Barao vs. Faber: A Complete Guide to Full UFC 169 Fight Card

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterJanuary 27, 2014

Barao vs. Faber: A Complete Guide to Full UFC 169 Fight Card

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    Let me ask you a question: Do you like the little guys? Now let me ask you another question: Do you like big knockouts?

    If you like both of those things—and both of them togetherthen UFC 169 on Feb. 1 is your very special peanut butter cup card of the fledgling year.

    From lightweight on down, UFC 169 is a remarkable collection of powerful smaller fighters, which is one of the promotion's smaller stylistic demographics. And if you prefer the bigger guys, never fear. Somewhere on the card, there's a big bolt thrower for just about every weight class.

    At the top of the slate, you have Renan Barao and Urijah Faber mixing it up for the bantamweight title. Two heavy hitters there. And in the co-main event, one of the world's very best in Jose Aldo defends his featherweight strap against the streaking Ricardo Lamas, who got this title shot the old-fashioned way by earning it.

    In examining UFC 169, you'll see that fireworks are poised and ready for launch up and down the card. Here's a full preview of the event, including information capsules, predictions and viewing coordinates for every contest.

Neil Magny vs. Gasan Umalatov

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    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Neil Magny (8-3), Gasan Umalatov (14-2-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    You may remember Magny from his television appearances: The Ultimate Fighter 16, for instance, or Spongebob Squarepants

    No need for the long face, though, Neil. Here's guessing you'll have your way with Umalatov. No offense to the Russian, but it seems that with more than a few stellar Russian prospects tearing through various promotions including the UFC, there is a kind of arms race to collect as many Russians as possible, regardless of track record. 

    Both men appear to be grapplers at heart, but Magny should be able to use a reach advantage to score in the stand-up. The UFC veteran should also be more capable on the ground, too.

    Prediction: Magny via unanimous decision.

Tony Martin vs. Rashid Magomedov

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    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Tony Martin (8-0), Rashid Magomedov (15-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Now here's a Russian prospect with some actual steam behind him. If you don't know Magomedov, now's a good time to get acquainted. He vacated the M-1 Global welterweight championship to head to the UFC, and at UFC 169, he'll be fighting for the first time outside of Russia or the Ukraine.

    Tony Martin seems like a fine fighter, but Magomedov is hard to deal with in any phase. He relies mainly on sharp counterstriking and very heavy-control grappling to keep opponents in their shells. Martin is an aggressive striker and submission artist but won't find many openings against the Russian.

    Prediction: Magomedov via unanimous decision.

Clint Hester vs. Andy Enz

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    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Clint Hester (9-3), Andy Enz (7-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    I can only assume the UFC is dangling Clint Hester behind the subscription wall in hopes he will entice more fans into making the leap.

    It's certainly tempting me. I don't want to make him out to be some kind of world-beater, but he looked fantastic in 2013, knocking out Bristol Marunde and then Dylan Andrews (that fight ended with an Andrews shoulder injury, but Hester was winning before the doctor stoppage).

    He is a slugger who puts on entertaining fights, and he'll be put to the test against a good grappler in Andy Enz. Yep, it's the classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Methinks the striker comes out on top this time.

    Prediction: Hester via TKO, Rd. 2.

Al Iaquinta vs. Kevin Lee

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    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Al Iaquinta (7-2-1), Kevin Lee (7-0)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Kevin Lee is only 21 years old and already a talented and undefeated submission artist. But his greenness will show against Iaquinta, the well-rounded veteran out of the Serra-Longo fight camp. Iaquinta will stuff Lee's takedowns, score a few of his own and keep his opponent off balance with clean punch combinations.

    Prediction: Iaquinta via unanimous decision.

Nick Catone vs. Tom Watson

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    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Nick Catone (9-4), Tom Watson (16-6)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    This one has all the makings of a brawl sloppier than a, I don't know, toddler after a, umm...bath in spaghetti sauce.

    Catone is a former Division I wrestler who prefers a sprawl-and-brawl approach. You know, the kind of guy Mike Goldberg will compare to Chuck Liddell five or six times. Watson is your classic British pub fighter, all flagstone fists and grit. In his last fight, he got in over his head in a ground war with jiu-jitsu ace Thales Leites.

    That shouldn't happen this time. Watson is better than his 1-2 UFC record indicates, and he'll show it on Saturday. This will ]be the third straight loss for Catone and could mean his Zuffa walking papers.

    Prediction: Watson via KO, Rd. 1.

Chris Cariaso vs. Danny Martinez

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    Division: Flyweight
    Records: Chris Cariaso (15-5), Danny Martinez (16-4)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    This one could be the kind of barn-burner that is not often seen in the UFC's lightest division.

    The matchup lost some zip when bright up-and-comer Kyoji Horiguchi fell injured and was replaced by Martinez, a TUF 18 alumnus that the UFC scooped up to keep the fight alive.

    But Martinez is nobody's bum. He's an Alliance MMA member and the rare flyweight who can stop an opponent with his fists. That approach is perfectly fine with Cariaso, who loves to scrap and wants no part of the ground. He has been inconsistent, but he looked great against Iliarde Santos and appears to be on the upswing.

    Prediction: Cariaso via TKO, Rd. 2.

John Makdessi vs. Alan Patrick

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    Division: Lightweight
    Records: John Makdessi (12-2), Alan Patrick (11-0)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Alan Patrick is a scary dude, but John Makdessi is a little scarier. 

