This past Saturday, the man I once called "the most lethal and most promising bantamweight you've never heard of," Renan "Barão" Pegado, did what I anticipated he would and put his skills—namely his striking, ground control, and slams—to effective utilization against inaugural WEC Featherweight Champion Cole Escovedo.
One judge felt that Escovedo earned himself a round, but if you watched the fight on Facebook, you might have been able to see how Barão earned himself all three rounds with the abilities he did show.
There's no question about whether Barão did impress against Escovedo--Barão definitely did impress against Escovedo, he did prove that the hype was certainly justified in his debut, and he did finally jump-start his UFC war-path to the peak of Mount Bantamweight where Dominick Cruz hopes to stay atop after his UFC 132 clash with heated rival Urijah Faber.
Barão trains with the likes of Bibiano Fernandes, Marlon Sandro, and Jose Aldo, so his success against Escovedo should have been expected, even by fans who winged their predictions for the Facebook card and chose Barão on a limb, but with the clear win over Escovedo comes a question:
Can a few more victories Barão transform "The Baron" from a hidden treasure in the Bantamweight division to the man destined to fulfill his claim of the seat of power in the UFC's Bantamweight class?
A few more victories for any other Bantamweight can transform them from a relative unknown with promise and potential into the guy that can beat Cruz or Faber, but Barão is a different issue.
To directly answer this question, not only can he be a Bantamweight force, and not only WILL he be able to become a Bantamweight force, but someday before we even know it, Renan Barão will rule the roost as UFC Bantamweight Champion and possibly even the pound-for-pound best Bantamweight in Mixed Martial Arts..
See, he's proven to be a well-rounded fighter that can grapple, strike, slam, and maintain a pretty good top game on anyone that gives him the shot to do so.
He's a guy that isn't afraid to mix it up with any other fighter, no matter how overmatched he may seem compared to the Michael McDonalds, the Chris Cariasos, the Brad Picketts, Scott Jorgensens, and Nick Paces of the sport.
The training at the Nova Uniao Jiu-Jitsu Academy with Scarface, Flash and The Monster of Rio, among the other promising fighters associated with the Team Nogueira/Black House syndications of the sport, will only cause Barão to further evolve as a fighter, so much so that he may be the spitting image of a complete 135er, especially with the potential he's shown so far in his career.
Barão's hype-train just picked up some good steam, and it's only going to start picking up more and more steam until it's traveling at such a supersonic speed that it'll be tough for future prospects to keep up.
He and Michael McDonald unquestionably are a part of the future of MMA's Bantamweight class along with staples of Japanese MMA such as Hiroyuki Takaya and Hatsu Hioki and many other young names in the sport, but Takaya and Hioki are already forces in DREAM and Sengoku, and McDonald's not too far away from becoming a force after his split decision win over Cariaso at UFC 130.
Now the question is, can Barão capitalize on the success garnered by his win over Escovedo and earn the same reputation?
Not only can he, but if you ask this guy, it's more than saying "he will be" that translates out to a "yes."
As a matter of fact, when we look at Barão, we might just be looking at the next UFC Bantamweight Champion—regardless of whether Cruz, Faber, Joseph Benavidez, or any other UFC Bantamweight wants to say anything about or not.