UFC 169 goes down Saturday night in Newark, N.J., a short jaunt down the Jersey Turnpike from where the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will wage a fight of their own in Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII.
At the top of the card is a rematch between Renan Barao, a former interim champion made legitimate by another injury to his predecessor, and Urijah Faber, a former contender who's gone 4-0 since losing to him in 2012.
The fight is a clash of styles in every imaginable way, with Barao's young gun looking to best the veteran presence of Faber. Barao is completely weaponized on the feet, lashing kicks and combinations with free ferocity, while Faber is a man you absolutely do not want to tangle with in a grappling exchange.
The first bout was fairly one-sided considering the skill of Faber, a man all but unbeatable in fights that aren't for a title. Barao badly battered him in a decision win, but the performance fell on deaf ears, as it headlined one of the worst cards in the history of the UFC.
This time, the two meet in the headliner of one of the promotion's tent-pole pay-per-views the Saturday night before the Super Bowl, a night reserved for the likes of Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz in the past.
Smart odds would likely suggest a decision is in the offing once again, as both men are crafty and durable, but there are avenues to a shorter night's work for each.
Barao holds a decided advantage in technical acumen while standing and has a much wider range of attacks at his disposal. If he elected to truly put it on Faber at any point, it isn't hard to imagine him overwhelming the challenger with precision and volume if the chance presents itself.
For his part, Faber probably has the advantage in raw power and pure bulldog tenacity. He's mentally unbreakable, and if he decides to push forward and swing for the fences, he might score a knockdown or force Barao to the ground, where he could push the issue in the form of his hyper-aggressive submission game.
It's interesting, because both men hold advantages, but each is capable enough in the playground of the other to keep things close.
Barao may have a stand-up advantage, but Faber can hang enough with his power and experience to make it interesting.
Meanwhile, Faber is a terrifying proposition on the ground, but Barao is a black belt who comes from a good camp. He's also no picnic to take down.
The path seems obvious for two guys so closely matched. There will be fireworks, and depending on where the fight is contested, it's a lock to flesh itself out in favor of one man or another. It's only a matter of whether or not that happens inside of 25 minutes, and that's in the hands of the guys competing.
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