UFC: The similarities between Renan Barao and Aldo are striking
Following a spate of enforced changes UFC 149 certainly appears to be the most jinxed card in the promotions history. What remains however is a genuinely intriguing main event and some interesting contender match-ups to keep us entertained this weekend. We preview the card’s main and co-main events, discuss Michael Bisping’s UFC 152 assignment and examine the middleweight options for UFC match maker Joe Silva…
Jose Aldo was supposed to headline UFC 149 against Eric Koch but arguably an even better match-up has taken its place in the UFC’s first ever trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Indeed the similarities between main event fighter Renan Barao and Aldo are striking. They are team-mates and compatriots who employ similar styles when the cage door slams shut. Barao may not be quite as technical as “Scarface” but in terms of tenacity, diversity of technique and killer instinct they are almost identical. Barao’s opponent for the interim bantamweight belt will of course be TUF Live coach Urijah Faber. Faber was soundly defeated by Aldo back in their WEC days and Barao’s coach Andre Pederneiras has already admitted that Nova Uniao blue-print on how to overwhelm Faber (over two years later) will be fundamentally the same. Aldo peppered Faber’s legs with muay thai kicks mercilessly as he reduced the supremely confident Californian to a crumpled, stationary spectator over five gruelling rounds. Faber will know that he must tighten up this gaping hole in his defensive game. Faber likewise has done little to disguise his strategy for seizing the interim belt. He has identified a perceived lack of stamina as Barao’s achilles heel and will look to keep the fight a “nip and tuck” battle until they enter the championship rounds.
Following a starring role opposite Dominick Cruz on TUF Live Faber has actually been served up an altogether tougher proposition in the form of Natal’s Barao. Whereas Cruz is the consummate professional and a sublime in-cage general, Barai holds a menace which may well un-nerve Faber somewhat. The dominant manner of Aldo’s victory will still be relatively fresh in Faber’s mind and he knows that he is facing a lighter version of the teak tough pound for pound favourite. As I witnessed Barao’s savage striking first hand in his impressive win over our own Brad Pickett in Birmingham last November I felt that he was a champion in waiting. He carries himself with the air of a title holder and possesses the tools to topple Faber. “The California Kid” will be game as always but will succumb to a submission in the third round of a torrid back and forth affair.
Lombard makes highly anticipated UFC debut
If you aren’t aware of precisely who Hector Lombard is, or the irrefutable talent which he brings to a fist fight, chances are you will by Sunday morning. A former Olympic judoka with wrecking balls for hands the former Bellator stand-out looks set to make waves in the UFC’s 185lb division. Lombard is fun to watch and will look to set down a marker to his middleweight contemporaries in what should be a hugely entertaining co-main event.
Tim Boetsch is however as hard as they come. The self belief that he will have garnered from his come from behind beat down of Yushin Okami at UFC 144 is frankly immeasurable. Quotes from Lombard this week indicate that he is thinking more about a possible Mark Munoz match-up down the line than fighting the former light heavyweight bruiser riding a three fight win streak. Such mental meanderings can prove fatal to a fighter’s career. I believe Lombard will find Boetsch a tough cookie to crack but will ultimately have too much for him in all quarters and emerge with a second round stoppage win.
The Count draws All-American challenge
Michael Bisping has been in the trenches and paid his dues. In a six year UFC career Bisping has come close on a couple of occasions to a middleweight title tilt (Notably against Team Quest members Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen). He will hope that his next win will secure the elusive title shot which he so desperately wants. UFC President Dana White was effusive in his praise of a simmering middleweight division at the UFC 149 pre-fight press conference and “The Count” must figure prominently in his plans. This week the pride of Clitheroe was pitted against Brian Stann in a September clash at UFC 152. Stann has been in there with some of the best and UK fans will hope that a Bisping win would lead to a 185lb championship fight for the former Ultimate Fighter winner sometime in 2013.
Rashad to drop down in search of UFC gold?
With Mssrs Belcher, Stann, Bisping and Weidman all in the proverbial “mix” at 185lbs the waters have been muddied even further by speculation that former light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans may well drop down in search of further title glory. Evans’ himself did little to dispel the speculation in a recent interview with ESPN
“I’ve been thinking about going down to middleweight lately. The odds of me moving down to 185 are 50/50 or better”
Whilst Evans won season two of the Ultimate Fighter as a heavyweight he is undersized for the 205lb division and so a drop in weight may well freshen up his career. He would certainly pose serious questions of any middleweight on the planet, including pound for pound king Anderson Silva.
With Chris Weidman looking exceptional in his drubbing of Mark Munoz last week and Alan Belcher’s break out performance against Rousimar Palhares in May the possibilities for Joe Silva are plentiful. Weidman against either Belcher or Evans could be made with Vitor Belfort also waiting in the wings. As with any sport timing is crucial and so it may well depend upon who is injury-free and in-form when the window of opportunity presents itself.
Ross to carry out “smash and grab” on Aussie turf
Ross Pearson and his UK team have landed down under in their quest to emerge victorious from the inaugural Smashes Series. With bragging rights and promotional contract opportunities on the line UK fans will hope “The Real Deal” sets up his season end fight with George Sotiropoulos with a rousing Team UK win.
For further up to date UFC coverage check out my latest column with Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun here.
Join us here next week in as we catch up with UFC Nottingham’s Jason “Shotgun” Young…
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