UFC 149: What We Learned from Urijah Faber vs. Renan Barao
In his first title fight for any promotion, Brazilian Renan Barao used a controlled but effective game plan to confound ex-champ Urijah Faber and capture the UFC interim bantamweight belt at UFC 149 Saturday night in Calgary, Canada.
Barao (29-1-1) still has not lost since his professional debut in 2005. When the 25-year-old celebrated the interim title by jumping across the cage and exulting with teammates and coaches, it might have been the most exciting part of the main event.
"I came well prepared for everything," Barao told broadcaster Joe Rogan through a translator after the fight. "I knew Urijah Faber was a great athlete. I prepared well and got a good result."
Barao used a long reach and a diversity of strikes to prevent Faber from getting too close. And like training partner Jose Aldo before him, Barao used leg kicks to hobble Faber's movement and hamper his takedown attempts. According to FightMetric, Barao landed 20 leg kicks during the fight, 15 of which were considered power strikes.
By and large, though, the fight was surprisingly short on action, given the frenetic reputations both fighters enjoy. Faber (26-6) was never able to get to Barao, and the outcome was never deeply in doubt.
What We'll Remember about this Fight
There was no huge blow or move, no signature sequence. Renan Barao had a plan, and Faber couldn't do anything to stop it. The key takeaway was Barao plucking the torch from the 32-year-old Faber. Dominick Cruz is the true champion, but Faber was still the face of the lower weight classes. He can't credibly wear that mantle anymore.
What We Learned about Urijah Faber
Faber is no longer able to compete at the highest level. Versus the likes of Barao or Cruz or Aldo, Faber simply can't get it past the goalie. In the later rounds, when it was clear Faber would need a finish, "The California Kid" still could not bring himself to go for broke. He wasn't as good as Renan Barao Saturday night, and he knew it.
Oh, and he also still doesn't have an answer for leg kicks. Dear fighters: If you want to beat Faber, try the leg kick.
What We Learned about Renan Barao
We learned that he won't throw the baby out with the bath water. Barao's performance wasn't exciting, but it was more than sufficient. He conscientiously used his striking range and takedown defense to form a seal around himself that Faber could not penetrate.
What's Next for Faber
He can't be the face of the lighter weights anymore, but he'll remain at the top of the bantamweight division and will remain extremely marketable. How about a matchup with Eddie Wineland? Wineland lost to Faber in the UFC debut for both men back in 2011. I don't think Wineland would mind a chance to run it back.
What's Next for Barao:
If UFC President Dana White sticks to his word, the interim champ will not fight again until Cruz returns from his torn ACL, probably in early 2013. If that's the case, it's unfortunate, as I'd like to see Barao defend the belt at least once. If the interim belt were to be defended, young up-and-comer Michael McDonald would seem to be the top challenger.
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