chance going into this fight. Wineland seems comfortable in the underdog role and is quite confident in his abilities. It has the makings to be an exciting bantamweight title fight, and the UFC is banking on it being the last “interim” title bout for the division.
The winner will be in line for a unification showdown against Dominick Cruz if the champion is able to meet his targeted return of early 2014.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports