UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao Preview
Interim Bantamweight Title: Urijah Faber vs. Renan Barao
Urijah Faber has voiced his displeasure over the recent turn of events that have lead him to this fight, and rightly so. Faber dedicated three months of his time to coach TUF: Live against his rival Dominick Cruz. He was supposed to be rewarded by taking on Cruz for the bantamweight title in the headlining fight of the UFC's July 4th weekend card in Las Vegas. Instead, Faber will be competing for the interim title against Barao on a ho-hum card in Calgary. Not the best of times for the California Kid.
Hopefully all the changes haven't taken any of Faber's motivation, because he is facing a hungry fighter who would be very happy to hold the interim title. Despite this not being the big money fight he wanted, I'm sure Faber is ready to go this weekend. Faber is 2-1 since moving from the WEC over to the UFC, including a decision win over Eddie Wineland, and a very impressive submission win over former world champion Brian Bowles. His only loss in that span came last year against Dominick Cruz. Renan Barao is on one of the longest undefeated streaks in MMA history, going 28-0 with one no contest since losing his debut MMA fight in 2005. Most recently Barao has bested Brad Pickett by submission and top contender Scott Jorgenson by decision.
Barao trains at the Nova Uniao camp in Brazil with featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who holds a win over Faber. This may play into the result. Aldo absolutely destroyed Faber in their 2010 bout, and Barao possesses many of the same skills as Aldo. Barao is explosive on the feet, and has a devastating variety of attacks that can finish any man in the 135 pound division. His knees are deadly, and he has great leg kicks as well. Aldo utilized vicious leg kicks which took Faber out of that fight, so look for Barao to try the same. If he can pick apart Faber's leg early, he shouldn't have a problem cruising to a decision victory. It's going to take more than just leg kicks though, so watch for Barao to explode with lightening quick combinations with his hands, such as the one that fell Brad Pickett last November. As long as the fight stays on the feet, Barao should hold a solid advantage over Faber, who although he is quick on the feet, is a bit simpler than Barao with his strikes. Faber likes to use an uppercut and his big right hand, but he rarely gets his kicks going will sometimes get caught flatfooted instead of moving and creating angles. If he stays right in front of Barao he is going to get picked apart.
Where Faber can win this fight is in the clinch and on the ground. Don't get me wrong, Barao is a serious BJJ black belt, but Faber is a far better wrestler and I would suspect that if Faber can get on top of Barao he will be able to sustain top control and avoid getting caught in a submission. Faber's BJJ is top notch so I think the jiu-jitsu games of these two will nullify each other. That leaves Faber's wrestling and top game as the difference maker in my books. He can win by making it a clinch fight, taking Barao down and scoring with ground and pound.
Prediction: Both men are very skilled in all areas of MMA, but I think Barao's advantage in the striking department is going to make the difference. While I believe Faber will be competent standing up and will manage to score a few takedowns, Barao will be able to keep the fight standing for the majority of the time and take Faber apart similar to the way his training partner Jose Aldo did. In a fight that goes the full 25 minutes, Barao will pull away in the later rounds and take a convincing decision. I just hope that if he does win, Barao decides against waiting for Cruz to heal from injury, because he is in his athletic prime and it would be a waste of his talents sitting on the sidelines for so long.
Renan Barao via Decision
Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch
Renan Barao isn't the only fighter on this card with one of the longest undefeated streaks in MMA history. In the co-main event, Hector Lombard brings his 24-0-1 streak to the UFC middleweight division. Although he has a very impressive streak on paper, Lombard has been largely facing subpar fighters such as UFC castoffs Jay Silva, Joe Doerksen, Jesse Taylor, and Trevor Prangley. While many like to look at all the knockouts on his record, the fact is that in his only fight against a somewhat relevant opponent, Lombard was taken the full five rounds against Alexander Shlemenko in Bellator. Despite being the underdog, Boetsch has fought and beat better opponents in the last few years than Lombard, including an incredible comeback knockout over perennial top 3 middleweight Yushin Okami in February. Many think that Boetsch is the proverbial lamb lead to slaughter, but don't be fooled, Boetsch is very capable of getting the win on Saturday night in Calgary.
Tim Boetsch showed against Yushin Okami that he is durable and never out of the fight. If Lombard gets off to a good start, he better keep the pressure on because if he starts to coast, Boetsch is very capable of finishing top level fighters when things look bleak for him. This fight is a tough one to call because based on what we've seen, Lombard has better skills in every facet of MMA. The only issue with that statement is the evidence we have to go on is Lombard smashing over matched journeyman fighters. Tim Boetsch represents the sternest test Lombard has had in literally years.
