In winning the interim UFC title, Renan Barao accomplished a dream he has worked towards his entire life.
The overly amped and joyous celebration at the end of the UFC 149 main event told a story of hard work, dedication and seizing a great opportunity.
After an injury forced UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz out of the main event, Barao stepped in as a late replacement to challenge Urijah Faber for an interim UFC title.
Despite coming off wins over top-10 talent like Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett, Faber represented a major step up in competition for the 25-year-old Barao.
On Saturday night, the hype surrounding Barao was validated, as he torched Faber in the standup for five rounds to take home a fairly one-sided unanimous decision.
Barao's utilization of range was the primary reason he had his hand raised at the end of the fight.
While Faber relies on speed, Barao is more of a tactician in the pocket and his accuracy is just as deadly as his knockout power.
Every attempt Faber made to explode inside with offense was stifled by Barao's slick footwork and striking accuracy.
This also helped with avoiding takedowns. When your footwork is as good as Barao's, it becomes easier to defend shot attempts. Barao was never caught out of position and his distance forced Faber to telegraph takedown attempts in the open.
Faber's inability to defend leg kicks also played a role in the fight. Instead of checking kicks, Faber has a tendency to let them go through in hopes of finding an opening to counter.
UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo, who trains with Barao, was able to capitalize on this wrinkle in Faber's game back in April 2010. Barao simply took a page out of Aldo's book by keeping his distance and working the front leg.
Cruz had better sleep with one eye open.
The UFC bantamweight division is slowly becoming Barao's territory.
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