Renan Barao will defend his interim bantamweight belt against Michael McDonald during the first quarter of 2013.
The matchup was confirmed by Dana White in an interview with UFC Tonight late Tuesday.
Once the news broke that current champion Dominic Cruz underwent a second surgery to to repair his ACL, it became apparent the UFC would want to move on and get Barao a new opponent instead of waiting for Cruz to heal.
Barao's camp had stated he wanted to wait for Cruz instead of taking another fight. Back in October, Barao's coach had this to say about their plans: "He just won the title, just fought. We will wait. Look how long the wait was for Condit and GSP to unify the belt?"
Barao has a nearly flawless professional MMA record over 31 fights. The only blemishes are a No Contest that took place in 2007 and a loss in his first professional fight nearly eight years ago.
The Interim Champ is coming off a win against Urijah Faber in July at UFC 149. It was a dominating performance in which Barao won the fight via decision 49-46, 50-45, 49-46. The 25-year-old will make his first title defense against an even younger fighter.
McDonald has the same type of impressive professional record (15-1) and is currently riding a eight-fight winning streak. We last saw him in April at UFC 145 knocking out Miguel Torres in the first round.
This is a wonderful matchup that provides a great opportunity for McDonald and a true test for Barao.
Joe Chacon is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and a staff writer for Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeChacon.