Renan Barao is truly one of the best fighters on the planet. That's not just Joe Rogan-esque hyperbole to sell an upcoming pay-per-view event. UFC 173 will be Barao's next showcase, and it takes place on Saturday from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Barao will be defending his UFC bantamweight title against T.J. Dillashaw. It's part of an impressive main card set up for fans. Here's a look at the card, viewing information and predictions for each bout.
Just below the table is a closer look at the top three bouts on the main card.
|UFC Fight Pass Prelims - Subscription Service||6:30 p.m. ET|
|David Michaud vs. Li Jingliang||Welterweight||Michaud - KO|
|Sam Sicilia vs. Aaron Phillips||Featherweight||Sicilia - decision|
|Anthony Njokuani vs. Vinc Pichel||Lightweight||Njokuani - TKO|
|Fox Sports 1 Prelims||8 p.m. ET|
|Al Iaquinta vs. Mitch Clarke||Lightweight||Clarke - submission|
|Chris Holdsworth vs. Chico Camus||Bantamweight||Holdsworth - submission|
|Tony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno||Lightweight||Kikuno - decision|
|Michael Chiesa vs. Francisco Trinaldo||Lightweight||Trinaldo by KO|
|Main Card - PPV||10 p.m. ET|
|Jamie Varner vs. James Krause||Lightweight||Krause - decision|
|Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera||Bantamweight||Mizugaki - decision|
|Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger||Welterweight||Lawler - KO|
|Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson||Light Heavyweight||Cormier - decision|
|Renan Barao - TJ Dillashaw||Bantamweight||Barao - KO|
Fight Card per UFC.com, predictions per Brian Mazique
Lawler vs. Ellenberger
Bounce-back Bout for Lawler
This fight should be fun.
Robbie Lawler just missed becoming the welterweight champion in his last bout with Johny Hendricks. After a close and hard-fought fight, Lawler lost a unanimous decision. The loss snapped his three-fight win streak.
On Saturday, he'll face Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger for a chance to get another shot at the title.
Ellenberger has seemingly been on the cusp of a title shot a few times himself, but he's yet to get his crack at the crown. The Juggernaut has been quite vocal about others in the weight class who might be in front of him in line for a shot at Hendricks.
Tyron Woodley defeated Carlos Condit at UFC 171 after the latter tore his ACL and partially tore his meniscus while being taken down by the former.
On a recent broadcast of Submission Radio, Ellenberger said:
I could care less about [Tyron] Woodley and the fight with Rory. They're both great guys, but I mean it's crazy how fast you know, things change, people's perspective change. It's like, you've got a guy like Woodley. I mean, Condit getting hurt that's disappointing, that stuff happens, but it's like, you can't give a title shot to a guy who's, you know. If I'm fighting a guy and he gets hurt in the fight, I mean I didn't beat him. I wouldn't feel good. Sure he got hurt, but I didn't submit him, I didn't knock him out.
Like it or not, Ellenberger might still be behind Woodley if he beats Lawler on Saturday. And that's a big if.
Why Lawler Will Win
Both fighters are hard-hitting pugilists who prefer to stand, though each is an accomplished wrestler as well. Lawler has looked like a man on a mission over the last two years. The chin he demonstrated against Hendricks was amazing.
In a striking battle, you'd have to give Lawler the edge. Lawler will win by KO to again push Ellenberger to the back of the line of those waiting for a title shot.
Cormier vs. Henderson
The Easy Way or the Hard Way?
Truth be told, Daniel Cormier could make this a very boring fight. He could use his size, strength and technique to dominate Dan Henderson on the ground.
That would almost certainly get him the win, but it probably wouldn't excite the fans. Because Cormier is in the midst of trying to sell himself as a headliner, he'll likely take the more risky route.
Henderson is still a huge puncher at 43 years old. He proved that with his decimation of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in March. The big question for Henderson is: how well will he perform without the aid of TRT (testosterone replacement therapy)?
The procedure was banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in February, and Henderson has been one of its most publicized users.
Per Matt Erickson of MMA Junkie, the Pride and UFC legend doesn't think not having TRT will affect him. He said this in a recent interview:
I’m feeling pretty good. I maybe lay on the couch a little more than I used to. But I laid on the couch quite a bit before, too. It’s all about just making sure you train hard and train smart. I did that before I was on TRT, I did that during, and now, as well. I’ve won fights and lost fights with it and without it. I really don’t notice too big of a difference, competition-wise. But hopefully I make a statement that it doesn’t matter in this fight.
Why Cormier Will Win
TRT or not, Cormier's hands are too quick for Henderson. As boxing skills go, Cormier is one of the most talented when it comes to throwing fists.
While he does have to beware of Hendo's power, Cormier should be able to slip and counter his way to a victory. Will he stop Henderson? It's possible, but not likely.
Cormier has yet to show the power to stop a man with a legendary chin like Henderson. Cormier will have to hope that a unanimous-decision win is enough to get him the next shot at Jones' light heavyweight title.
Barao vs. Dillashaw
Getting to Know the 135-Pound Kingpin
As a stand-up fighter, submissions artist and grappler, Renan Barao rates near the top of the list. Need numbers to back that up? Eight of his 32 wins have come by KO, and that includes the last two against tough-as-nails fighters like Eddie Wineland and Urijah Faber.
Another 14 wins have come by way of submission. Barao has lost only one fight in his career, and that was his first professional bout.
Still, he doesn't yet have the star power that Jon Jones, Anderson Silva or even Chael Sonnen have, but he and the UFC are working on it.
Check out this promo video stacked with nationally respected MMA writers from around the globe. All of them are just gushing about Barao's versatile and deadly skill set.
Why Barao Will Win
T.J. Dillashaw is also a fighter with various talents. His nine wins have been equally spread between KO/TKOs, submissions and decisions.
That said, he seems to struggle with fighters who are explosive in their stand-up game. The swift and dynamic John Dodson stopped Dillashaw back in Dec. 2011 at The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale.
Barao has the same type of power and speed combination as Dodson proportionately. In speaking with Bleacher Report through the assistance of a translator, Barao said:
I believe T.J. [Dillashaw] thinks he is a striker now, and he isn't. I think he will mess up and make mistakes in this fight, and this will present the chance for me to finish him. I'm very calm and ready for this fight, and I believe I will win this fight because I'm the better fighter.
The champion will get no arguments here. Dillashaw is likely to get caught with one of Barao's various effectively brutal striking attacks. Barao will win and record his third straight stoppage via TKO/KO.
Follow me. I dig combat sports.