It wasn’t all that long ago that Renan Barao was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
Going undefeated for 33 straight fights while becoming UFC bantamweight champion, Barao looked virtually untouchable while reigning havoc over the 135-pound division.
It all came crashing down for Barao when he faced T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173 back in 2014. He walked into the fight as a massive favorite but he walked out bruised, battered and beaten while suffering a fifth round TKO that cost him the bantamweight championship.
Since that defeat, Barao has gone just 2-4 with a brief stint at featherweight and two separate occasions where he missed weight trying to get back down to the bantamweight limit.
One of those situations happened on Friday when Barao came in a whopping 5.6 pounds over the bantamweight limit for a non title fight. Considering he was already walking into his fight against newcomer Andre Ewell off two straight losses, Barao had plenty of pressure without failing to make weight.
“I think for him it is [do or die],” UFC on FOX commentator Paul Felder told MMAWeekly when speaking about Barao ahead of the fights on Saturday night. “I think he’s really got to get in there and make a statement and show out a little bit. Because he’s not looked his form lately and this being in Brazil, this is his chance to really shine.
“I really think he not only needs to win but he has to look impressive to get another big fight at 135, especially the way that division is looking. He’s got to do something to really stand out.”
Barao’s last two wins in the UFC both came in his native Brazil so that seems to bode well for him going into the fight on Saturday night.
Then again a victory may not be enough to stave off the critics as Barao is taking on a relative unknown in Ewell so he might need a spectacular victory to really prove he’s got something left to give.
“It’s big. Anytime you’re fighting at home and fighting a guy that not that many people know about in the case of Renan Barao, but I think these guys will take anything they can to fight in Brazil,” Felder added. “These guys jump on the chance any time a card is in Brazil to hopefully rise to the occasion and get back on the horse. Get back to his winning ways.”