As the old saying goes, “Styles make fights”. And in that respect, UFC 149 offers up one of the most intriguing bouts of 2012, with Urijah Faber taking on Renan Barão for the UFC’s interim bantamweight title.
Just what is it about this fight that is so intriguing, you ask? Stylistically, it resembles Faber’s 2010 bout with José Aldo—who also happens to be Barão’s teammate. In that sense, “The California Kid” may look at this fight as an opportunity for some measure of revenge, or even simply redemption. That aside, one needn’t look for sub-plots in order to become invested in this fight, as it promises to deliver purely on its merits.
Faber will need to approach this fight with greater urgency than was the case against Aldo. The Team Alpha Male captain was much too content to stand with the Brazilian on that occasion, eventually paying a heavy price in the form of a grotesquely swollen, gangrene-esque left leg, as the result of Aldo’s crippling leg kicks.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, Faber must look for the take-down as soon as possible, while he remains mobile. That’s not to suggest that “The California Kid” will be hopping around like Heather McCartney by the second round, but he needn’t engage Barão in a stand-up battle and risk losing his ability to shoot for the take-down in the later rounds.
Of course, this is all much easier said than done—particularly when your opponent stops an astonishing 93 percent of the take-down attempts against him. When faced with those odds, what’s a fellah to do?
Most importantly, Faber needs to close the distance. Staying on the end of Barão’s strikes will lead to an early night for the former WEC featherweight champion—or a long one, depending on how sadistic Barão feels on that particular evening.
Physically, Faber is probably the bigger man. However, Barão is significantly longer and will be more comfortable fighting at range. Faber must use kicks to close the distance and force the Brazilian against the cage, where he can use his superior grappling to attempt take-downs and wear his opponent out for the later rounds.
On the other side of the cage, Barão should look to employ controlled aggression. He is the superior technician on the feet, so patience will be crucial. Overcommitting to his offence plays right into Faber’s hands, who will almost certainly look to turn this into a grappling match at every opportunity.
They key to this fight for Barão is how he manages the distance. He must avoid being pressed up against the cage at all costs, which will require a modicum of caution on his part. As alluded to earlier, a steady diet of leg kicks is prescribed for the Brazilian. They will compromise Faber’s mobility, which will in turn allow Barão to more effectively manage the distance.
If the Brazilian can stick to his game plan and avoid protracted grappling exchanges with “The California Kid”, his superior technique should see him claim the interim 135lb title. Either way, the clash of styles will doubtless produce a terrific main event.