UFC 149: Renan Barao wins the interim bantamweight title
Hats off to the UFC and its president, Dana White, for even considering an event in Calgary, and for scrambling to keep one going after a slew of injuries hit every single fight on the main card. Although UFC 149 will be known as a split-decision fest, with three in total, more than one question was answered by the time the final bell rang.
Despite Urijah 'The California Kid' Faber’s efforts to avoid the kind of brutal punishment he took at the hands and shins of Renan Barao’s training partner, Jose Aldo, The California Kid’s quest for UFC gold---albeit interim gold---was quashed by the Brazilian.
Faber used movement and tried squaring his body to Barao in the hope that he’d avoid punishing leg kicks. For the most part that strategy worked, but it also served to limit Faber’s own offence.
Barao and Faber demonstrated respect for each other by not extending themselves or their attacks, and remained on alert for any counter maneuvers. But it was clear early in the second that the feeling out period was over, and that Barao’s pinpoint accurate flurries and long punches would have their say.
Faber’s take down attempts were thwarted with ease by the Brazilian, and while few thought Faber---who couldn’t be finished by Aldo---would be taken out, the writing was on the wall by the start of the championship rounds that Barao would have to slip on a banana peel to lose this fight.
Surprisingly, two of the judges had Faber winning a round. And if the newly crowned interim champion in the bantamweight division was gracious in victory, so was Faber in his defeat. Despite a UFC belt avoiding him yet again, perhaps for good, Faber gave props to Barao, and adroitly sized up the fight by noting that while Barao was an impossible puzzle for him to solve, he was nowhere near the nightmare Aldo had been.
This sets up an interesting title fight between Barao and current champion Dominick Cruz, who remains out due to injury. The fight will need to be broken down very carefully by fans and pundits alike: Cruz’s speed and movement may be hard for Barao to figure out; Barao’s power and accuracy may overwhelm Cruz.
Commentator Joe Rogan had said before the fight, “Barao may be the most talented fighter without a title.”
UFC contender Tim 'The Barbarian' Boetsch fought highly-touted UFC newcomer Hector Lombard, who hadn’t lost since 2007 and who many thought would easily defeat Boetsch and earn a shot at Anderson Silva. This idea was entirely premature: no matter who you are or what your record is, you need to fight more than two or three times in the UFC gauntlet to earn a shot at a champion, especially Anderson Silva.
Boetsch fought a good tactical fight, in which his stellar wrestling and farm boy strength were nullified by Lombard’s speed and Olympic level judo. But Lombard’s lethargic stand-up performance, where he often stood like a statue trying to goad Boetsch into doing something stupid, only annoyed fans.
Lombard also had difficulty with distance, perhaps due to his stature. He’s listed as 5’10, but there’s no way he’s that tall. At any rate, it was evident after round one that the Lombard hype-train had only idled out of the station.
Rumour has it no one is slated to face Silva, but rather that White is planning an elimination tourney of the top middleweights, with the winner earning the trip.
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