Barao vs. McDonald: Interim Brazilian Champ Staking Claim as One of UFC's Best

Ethan GrantAnalyst IFebruary 17, 2013

Jul 21, 2012; Calgary, AB, CANADA; Renan Barao during the interim bantamweight title bout of UFC 149 against Urijah Faber (not pictured) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

UFC on Fuel TV 7 was headlined by Renan Barao and Michael McDonald's clash for the bantamweight championship.

After Barao reigned victorious following a fourth-round arm triangle submission (via ESPN), one thing became painfully clear (especially for McDonald): Barao is one of the UFC's best—interim titleholder, or not.

He's proved that with a 5-0 record in Dana White's league, taking his career record to 30-1 (1) (20 straight wins in the process) and placing the "interim" part of his title as an afterthought before remembering that Dominick Cruz is actually the current titleholder. It was the first official defense of the title after defeating Urijah Faber to win the interim belt.

If Barao performs like he did on Saturday in any match against Cruz, we'll get to remove the "interim" part for good.

The Brazilian announced that he hoped Cruz's current knee rehab was going well, and proclaimed to the entire London crowd that he was ready for that fight when the right time comes.

Although Barao was clearly the big winner on Saturday, McDonald performed quite well. He managed to keep the fight very competitive through the first three rounds by showing some nice moves to avoid keeping the fight on the ground, but Barao took hold in the fourth round and ended up submitting the challenger for the victory.

That was that for the card, and it brings about a fierce debate that is really flying under the radar in the UFC right now. Sure, Jose Aldo is dominating, Jon "Bones" Jones and Georges St. Pierre both will likely get a shot at Anderson Silva and Cain Velasquez has been impressive in the heavyweight division.

But Banao vs. Cruz is a storyline that isn't getting enough press right now in the UFC airwaves.

Cruz managed to throw some fuel on the fire during his match commentary on Saturday, saying that he presents an entirely different fighting style to what other opponents have done in losing to Banao (via Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports):

I'll tell you the difference: I fight different than anybody else. I'm not going to stand in front of you. I'm not just looking to counter you, and I'm mixing things up. On top of that, you take away range with angles. That beats range every day of the week. And I can wrestle. I'm going to wrestle this guy.

That's all true, but if Cruz can't return from his knee injury in the near future, Banao could remain on top.

It's a conclusion that Ariel Helwani noted on Twitter following Banao's victory:

For now, Banao is the best bantamweight fighter on the planet. Cruz will eventually have a chance to dispel that theory, but rising through the ranks is a hard thing to stop when you get on a roll.

Banao is on a roll.

While we heap praise on Jones, Silva and the rest of the UFC roster for winning in dominating fashion, make sure to notice what the current bantamweight titleholder is doing while holding the "interim" designation.

If he's not careful, he might do something crazy and unify this thing in his favor in the process.