The UFC originally announced that light heavyweight champion Jon Jones would put his belt on the line against Glover Teixeira at UFC 169 on Feb. 1 in Newark, N.J.
That proved to be a false start, but the fight card will still be topped with gold.
UFC officials on Tuesday announced that not one, but two title fights would top the bill when the promotion moves the Super Bowl weekend event from its traditional home in Las Vegas to New Jersey at the behest of its television partners at Fox.
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo puts his belt on the line against Ricardo Lamas in the night’s main event, while bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz returns from a two-year-plus hiatus to unify his belt with interim champion Renan Barão’s gold.
The UFC 169 fight card also includes the previously announced heavyweight showdown between former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem, the former Strikeforce titleholder.
Aldo (23-1) has long been teasing a possible lightweight move, but it just doesn’t make sense with the current logjam at the top of the 155-pound division. He will instead attempt to continue building upon a 16-fight winning streak that includes victories over Chan Sung Jung, Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, and a host of the top fighters in the sport.
His challenger, Ricardo Lamas (13-2) isn’t on quite the streak that Aldo is, but is currently on a four-fight run of his own consisting of victories over Matt Grice, Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch.
It was a veritable toss-up between Lamas and Jung as to who was going to challenge Aldo for the belt in August, but the Korean Zombie was awarded the opportunity. Lamas has been on the sidelines since January, patiently awaiting his turn, and will have been out of the Octagon for more than a year when he enters the Octagon opposite Aldo.
Cruz (19-1) has Lamas topped for time out of action, however. He hasn’t fought since winning a unanimous decision over current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in October of 2011.
Cruz was sidelined due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament while training for his rubber match with former WEC champion Urijah Faber. His body, however, rejected a cadaver ligament used in the initial surgery to repair Cruz’s knee and he had to start over. Now, he’s been patiently working his way back into shape so that he doesn’t have a recurrence of the injury that nearly forced the UFC into stripping him of his belt.
He’ll square off with Barão, the man who picked up the championship slack while Cruz was sidelined.
As impressive as Aldo’s 16-fight streak is, his Nova União teammate, Barão (31-1, 1 NC), has a longer unbeaten streak intact. Barão hasn’t lost since the first fight of his career in 2005.
He has one no contest mixed in, but that is the only blip amongst the 32 fights since his debut. Barão’s current stretch under the Zuffa banner – combining his WEC and UFC tenures – is at eight victories.
He enters the fight with Cruz coming off of consecutive victories over Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen, and Brad Pickett.
Fans that were clamoring for the UFC to strip Cruz, now have only until February to wait and see if it was worth the wait for him to recoup and come back to challenge Barão, who hasn’t skipped a beat while Cruz was on the mend.