UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao has finished all three of his opponents since winning the interim 135-pound championship against Urijah Faber at UFC 149, but this impressive string of finishes may be near its end.
First, Barao's friend and training partner, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, said he expects Barao to become a "more cautious" combatant moving forward. The champion, after all, has a lot to lose, and the challenger has everything to gain.
Responding to Aldo's comments at a UFC media day in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Wednesday, Barao did not disagree.
In fact, the 135-pound champ wholeheartedly endorsed his teammate's sentiments, saying (quotes via BloodyElbow's Fernando Arbex):
I think so, because it's hard when you are the champion. All eyes are on you. The other athletes are studying your game. Sometimes you win a fight and people say it was easy, but it has been difficult since 10 years until now. Of course the plan is to finish fights, but it won't always happen.
To Barao's credit, he has already fought (and finished) a tough lineup of bantamweights during his reign as champion.
He first defended his interim championship by submitting young bantamweight powerhouse Michael McDonald at UFC on FX 7 via arm-triangle choke in Round 4 of their five-round affair. Despite getting caught by hard punches on several occasions in this fight, Barao fought through adversity and cemented his status as champion with the late-round submission.
After that, Barao drubbed Eddie Wineland at UFC 165, winning via highlight-reel spinning-back kick early in Round 2.
Most recently, Barao finished Team Alpha Male's ever-popular and charismatic leader Urijah Faber via TKO in just under four minutes. While the stoppage was met with controversy, Barao absolutely dominated the bout to that point, and he solidified the fact that he is the unquestioned king at 135 pounds.
Now, Barao faces yet another Team Alpha Male product in T.J. Dillashaw in the UFC 173 main event on May 24.
This bout was arranged on semi-short notice, as Dillashaw got called to the plate from nowhere after the event's original main event between middleweight champion Chris Weidman and challenger Lyoto Machida got scrapped due to a knee injury suffered by Weidman leading up to the fight.
Despite his 1-1 record in his last two fights, Dillashaw has looked every bit the part of a UFC title challenger since coming off his TKO loss to current flyweight contender John Dodson at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale in December 2011.
Since that time, Dillashaw has posted a 5-1 record inside the Octagon, with three of those victories coming via knockout or submission. His lone loss during that time was a split-decision defeat to Raphael Assuncao at UFC Fight Night 29, a fight which many fans felt should have gone Dillashaw's way.
That said, Barao figures to be a heavy favorite going in to the match, but Dillashaw has certainly proven to be a tough out for anybody since his time on the UFC's hit reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter.
Do you think Aldo's words will immediately become true and Barao's streak of finishes will end with Dillashaw?