At UFC 149 we were treated to one of the weakest and least entertaining cards in recent history. That is, unfortunately, the nature of the game as injuries take fighters out of events and ineffective strategies cause boring, prolonged fights. Aside from Matt Riddle's awesome standing arm triangle and Ryan Jimmo's brilliant seven second knockout, there were no solid finishes. The tilt between Hector Lombard and Tim Boetsch was a passable scrap and provided the surprise of the night, and Cheick Kongo returned to leaning form after remembering that he is a kickboxer with a weak defense and jawline.
What almost everyone who bothered to watch this event was really watching for was the main event; between the brilliant bantamweights Renan Barao and Urijah Faber for the UFC's Interim Bantamweight Title. This fight was not action packed but it delivered the stand up performance that most wanted to see, and raised questions about the future of Urijah Faber's career with his flaws being exploited in similar ways through all of his recent losses.
Before this event I produced a pair of articles, one examining each man in the bout. While I always shy away from making a pick, especially when both men are dangerous finishers, one of the ways that I concluded the fight could unfold proved accurate. It was my suspicion that Urijah Faber, lacking a jab or good head movement, would either rush Barao and catch him with his powerful right hand early, or he would sit on the end of Barao's kicks for the entire fight doing nothing but faking teeps and stretching his arms out alternatively at Barao as if he were going to punch. For those who haven't seen the fight, the second scenario is what occurred in the bout.
In today's analysis we'll cover in brief the errors which cost Urijah Faber the fight. To summarize them up front they are that Urijah:
- Stood at the end of Barao's reach for most of the match.
- Spent long periods of time feinting attacks without actually threatening Barao.
- Had no jab for much of the fight and jabbed poorly when he attempted to.
Urijah Faber is an incredibly entertaining fighter. He has spent his entire career finishing top level opponents. Yet all of his recent losses have come from standing outside of his own punching range and simply letting his opponents pick him apart. Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz and now Renan Barao have all picked away at him the exact same way from the outside - and most importantly, he hasn't made it difficult for them. To reiterate what I noted in my article on Urijah Faber's weaknesses - Urijah Faber carries a significant reach disadvantage into almost all of his matches. As such he should either be well outside of his opponent's striking range, or well inside of it where he can land cleanly and the opponent's blows are muffled. For those of you unfamiliar with this notion, a quick watch through a Mike Tyson highlight will drive home it's imporance.
This fight was not one that was won by Barao but rather lost by Faber, as he continued to do little to change the way the fight was going. Barao was allowed to stand comfortably outside of Faber's reach and pepper him with all manner of long strikes.
Watching the fight between Renan Barao and Urijah Faber, the stills below summarize almost the entire fight. Round after round Faber stood within Barao's kicking range, extending his arm as if to set up something but doing nothing with it. This is the exact same thing that he did against Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz. Urijah did try to kick, but he's just not very dangerous as a kicker. His ability is in his wresting and his right hand, and when he is extending his right hand to cover Barao's left, he can't throw it.
Notice the position in the top right still - this would be an extremely advantageous position for Urijah Faber if he ever threw jabs effectively. Instead he achieved a position with his right hand controlling Barao's faster, left hand, and his own left hand free to punch, and did nothing with it. As you can see below, Faber often had hand control and did absolutely nothing with it.
Instead, as in the bottom two stills, Faber stood in range, hand fighting, until Barao kicked him. This was the story of the entire fight. Many fans and pundits will write Renan Barao off as "just too fast", but speed wasn't even a factor here. The fact is that Faber repeatedly stood within range of Barao's best attacks, the kicks, and did nothing to set up his own best attack, the right hook.
It was made worse by the fact that Faber clearly thought that he was accomplishing something at range by continuing to feint with strikes that he never actually uses. Notice in the stills below he fakes his right straight, and a jab, both with about three feet of distance between himself and Barao. If a feint is not performed from a threatening distance and in a threatening manner, it is not going to fool a decent striker, and it certainly didn't concern Barao. Even more pointless was the faking of a right kick (in the bottom left still), by Faber whose kicks aren't hugely effective, and which was immediately answered by a stiff jab from Barao (bottom right still).
Another feint which Faber continues to use at range is lifting his knees as if to push kick. Urijah does actually throw the teep quite often, but it's not used effectively, and his opponents are completely unfazed by his faking it. When Faber did run in behind his right hand he occasionally caught Barao - who is notably sloppy in exchanges - but more often than not ended up swinging at air.
The truth of this fight is that it brought to light Urijah Faber's one dimensional style. He made very little effort to get the fight to the mat; with only 6 takedown attempts over 5 rounds. Urijah Faber, as with his long time peer and rival, Kid Yamamoto, is a wrestler with good grappling with a powerful right hand. In earlier days that was "well rounded" - a danger in every area.
As time has passed both Urijah Faber and Norifumi Yamamoto have grown noticeably more attached to their right hook and forgotten about everything else. Where Yamamoto's downfall came sooner due to an injury that took him out for 2 years, the cracks in Faber's game are becoming obvious for all to see. He is always going to be a top level fighter, but as the same holes are exploited so consistently in his losses, you have to wonder how many of the current bantamweight crop could beat him with the same gameplan.
Urijah Faber is one of the most accomplished fighters in the history of the lower weight classes, and arguably the greatest WEC era champion. He will always have the wrestling and power to stay near the top of the heap, but if he really wants to win another title with so many tall, competent kickers entering the lower weight classes, he must hire himself a quality boxing coach, forget about kicking and work on using head movement and a jab to get in close. It sounds simple, but to do it in a fight, especially over 5 rounds, when you've spent your entire career not doing so, is a big ask.
As a bonus, and to remove the bitter taste of this woeful card, here is a little breakdown of Ryan Jimmo's brilliant knockout on Anthony Perosh. It was as simple as exploiting Perosh's undisciplined lead hand.
Jimmo walks Perosh down before Perosh is ready to fight, Perosh extends his left arm to try to keep Jimmo off, and Jimmo reaches inside it and slaps it to his right. Jimmo then moves his head offline to the left, meaning that Perosh will struggle to hit him with a right straight (as you can see, Perosh's right hand is in no position to hit Jimmo in the bottom left still). Jimmo follows threw with his overhand right hook and ends Perosh's night. It's a simple and effective technique, but one that is dangerous if done wrong or at an inappropriate time. Any mention of such a hand trap would not be complete without a mention of the Emperor.