After decimating Urijah Faber in July 2012, UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao entered UFC 169 as the favorite to do so again, and the Brazilian star didn't disappoint as he improved his impressive record to 32-1 via a first-round TKO, retaining the title at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Faber came out of the gate swinging and was much more aggressive with takedown attempts than he was in his first bout against the champion. However, it was that aggressiveness that helped lead to his early demise.
Barao rocked Faber with a huge right hand that almost ended the fight, but "The California Kid" recovered briefly. Unfortunately for him, Barao smelled the blood in the water, connected with Faber's chin again and put him away on the second effort.
Barao was initially expected to challenge former champion Dominick Cruz for the title at UFC 169, but UFC president Dana White made the decision to strip Cruz of the title due to his struggles with injuries. This led to Barao fighting Faber as champion instead, according to Damon Martin of FoxSports.com.
[Cruz] got a grade 2 or 3 groin tear, so he's out of the fight again. People have been waiting for this to happen so what we're going to do is this guy's been out over two years so Renan Barao will become the bantamweight champion and Urijah Faber, one of the biggest stars in the UFC, he fought four times in 2013, four impressive straight wins and on everybody's list this year for 'Fighter of the Year' he's going to step in on just three weeks notice and take on Renan Barao.
Many questioned White's decision to put Faber in the fight (despite his recent success), but there is no question that Faber had earned another shot at Barao. Even so, the result was ultimately the same as their previous encounter.
While Barao had just one loss prior to Feb. 1 and Faber had six, their statistics were actually quite comparable, as seen in this tale of the tape, courtesy of Torque Sports and Performance.
Ultimately, Faber was at a distinct disadvantage entering the fight. He only had three weeks to prepare, and while it can be argued that Barao also had to prepare for Faber on short notice, he was already training for a bout on Feb. 1 regardless.
With that said, Faber seemed to be far more upbeat ahead of his second meeting with Barao than he was previously. He admitted that he wasn't all-in back at UFC 149, but he experienced a change in attitude, according to Jeff Wagenheim of Sports Illustrated.
I was lackluster. I lost a decision and broke my rib. And got paid a fraction of what I was going to get paid for the original fight. I just wasn't excited about that Barao fight at all. Well, I'm excited about this fight. That's the big difference.
Who should Barao fight next?
Unfortunately for Faber, a different demeanor still wasn't enough to get him past Barao. The champion entered UFC 169 as the No. 6 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC rankings—there is certainly reason to believe that he will improve upon that standing.
The next logical step for Barao is a potential fight with No. 3 bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao. Barao has already beaten Faber, Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland and a host of other potential opponents, so the options are already wearing thin. A healthy Cruz would be an obvious choice, but it is unclear when he'll be ready.
As for Faber, it would seem as though he is at the back of the line after having lost to Barao twice. Like Barao, he has also taken on many of the top bantamweights already, so he may be at somewhat of a crossroads in his career.
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