UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao looks to continue the sport’s most impressive winning streak when he meets a familiar foe at UFC 169 in New Jersey. The talented Brazilian, won the interim belt against Urijah Faber at UFC 149 in a dominant five-round decision, will be looking to make another successful title defense against the surging “California Kid.” Faber went an impressive 4-0 in 2013 and got the call after the unfortunate injury woes continued for Dominick Cruz. Cruz, who had been on the shelf since 2011 due to ACL injuries, was finally forced to relinquish his title after a groin tear took him out of what was to be a unification clash with Barao. It’s Barao’s first defense as the undisputed champion.
Faber was quick to take the short notice title opportunity and hopes to get revenge on Barao and win UFC gold for the first time. He’s failed in previous title efforts in the Octagon against both Barao and Cruz. Faber’s game has been taken to another level since the loss to Barao, a fight that the veteran was hampered in after suffering a broken rib in the opening round. He’s coming off a tremendous performance at UFC on FOX 9 where he submitted talented youngster Michael McDonald in the second-round in Sacramento. Faber’s striking game has improved under the watchful eye of head coach Duane Ludwig, and with a high level of confidence, a tremendous submission game and outstanding cardio he believes he can be the man to finally end Barao’s 32-fight unbeaten string. Faber is promising to push the pace more this time around.
Barao’s diversified attack will certainly be a dangerous puzzle for Faber to solve. It’s been an incredible run for the 26-year-old Barao since losing his first career fight, and another victory over Faber on Super Bowl weekend would represent the biggest win of his career. Since initially winning the interim belt Barao has made a pair of impressive title defenses. He took out McDonald via fourth-round submission and produced a highlight-reel second-round finish of Eddie Wineland at UFC 165. His leg kicks have been a trademark, and he’s also employed strikes and brutal knees in producing 21 finishes by way of knockout or submission in 31 career victories.
While their first meeting went the full 25 minutes and the rematch certainly has the potential to do so, both fighters have the ability to pounce on an opponent’s mistake to produce an emphatic finish. It should be a highly-entertaining contest between two elite fighters who should produce plenty of back and forth action.
If Faber finally wins a UFC title, his star power gets taken to another level and he becomes one of the most marketable champions in the promotion. If Barao successfully defends his title he will truly have established his bantamweight supremacy and will be in the discussion when it comes to top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports