Quietly making his way through the ranks at bantamweight, Brazilian upstart Renan Barao was maybe the most unlikely contender a few months ago, but when UFC champion Dominick Cruz suffered a torn ACL, he got the call to step in and face Urijah Faber.
Barao had racked up an impressive 27 fight win streak heading into Saturday night, but Faber was going to make him work to get to 28.
Just over two years ago, Faber had battled Barao’s teammate and close friend Jose Aldo while competing at featherweight, but the lessons learned that night transferred more to Barao than they did Faber.
Much like his teammate, Barao was looking to establish a punishing lead leg kick, and while Faber says he didn’t land it with nearly as much ferocity as his teammate, it still took its toll throughout the 25-minute fight.
Barao’s quickness and ability to move in and out with his long, rangy punches gave Faber fits as he just could not find a way inside to do any damage to his Brazilian counterpart.
A knee strike landed by Barao in the 2nd stanza apparently broke Faber’s rib according to the Sacramento native, which obviously made movement and breathing much harder for the leader of Team Alpha Male.
The rest of the fight looked eerily similar to the first two rounds with Barao just out maneuvering Faber with his strikes, and never allowing him to get comfortable on his feet at any point.
The end result wasn’t exactly a barn burner or a fight people will talk about for years to come, but Barao did his job in dominating Urijah Faber en route to becoming the new UFC interim bantamweight champion
“I knew Faber was a great athlete a great fighter, but I was well prepared. I prepared my game very well and that was the result,” said Barao.
The loss for Urijah Faber has to be considerably tougher than most because this was supposed to be his shot at revenge against Dominick Cruz, while also securing his first major title in nearly four years.
Faber now moves to 0-5 in his last five title bouts, and almost assuredly would have to climb a very difficult ladder to get back for number six.
“I knew he was really good at keeping distance, he’s got really long punches, he’s able to keep his kicks from pretty far out, so it was a little more difficult to get in on takedowns. I knew he was tough, I was hoping for a better result, but more power to him today,” Faber said.
Following the fight, commentator Joe Rogan made several references to Barao now earning a shot against UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, but with his knee surgery it’s likely he’ll be out the better part of the next 12 to 15 months.
Assuming Barao is relatively healthy after this fight, it would almost be a guarantee that he will have to defend the belt at least once before Cruz returns.