Amidst the story of Ultimate Fighter coach Dominick Cruz having being lost to injury, Renan Barao steps in his place for the interim Bantamweight Championship.
To many casual fans, it's a no-brainer that Faber is going to win and set up a title unification bout with Cruz. However many people are overlooking the skill set that Barao brings to this fight.
In this slideshow I'm going to break down the fight based on several key areas:
Tale of the Tape
|Urijah Faber||Renan Barao|
When looking at the two's record and measurables, the only true advantage that Barao has is in his age. So the only question to ask among Faber fans is if the youth and exuberance of Barao can overcome the craftiness and know how of Faber.
There's no secret that there was a certain animousity between Faber and Dominick Cruz that won't be duplicated against Barao. Barao is coming into this bout essentially with house money. Faber is the bigger name and he's just a very good up and comer from Brazil that will finish you when he sees the opening. Faber is one of the better grinders in the game, but he will definitely go for the kill too, which makes this match all the more interesting.
EDGE—Barao. Pressure bursts pipes, and Faber is 0-4 in his last four championship matches after dominating the featherweight division in the early days of WEC fame. Barao is playing with house money and has very little if anything to lose in this match.
Every fight begins on the feet, and that's exactly where Barao would like the fight to stay. Faber has shown solid technique on the feet, however it can't be discounted that Barao is training partners with Jose Aldo, who dominated Faber and decimated his left leg with crushing low kicks.
The numbers show that 55 percent of all successful strikes for Faber are standing while 85 percent of Barao's successful strikes come standing. So it's no secret who wants to stay on the feet more, and no secret as to who the better striking belongs to.
This is where the numbers can be a bit skewed. On the surface, it would look like Faber hands down would be the better wrestler, however the numbers against top flight competition show differently.
Faber— 32% takedown rate 16/50 58% takedown defense 15 fights
Barao— 78% takedown rate 7/9 93% takedown defense 6 fights
Keep in mind that even though the initial numbers show one thing, the sample size is much different. For instance, Barao's sample size is five fights, while Faber's is 15 against championship caliber fighters. So by looking at the eye test of wrestling skills, there's just one way to go with this one.
Faber— 14 career submissions in 31 fights.
Barao— 13 career submissions in 30 fights.
The numbers are close but I think this truly comes down to one thing. Faber is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Barao is a black belt.
Now anybody who has a black belt in any martial art knows that the difference between the two is a little more dedication and responsibility. The skill levels are almost the same. However with that being said, Barao has done it against many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, which seals the deal.
Of all the recorded data for the two fighters this one is still a hard one to call.
We haven't truly gotten a chance to see Barao's clinch work but the flashes he's shown have been explosive: heavy knees and uppercuts from the clinch position. However it's Faber that does more with his clinch and has been known to use it for multiple causes.
There really is only one way to go on this one. Barao is impressive, having won 28 of his 30 matches. However up until 5 fights ago he'd done it in regional circuits against other fellow Brazilians. Once back in 2006 he faced Rony Mariano, who's in the UFC today. That means in 24 of his 30 matches he's fought largely against not as stiff of competition.
Faber, on the other hand, was the face of the WEC as its featherweight champion. He was also longtime King of the Cage Bantamweight Champion and has held both belts simultaneously. He was at one time a top ten P4P fighter and could very well see himself right back into that mix with a victory against Barao and another against Cruz.
There's no competition here.
This is not going to be an easy fight for either man. The one key in this match will be Barao's takedown defense and work off of his back. If his 93 percent takedown defense holds up and he can keep this match standing up, I can see him winning a decision. However if Faber is able to take him down and control him, I can easily see Faber winning as well.
The way I see it going, Faber will struggle to take Barao down in the first followed by a few rounds of mixed results.
Verdict: Faber by 4th round submission. Yes, Barao does have the edge in submissions, but even the great Minotauro Nogueira was submitted, so no one is immune to a good submission artist like Faber. I think if Faber takes Barao into the championship rounds he'll have an excellent chance of ending his championship fight losing streak and earning the right to fight his nemesis.