UFC Picks: Barao and Faber - To Get Nasty in Newark

Swinging Johnson

Sunday, January 12, 2014 4:23 PM GMT

The word Interim will no longer be associated with Renan Barao who has been keeping the Bantamweight throne warm while the champ Dominick Cruz recovered.  But Cruz has abdicated leaving UFC stalwart Urijah Faber to contend for the vacant title.

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Renan Barao (31-1, 7 KO's, 14 Subs)

This poor bastard has only one loss in his entire career and it came in his very first fight via a unanimous decision against a guy who is probably now fighting in parking lots ala Kimbo Slice.  But don't shed any tears for Renan Barao as he has reeled off 33 wins since, interrupted only by one No Contest.  Barao has patiently waited for the UFC Bantamweight king Dominick Cruz to recover from a series of injuries but a groin tear derailed their date with destiny and Urijah Faber has agreed to fill the void. 

Barao's last trip inside the Octagon was a sensational second-round TKO over Eddie Wineland whom he caught with a whirling spinning back kick that rendered the former WEC champ defenseless and unable to counter the fusillade of punches that came immediately after he hit the mat.  It was Barao's second defense of his UFC Interim Bantamweight crown with the first coming via a fourth-round submission over young gun Michael "Yah 'Mo B There" McDonald (sorry, I couldn't resist).  At UFC 169 he will face the man whom he defeated to claim the Interim title in the first place, Urijah Faber.

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Urijah Faber (30-6, 7 KO's, 17 Subs)

There are some top tier fighters who would refuse to take a fight of this magnitude on such short notice but Urijah Faber is not one of them.  Faber will have only three weeks to prepare for a rematch with Renan Barao whom he lost to in July of 2012 at UFC 149 by unanimous decision.  Though Faber may have to strategize about how he will fight his opponent, we know he will not have to start training.  Faber is fanatical about his training regimen and is always in fighting shape no matter what time of year.  In fact, Faber got no time to relax last year as he fought and won four times in a flawless 2013.  Victories over Ivan Menjivar (submission), Scott Jorgensen (submission), Yuri Alcantara (unanimous decision) and Michael McDonald (submission) gave Faber no chance to catch a breath therefore it's not surprising that he felt fit enough to throw down with Barao for the second time in less than 18 months on short notice.

Faber knows he will have to take the fight to Barao a bit more than he did in their first fight.  He allowed Barao to dictate a more measured pace than the frenetic, go-for-broke style he is comfortable with but most opponents are not.  Barao injured Faber's rib in the first-round of their initial fight and that may have played a part in Faber's inability to run and gun last time out.  But Faber has assured everyone who will listen that he will be high energy from the opening bell.

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Urijah Faber will be 35-years-old this year  and even though he's got the boyish good looks of a 20-something, his body will eventually begin to betray him.  So far so good but I'm not convinced he can out-cardio a 26-year-old beast like Renan Barao.  The Interim champ is dying to rid himself of that qualifying title and become the legitimate and undisputed king of the bantamweight division.  The results should mirror the previous fight. 

Although Urijah Faber will be my emotional choice we all know it's foolhardy to bet with your heart.  Therefore, Renan Barao -160 at WilliamHIll.com will be the selection in my UFC picks here.