Urijah Faber is getting another well-deserved title opportunity at UFC 169 thanks to the continuing injury misfortunes for Dominick Cruz. The latter was forced to vacate his 135-pound bantamweight title because of a groin tear that forced him to withdraw from a highly-anticipated unification title fight on Feb. 1 against Renan Barao. Even though the Super Bowl weekend event in New Jersey is less than a month away, Faber wasn’t about to pass up the title shot despite such short notice. The Team Alpha Male member is riding high after an impressive 4-0 record in 2013 that had “The California Kid” in the conversation when it came to Fighter of the Year. Three of those victories came by way of submission including a most recent second-round stoppage of highly-rated contender Michael McDonald at UFC on FOX 9.
While Faber’s roll is one thing, Barao’s winning ways are on a whole different level. Barao is riding a remarkable 32-fight unbeaten string after losing the first fight of his career. Barao captured the interim title by defeating Faber at UFC 149 in a dominant five-round unanimous decision. Faber was taken off his game after suffering a broken rib in the opening round from a Barao knee and had to summon all of his veteran savvy just to last the distance.
Since becoming champion, Barao has made a pair of successful defenses finishing both McDonald and Eddie Wineland. His victory over Wineland at UFC 165 was of the highlight-reel variety as Barao employed a spinning back kick to stun his ultra-tough challenger before finishing the bout in the second round with follow-up strikes. The champion possesses tremendous leg kicks and a diversified offense that features brutal knees and solid strikes. He has 21 of his 31 career victories by knockout or submission.
While Barao-Cruz was definitely a matchup that fans wanted to see, bringing in Faber to the equation is certainly making the best of a tough scenario. Faber definitely has the skill set to end Barao’s remarkable win streak as he has remarkable cardio, a tremendous submission game and has benefited from the tutelage of striking coach Duane Ludwig. His only losses inside the Octagon have come against champions Barao and Cruz in title fights. Faber’s last five losses have come in title bouts in both the UFC and WEC. No doubt he’s tired of hearing that statistic and the 34-year-old is aware that this could be the final title opportunity that might could come his way. Barao is a tremendously difficult challenge for anyone, and it will take one of Faber’s finest career performances to finally get a UFC title belt around his waist.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.