Renan Barao smartly executed a perfect mix of striking prowess and strategic takedowns to dominate UFC newcomer Cole Escovedo in the opening bout of the UFC 130 fight card. Barao won the contest via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
In the first round of action, Barao came out strong, taking down Escovedo early in the round. From a top position in Escovedo's closed guard, Barao wasn't able to produce any real offense as Escovedo threatened with an armbar transition, causing Barao to stand up out of top control. Escovedo pulled guard moments later, settling into the same position he was originally in to start the round. Stale action caused referee Steve Mazzagatti to stand the fight back up, only to have it go back to the ground immediately after the restart. Escovedo attempted to cinch up the armbar multiple times to no avail. It wasn't a round filled with offense, but Barao did more with a couple of takedowns and a minimal amount of ground and pound.
Barao ate a hard knee to start the second round as he shot for the takedown. Unfortunately for Escovedo, it didn't affect Barao in the slightest as he advanced to top control once again. Barao sat up out of guard and allowed the fight to reset on the feet. After some brief exchanges, Barao took Escovedo down again. Short shots on the ground with periods of stale action led to another stand-up from referee Steve Mazzagatti, but it was clear that Barao was winning the round in terms of effective offense. Escovedo pulled guard similarly to the first round, and Barao avoided any submission danger, finishing out the round on top.
The third round was met with more activity on the feet from Barao than in previous rounds. He showed some diverse striking techniques, landing a spinning back fist and a solid front kick to Escovedo's chin in the first two minutes. Barao's confidence continued to build as the round went on, throwing flying knees and spinning kicks to keep Escovedo guessing. Unfortunately for Escovedo, he wasn't able to answer Barao's attacks, resorting to telegraphed head kicks and slow striking. Barao ends the fight with three consecutive takedowns, solidifying the win.
Barao entered the UFC's sister promotion, the WEC, riding a fifteen-five fight winning streak and defeating Anthony Leone and Chris Cariaso at WEC 49 and WEC 53 respectively. This was his debut fight under the UFC after the WEC merger late last year.
Escovedo battled back into the sport after a semi-retirement in 2007 stemming from a staph infection that partially paralyzed him. After three years away from the sport, he returned in May of 2009 under the Palace Fighting Championships banner, defeating up-and-coming UFC fighter Michael McDonald. He rattled off five straight wins, emphasizing his run with a head kick knockout of Yoshiro Maeda at DREAM.13 in March of last year. Michael McDonald and Michihiro Omigawa defeated him in consecutive bouts from mid-to-late 2010 before Escovedo put himself back in the win column against Steven Siler in January.