UFC 149: Urijah Faber v. Renan Barao
On July 21st, in Calgary, Alberta, Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber (26-5) takes a shot at the UFC’s 135 pound interim belt, a fight made necessary due to Champion Dominick Cruz’s injury. Faber and Cruz had been set to fight after their stint on The Ultimate Fighter Season 15, but it wasn’t meant to be. Faber will now meet Brazilian buzzsaw Renan Barao, who is 30-1 all-time and 3-0 in the UFC. His only loss was his first fight, back in 2005.
Faber submitted Cruz in a 145 pound featherweight title fight in the WEC in March, 2007, but lost to Cruz via 5 round decision at bantamweight in July, 2011. Fans had been waiting for this rubber match with more anticipation than US republicans are awaiting November’s election. But Barao is an enigma Faber may be unable to crack.
Faber’s roots are wrestling. His fast-twitch muscles afford him speed with take downs and strikes, which many fighters at 135 and 145 have had difficulty managing. When Faber has lost---lately to Mike Thomas Brown twice, Jose Aldo, and Cruz--- it’s been to fighters whose speed matches or exceeds his own. When dynamism is turned against Faber, he fades, and his striking is exposed as being dependent upon his fast-twitch musculature, a la Kevin Randleman years ago.
You either love Faber or hate him. He is well spoken and good for the sport, but has been heard to say things like, “I can’t help it if I’m good looking.” In response to that paraphrase, one fan told me, “The man is maybe five-feet tall, and his cleft chin goes half-way up his face. Good looking? I don’t see it.”
Faber also relentlessly pokes opposition with verbal barbs, and benefits from Dana White’s favouritism. But make no mistake, despite reasons to dislike the Sacramento fighter, Faber is at least top three in both the 135 and 145 pound class, and is a formidable opponent to anyone except Jose Aldo.
Faber’s problem now is that Barao is cut from Aldo’s cloth: fast, powerful, brutal with knees and kicks, and possesses sick Brazilian Jiu jitsu. Aldo dismantled Faber with vicious leg kicks, nullifying any take down offence. Barao has seen that fight, and has the tool box to dish out the same cruel punishment against The California Kid. That in mind, Barao certainly isn’t the finisher Aldo is, despite a recent impressive first round submission win over tough Brad Pickett.
There is a lot at stake for Faber in this fight. Faber has never held UFC gold, and he does not want to be a perennial also-ran, a man relegated to runner up like Chael Sonnen at 185. If winning a belt becomes impossible in the world’s top promotion, and money becomes your only motivation, your legacy is at stake---these guys need to stare at themselves in the mirror the rest off their lives. And this is still just an interim belt: the winner will need to fight Cruz once the champ is healed and ready to fight.
No Faber fight is boring, and Barao is Brazilian and Brazilians bring it, so enough said. Look for this to be a barn-burner through five rounds, if Faber is lucky and doesn't get finished. Either way, Faber will need crutches like he did after his Aldo debacle. Barao via lopsided unanimous decision.
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