Urijah Faber vs Renan Barao: Should Barao Defend His Belt or Wait for Cruz

Jordy McElroyCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2012

Renan Barao - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
Renan Barao - Esther Lin/MMAFighting

The era of Renan Barao is upon us, at least until Dominick Cruz returns to action.

At UFC 149, Barao claimed the interim UFC bantamweight title and extended his incredible unbeaten streak to 30 after a five-round dissection of Urijah Faber.

Coming into the fight, there was a myriad of hype surrounding Barao, a training partner of UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo. He was coming off big wins over Brad Pickett and Scott Jorgensen, but until Saturday night, Barao was untested against upper-echelon opposition.

Faber was game as always, but Barao's superior striking, takedown defense and utilization of range was the story of the night.

"I came well-prepared," Barao told UFC commentator Joe Rogan after the fight. "Faber is a great fighter, but this is the result [of my hard work]. My coach told me to keep [kicking the leg], and this was the result."

What's next for Barao?

There is a lingering question of whether or not he should start defending his interim title or wait around to face Cruz for the undisputed title.

Cruz was originally slated to face Faber in the main event on Saturday night, but he had to withdraw from the fight after suffering a torn ACL in training. Ariel Helwani reported on a timetable for Cruz's return in an episode of UFC Tonight.

He said Cruz was hopeful for a quick return, but given the severity of the injury, the UFC champ could be sidelined for up to 18 months.

For now, Barao is the UFC champion and he should defend his title against the next person in line.

At only 25 years of age, Barao has reached the apex of his career. He should defend his title, enjoy his championship salary and continue to rake in as much experience as possible.

A bout with Cruz will come somewhere down the line.

As for now, this moment belongs to Barao.