UFC 149: 3 Things to Watch for at Urijah Faber vs. Renan Barao

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterJuly 19, 2012

SACRAMENTO, CA - JUNE 26:  Urijah Faber relaxing after working out for the media during the Team Alpha Male Media Open Workout at Ultimate Fitness Gym on June 26, 2012 in Sacramento, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Okay, so the version of UFC 149 that we're getting on Saturday night isn't what we thought we were getting when the card was announced.

It's the most injury-decimated card in UFC history, at least in terms of name value. We thought we were going to see Jose Aldo, Michael Bisping, Shogun Rua, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Thiago Alves.

Instead, we're getting Urijah Faber, Hector Lombard and a bunch of dudes. And I'm OK with that, mostly because I'm a degenerate fight fan. I'll watch anything. But I understand if your wallet is feeling the pinch and you choose to take a pass. 

Just remember one thing: these UFC cards with a bunch of no-name fighters are usually the ones that deliver the most action. If you're a true fight fan, like me, you don't care how many pay-per-views the UFC will sell on Saturday night. You just want to see some fighting.

Let's take a look at three questions I have regarding UFC 149 in Calgary.


1. Can Urijah Faber capture one more magic moment?

Time is running out on the "California Kid." Or maybe it's not.

History tells us that Faber is 0-4 in his last four title bouts. Two fights with Mike Brown, one with Jose Aldo and one with Dominick Cruz. This is all public record.

What folks don't always consider—and what I tried to relay in a piece I wrote yesterday—is just what Faber has meant to the lighter weight classes in mixed martial arts. He's been the standard-bearer for fighters that fall under 155 pounds, and he's carried the torch admirably.

I realize it outrages a lot of fans, but that's why he's still getting title fights—because he's the most popular guy in all three of the UFC's lowest weight classes, and by a wide margin. And, like I noted yesterday, you could include lightweight in that description and be fairly accurate, too.

There's also Faber's overall record. He's 25-5 over an extraordinary career. That's nothing to scoff at, and there are times when he comes up big when you least expect him to. Remember his win over Brian Bowles? That was pure, utter domination, finished with a fury. It was a statement. 

Will Faber have that kind of statement on Saturday night? It's hard to say. Renan Barao, despite his unknown status amongst UFC fans, is a threat. He's dangerous in every area, and he's the favorite in the fight for a reason.

Can Faber win the fight and stay in the title picture? Absolutely. And I think he will. But it's going to be a tough test. 


2. Will Hector Lombard fare well under the bright lights of the UFC?

Hector Lombard is a good fighter. You have to be, in order to build up the kind of winning streak he has. Those wins may have come against sub-par competition, but mixed martial arts is a sport where one glancing punch behind the ear can send a big underdog hurtling to victory. What Lombard has accomplished takes skill.

But he's going from Bellator to the UFC. Not only that, he's going from Bellator into a pay-per-view spotlight bout where, if he beats Tim Boetsch, he'll jump right into a title fight with Anderson Silva

That's what I'd call pressure.

But perhaps this kind of thing doesn't really affect Lombard. He's a bit on the crazy side, after all. He may not have even considered the fact that he's jumping straight into the frying pan with a chance to move into the fire if he wins.

Lombard has one other thing going for him: he's been competing his entire life. If he treats this like just another day at the office, well, things could get really bad for Boetsch. In a hurry, too.


3. Will Brian Ebersole go 5-0 at welterweight?

Remember that time when Brian Ebersole was going to finish up his UFC welterweight career at 4-0 and make the move down to lightweight? Ebersole wanted to be healthy and keep his body in shape to emulate guys like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, so he planned on following their lead and dropping a weight class to finish out his career.

That didn't last long. Four weeks, to be exact. Ebersole tossed the move to lightweight out the window in order to replace Claude Patrick at UFC 149, where he'll face James Head.

Ebersole is one of my absolute favorite stories in MMA right now. Two years ago, he had very little chance of even getting in the UFC, much less ripping off a winning streak. But he took a chance as a late-notice injury replacement underdog and won his first fight, and he's been going ever since.

He's once again a late-notice injury replacement. But this time, he's the favorite, and for good reason. Head hasn't proven that he has the skills to compete with Ebersole, and this should be another solid win for the man with the Hairrow on his chest.