For Boetsch to win, he needs to withstand the early onslaught which will inevitably come from Lombard. If he can keep his wits about him under pressure, Boetsch is capable of pushing back and landing some bombs of his own. Let's be honest, Lombard is a much more technical striker than Boetsch, but when it comes to power, they should be considered equal. If Boetsch can land a haymaker in a flurry he can get the finish. Don't expect to see Boetsch ragdoll Lombard like he did David Heath, but if he can find a home for his strikes, even in close quarters like he did to Okami, he can put a serious beatdown on Lombard.
Prediction: Conventional wisdom says to pick Hector Lombard. He is better standing and on the ground than Boetsch. I would be somewhat surprised if he went in there and steamrolled Boetsch, but I think over the course of three rounds he will be able to land the better shots on the feet. I think Boetsch proves tough to finish, but Lombard will score a late stoppage with strikes in the third round.
Hector Lombard via TKO
Cheick Kongo vs. Shawn Jordan
Mid tier heavyweights Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan will try to move up the pecking order in a clash of heavy hitters. Kongo recently had his four fight unbeaten streak snapped in a loss to Mark Hunt via KO. Before that Kongo had wins over Matt Mitrione, Pat Barry, and Paul Buentello sandwich a draw with Travis Browne. Shawn Jordan recently won his debut UFC fight over Oli Thompson, after fighting and winning in promotions such as Strikeforce and Bellator. Jordan holds a notable win in Strikeforce over Lavar Johnson.
Shawn Jordan is an athletic heavyweight, having played football in college for LSU. He is a decent striker, but is going to have a serious size and reach disadvantage against Kongo. Cheick Kongo is coming off probably his worst loss in his long UFC career, losing to Mark Hunt, but he is more than capable of handling fighters like Shawn Jordan. Jordan is solid all around but not exceptional at anything. Despite having 16 fights, Jordan is still new to MMA, having only been an active fighter for 3 years now.
Kongo has been in the octagon with some of the best heavyweights of all time, so Jordan will present nothing he hasn't seen. If Kongo can utilize his reach when striking and bully Jordan against the cage in the clinch, he should be able to set up power shots that will stop Jordan in his tracks.
Prediction: Cheick Kongo is a gatekeeper if there ever was one, and usually only loses to guys at the elite level. Shawn Jordan is not at that level. Kongo will use his size advantage to beat Jordan up against the cage, and then take him out with strikes mid fight.
Cheick Kongo via TKO
Brian Ebersole vs. James Head
In one of the most unlikely win streaks active in the UFC, career journeyman Brian Ebersole is on a four fight win streak in the octagon. He fought less than a month ago, defeating TJ Waldburger on the UFC on FX 4 card in June. His opponent, James Head, is 1-1 in the UFC after beating Papy Abedi by submission in April.
Brian Ebersole should be fairly comfortable in this fight, as Head doesn't do anything exceptionally well. Ebersole is very skilled on the ground, and is most likely looking to catch Head in a submission. James Head will want to keep the fight standing to avoid Ebersole's crafty ground work. How long he will be able to stay off his back will determine the result of the fight.
Prediction: Brian Ebersole scores a takedown and finds a submission in the second round.
Brian Ebersole via Submission
Chris Clements vs. Matt Riddle
You know you have a weak card when 6-3 Matt Riddle makes the pay-per-view. At least fans who bought a ticket or watch on PPV can expect an exciting fight. Riddle fights almost always turn into sloppy brawls, which should be no problem for Canadian Chris Clements. Clements is 11-4, with most of his wins coming by knockout on the Canadian regional circuit. His only win that wasn't inside the distance came in the form of a split decision over Keith Wisniewski in his UFC debut in April.
Let's face it, Matt Riddle is not a UFC caliber fighter. He has recent loses to Sean Pierson and Lance Benoist, and arguably lost to Henry Martinez in a fight in which he was awarded a controversial split decision. This fight is all but guaranteed to be a slugfest on the feet, and Chris Clements is more than likely going to come out on top of most of the exchanges.
Prediction: Chris Clements is no world beater, but it sure doesn't take one to beat Matt Riddle. As long as you can put together somewhat effective combinations on the feet and utilize a strategy other than a game of rock em sock'em robots, you should have no problem with Riddle. Clements out strikes Riddle and gets the stoppage late.
Chris Clements via TKO
Published by Jeff Zanatta - Tue, 17 Jul 2012 09:18