UFC 173: Renan Barao’s Incredible Run
This Saturday night’s main event at UFC 173 in Las Vegas, Nevada will mark 3,327 days since UFC bantamweight champion Renan “Barao” Pegado, who faces the No. 5 bantamweight TJ Dillashaw, last tasted defeat in his professional debut in April of 2005.
Since losing his first pro bout, Barao has been on an absolute tear going 32-0 with 1 NC, making the bantamweight champion one of the most unstoppable forces in all of MMA, and giving the dynamic Brazilian a real argument for the #1 pound-for-pound slot.
After laying waste to the local fight scenes in Natal and Rio de Janeiro from 2005-2009, Renan Barao was called up to the big leagues in 2010, when he made his American debut submitting Anthony Leone in the third round in a 142 pound catch-weight bout at WEC 49.
Barao followed up this impressive performance at WEC 53 that December with another submission win over world ranked UFC flyweight Chris Cariaso, giving the then 22-year-old Renan Barao a shot in the new UFC bantamweight division after the WEC roster was absorbed by the UFC in 2011.
In his first three Octagon appearances, Barao was nothing short of electric, employing a wild kick-heavy stand up attack and a razor sharp ground game that no one has been able to solve. Barao put on a particularly scintillating performance against Brad Pickett at UFC 138, which he sandwiched between decision victories over top bantamweights Scott Jorgensen and Cole Escovedo. Against Pickett, Renan Barao reminded onlookers of the power he possesses on the feet to complement his assassin-like ground game when he dropped “One Punch” Pickett with a violent barrage before latching onto his back and finishing the Brit on the mat.
After his win over Scott Jorgensen, Barao was selected to step in for an injured Dominick Cruz who was slated to defend his title in a rubber match with Urijah Faber at UFC 149 following a heated season coaching opposite his rival on the Ultimate Fighter.
Though many had tapped Barao to one-day rule the UFC bantamweight division, some critics wondered if the 25-year-old phenom was ready for a shot at a world title against a veteran like Faber. The now UFC bantamweight kingpin answered with a resounding yes, as he shut down the former WEC featherweight champion Faber for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory and a UFC interim title.
Even more terrifying than his absurd win streak, is that Barao appears to be turning the intensity up a notch with each defense of his title. In his first bout as the interim champion against rising prospect Michael McDonald, Renan Barao overcame a tough start to wear down his explosive opponent with a diverse attack and eventually brought the youthful McDonald to the ground where Barao baited him into a side choke and finished the fight late in the fourth round.
In his next outing at UFC 165 Renan Barao wasted even less time dispatching his opponent. After a close first round against dangerous challenger Eddie Wineland, the champ found a home for a devastating spinning back kick that landed flush on Wineland’s jaw, earning “Knock of the Night” for Barao.
Following the victory Barao was slated to face returning champ Dominick Cruz at UFC 169 in a title unification bout, but after Cruz was once again sidelined with a serious injury and forced to withdraw from the fight, the “interim” label was stripped from his belt, making Renan Barao the outright bantamweight champion.
The newly-crowned UFC Bantamweight Champion made his first true defense in a rematch against Urijah Faber, who had been on an impressive winning streak following his last loss to Barao. In what was supposed to be a closer fight than the first, Barao manhandled the No. 1 contender, knocking him out in the first round and firmly put his stamp on the 135 pound division.
Now the champ looks increase his unbeaten streak to 33 this Saturday and right now he looks virtually unstoppable. It would be foolish to count out Dillashaw who is a stud wrestler and ever improving, but with the champion Barao’s combination of lethal striking, otherworldly submissions and flawless takedown defense it is hard to see where the Team Alpha Male product will hold an edge.