UFC 169's main event saw Renan Barao establish himself as the cream of the organization's bantamweight crop with a first-round TKO defense of his championship belt against Urijah Faber.
UFC 169 results: Renan Barao def. Urijah Faber via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 3:42 - to retain UFC bantamweight title— MMAjunkie MMA (@MMAjunkie) February 2, 2014
Despite Faber's best attempts to spring the upset on short notice, "The California Kid" couldn't get much going before Barao drew the stoppage from referee Herb Dean.
The stoppage, of course, turned out to be a source of controversy. Faber was floored by a heavy right hand from Barao but was able to shield himself and hold on while the champion rained down strikes. Faber was still blocking many of the strikes that Barao was throwing, but Dean felt that it was the best decision to call the fight:
Barao with another overhand right, and that's it. Faber was blocking the punches, but the ref stopped the fight anyway.— Bleacher Report MMA (@BR_MMA) February 2, 2014
Faber was giving Dean the thumbs up. Premature stoppage.— Bleacher Report MMA (@BR_MMA) February 2, 2014
Despite the controversy, this bout was a huge moment for both fighters and the bantamweight division as a whole. Here are the takeaways from UFC 169's main event.
Renan Barao Is the Best Bantamweight in the World
Say what you will about the decision to stop the fight, but Barao just dispatched the No. 1-ranked fighter in the bantamweight division in the first round.
The simple fact that he beat Faber doesn't do much for his standing in the division. He had already beaten The California Kid at UFC 149 to earn the interim title. How he beat the longtime contender adds another layer to his domination, however.
Barao outstruck Faber 37-9 (17-8 in significant strikes) in the brief bout, according to FightMetric's numbers, and he showcased a sharper instinct to finish fights than he did in their first encounter. As good as Faber looked in his previous four fights against top competition, Barao wasted no time in taking him into deep waters.
With fighters like Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland and Faber (twice) now on his resume, Barao has very few challenges left in the weight class. Of course, a matchup with former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz might be on the horizon, but he hasn't fought since October 2011, so it's tough to tell how full a recovery he will make after sitting out more than two years with injuries.
Urijah Faber May Be Out of Title Shots
Faber made his name by being one of the great champions in the now-defunct WEC. But his aspirations of becoming a UFC champion are now in serious danger.
Going back to those WEC days when he lost his featherweight title against Mike Brown in 2008, he's now on a six-fight losing streak in title bouts.
This leaves him in a tough spot. On one hand, he's 9-0 in non-title fights in that same span. It's hard to argue that he deserves to be sent too far down the bantamweight hierarchy. On the other hand, he's now been defeated by Barao twice and former champion Dominick Cruz.
At 34 years old, Faber may have a seemingly impossible hurdle standing between him and the belt.
One thing is for sure, though: We learned that he is a tremendous teammate. He plugged T.J. Dillashaw for a title shot just minutes after losing one of the biggest fights of his life.
Faber, always the captain: "let's get TJ Dillashaw in here to clean up my dirty work."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) February 2, 2014
That's the kind of classy move that makes him a fan favorite.
Cruz vs. Barao Is the Bantamweight Fight the UFC Needs
As previously mentioned, it's tough to tell what the former bantamweight champion will bring to the Octagon when he finally makes it back. But for the sake of the division, the UFC better hope that he's the same guy who beat Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson in his first two bouts in the organization.
With Barao running right through Faber, there aren't too many intriguing options left, especially if the UFC hopes to create a marketable fight to carry a pay-per-view. Names like Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao seem like preliminary options, but they don't really jump out as noteworthy challengers.
As the one-time champion, Cruz would create a marketable angle that would bring some buzz to a division that is often relegated to either co-main event or free television status. Damon Martin of Fox Sports laid out a path that would work perfectly to set up the fight:
Renan Barao is a machine. I'd like to see Cruz come back for a three rounder against Assuncao or Dillashaw, winner gets the champ #UFC— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) February 2, 2014
With Barao finishing Faber this time around, it appears we've seen the coronation of a dominant champion and the last stand of a longtime fan favorite.