The UFC 165 main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson may be the talk of Toronto, but a co-main event between interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao and top contender Eddie Wineland could steal the show this evening.
And there are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited about this 135-pound affair. For the sake of your time and mine, we broke it down to the three reasons we are amped for Barao vs. Wineland.
1. With Dominick Cruz still out, Renan Barao is the best bantamweight on the planet
It's not every day (every fight card?) that fans have the opportunity to watch the best light heavyweight and best bantamweight fighters in the world compete. While Jones is the best fighter on this card, Barao is the best bantamweight on the planet since Dominick Cruz can't seem to get healthy.
Barao doesn't get the attention that some champions do because he's an interim champion in a lighter weight class. But he is still a top pound-for-pound fighter, and fans should be thrilled at the opportunity to watch him work.
We're all waiting for Cruz to return to settle the dispute as to who is the best 135-pound fighter on the planet. Until then, Barao holds that title. And he's probably the most dominant champion in the lighter weight classes not named Jose Aldo.
2. Wineland has knockout power, and he'll need to use it
Wineland can't expect to be the better technical striker in this fight. But he probably believes he is the most powerful.
In 20 career victories, the Indiana native has 10 knockout stoppages, a fairly remarkable figure for a bantamweight. But his power is unique for his division. Unlike heavier weight classes, bantamweights tend to lack one-punch knockout power. Wineland possesses that power, and he's going to need it.
Barao will look to kick his way through Wineland, and Eddie will have to act fast before the wheels come off. His power and a sense of urgency should yield a frantic first round in which Wineland throws some very heavy leather.
3. Bantamweight cardio keeps fights entertaining into the later rounds
As simple as it may sound, the strong cardio lighter fighters possess make for some of the more entertaining fights on any given card. As the rounds wear down, the fighters amp up the intensity. This cardio sets them apart from heavier fighters who fade late.
While the odds suggest this fight will be lopsided, both Barao and Wineland should just about match one another in terms of cardio. Even if the first few rounds go to Barao, Wineland's gas tank should allow him to be a threat for as long as the fight goes on.
Nothing is quite as satisfying to the paying UFC customer as a five-round war. Though this fight may not make it as far as the championship rounds, if it does, rest assured these two bantamweights will keep up the pace.
Jones vs. Gustafsson is the reason fans are dropping cash on this pay-per-view, but Barao vs. Wineland will go a long way in making this event worth the price. Between witnessing the best bantamweight fight, the constant threat of a Wineland KO and the seemingly endless cardio of these 135-pound competitors, the UFC 165 co-main event is set to deliver.