Dominick Cruz vs. Renan Barao Will Now Headline UFC 169

Christopher Heathman@@CHeathmanCorrespondent IINovember 5, 2013

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 15:  UFC fighter Dominick Cruz arrives at UFC, Famous Stars and Straps and New Era's 'The Magic Party' at XS the nightclub on February 15, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

The UFC has announced the champion vs. champion bout between Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao. They will headline UFC 169, while Jose Aldo will defend his featherweight crown against Ricardo Lamas in the co-main event.

When the two fights were announced for the same event, many assumed it would be the 145lbs title fight which would headline.

In normal circumstances, the heavier weight class would be given top billing on a card with two title fights. However, the UFC has decided to go against protocol in favour of the 135lbs title bout, which is the bigger fight of the two.

Cruz's return to face a seemingly unstoppable Barao in a champion vs. champion encounter will be one of the most eagerly awaited bouts of the new year. Plus, with the bantamweight champion's regular appearances on Fox broadcasts and the interim champion's recent successful pay-per-view appearances, both faces are the more familiar to audiences.

UFC 169 takes place on February 1 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey and is the UFC's annual Super Bowl weekend showpiece. Although usually in Las Vegas, the event is instead taking place alongside the NFL's curtain closer, which is held the next day at MetLife Stadium.

Bantamweight champion Cruz returns to the Octagon after more than two years out of action. Since the champion's last title defence against Demetrious Johnson in 2011, his Brazilian opponent beat Urijah Faber to the interim title, defended his belt against Michael McDonald and, most recently, beat Eddie Wineland at UFC 165.