    Patrick flattened Garrett Whiteley in his debut, and he has terrific athleticism. That's why he got matched up with "The Bull." But Makdessi will be too much. He'll keep Patrick at bay with one of the best jabs in the business, fend off takedowns, get the better of clinch exchanges and put the pedal to the medal when Patrick gets frustrated. Makdessi has had setbacks in his career, but he's a seasoned 28 now and will pick up his fourth straight win.

    Prediction: Makdessi via unanimous decision.

Jamie Varner vs. Abel Trujillo

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    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Jamie Varner (21-8-1), Abel Trujillo (11-5)
    See it on: Pay-per-view

    Since re-entering the UFC, Varner has alternated wins and losses. If that trend continues, he'll get the W in Newark, N.J.

    The module is telling me I need to type more. So Trujillo has also been up and down in his UFC tenure, but most recently, the Blackzilian looked good in gaining some professional revenge over Roger Bowling. He hits like a truck and is positively ripped, but my spidey sense is telling me that Varner has an edge.

    Varner has the power to hold his own in a striking battle, but if he leaves his chin out, Trujillo might tag it to ill effect. Instead, Varner will score takedowns and pin Trujillo against the fence. Boring but effective.

    Prediction: Varner via unanimous decision.

John Lineker vs. Ali Bagautinov

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    Division: Flyweight
    Records: John Lineker (23-6), Ali Bagautinov (12-2)
    See it on: Pay-per-view

    Not to sound like a bad after-school special, but Lineker's biggest enemy is himself. As everyone knows, He has a little weight-cutting problem. He's missed the mark in three out of five UFC contests. But the guy is so likable, with his crazy knockout power and track record of success and so on.

    Assuming he can do what he has to do, this fight has contender implications in the 125-pound division. Bagautinov is new to the scene at only 2-0 in the UFC, but he's more than just a trendy surname. He's a Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter and a world-class grappler with knockout power. 

    The Lineker train will end here or at least slow down. It's going to be a gunfight at first, which will give way to a slower burning but compelling victory for the Russian.

    Prediction: Bagautinov via TKO, Rd. 2.

Frank Mir vs. Alistair Overeem

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Records: Frank Mir (16-8), Alistair Overeem (36-13)
    See it on: Pay-per-view

    What this fight lacks in direct title implications, it makes up for on the emotional side of things. 

    Both fighters attract strong opinions in both directions. Both have been accused of being a little cocky. Both have a lot of fights and success under their belts. Both might be in receipt of some undesirable paperwork if they lose on Saturday night.

    As for the fight, it's a grappler vs. striker delight straight out of central casting. Everyone knows about the accomplishments of each heavyweight. Mir, 34, has lost three straight. Overeem, 33, has lost two straight.

    I'll let those numbers make the decision for me, along with the fact that Mir has always been vulnerable to a power striking game like Overeem's, much more so than Overeem is vulnerable to a submission grappling game like Mir's.

    Prediction: Overeem via TKO, Rd. 2.

Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas

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    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Jose Aldo (23-1), Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
    See it on: Pay-per-view

    With Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva out of the equation for the foreseeable future and Jon Jones not on a lot of minds, there's a bit of a vacuum at the top of the pound-for-pound list. With an emphatic victory at UFC 169, Aldo could move up that ladder a notch or two.

    In my case, anyway, the heart gravitates toward Ricardo Lamas, the low-profile veteran who kept winning big fights—and winning them big—until the UFC was unable to continue ignoring him. I mean, a second-round submission of Cub Swanson, a unanimous decision over Hatsu Hioki and a second-round TKO of Erik Koch? That's a monster run. And since dropping to featherweight, he has literally been unbeatable. 

    And now for the but. The head cannot be pushed aside here. Lamas' game is predicated on his wrestling, but even so, he lands takedowns at a fairly inefficient 36 percent clip. And the hard, cold fact is that sort of success rate will not get the job done against a man in Aldo who, for my money, has the best takedown defense in the business.

    He also has some of the best striking in the business. And you know what? That's an effective combination. Aldo will slam home a leg kick or two in the beginning to sap Lamas' horsepower. He will then use footwork, angles and that crackling power to put Lamas down and away. 

    Mark Hominick showed that Aldo can be outboxed, but Lamas lacks that skill level. If I'm wrong, I'll be the first one to tip my cap. But Aldo will win this one convincingly and maybe take a step up the overall rankings in the process.

    Prediction: Aldo via TKO, Rd. 1.

Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber

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    Division: Bantamweight
    Records: Renan Barao (31-1), Urijah Faber (30-6)
    See it on: Pay-per-view

    People who write off all notions of competitiveness here because Barao handled Faber the first time have not been paying close attention. 

    Is Barao is going to lose? No, I do not think that. But Faber will confirm his home in the division's No. 2 slot.

    Faber went 4-0 in 2013, as he was just as reinvigorated by the addition of coach Duane Ludwig as the rest of Team Alpha Male. He'll have a better stand-up attack this time and be more advanced in movement and the combinations he throws. And you know the rugged wrestling and submission game is always tuned and ready.

    But Barao is advancing, too. I can see him shooting for a takedown, keeping his head and neck out of guillotine danger and working on Faber from top position. I can also see him outstriking Faber with his muay thai, despite Faber's strides.

    Ironically, an exciting performance from Barao might make for a dull division. Who else can challenge him if not Faber? Nobody, that is who. Settle in and get ready for that vaunted Barao win streak (and, now, title reign) to get a lot longer.

    Prediction: Barao via unanimous decision.


    Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter