Renan Barao proved himself once again tonight, and Dominick Cruz should take notice. The Nova Uniao product has a very good overall game and submitting the tough Michael McDonald with a fourth-round arm-triangle choke was extremely impressive. The first round was very close and could have gone either way, but McDonald's output dropped a bit over the rest of the fight. Barao's didn't.
Barao landed a variety of spinning attacks and counters, confusing McDonald a bit and eventually bloodying his nose. His takedown game was on point as well, though McDonald did an excellent job of getting up immediately. Barao was in control after three rounds though, taking at least two of them if not all three (I had it 30-27). And in the fourth, he took advantage of a tiny window and sunk a choke out of nowhere in a scramble. McDonald originally said he was okay, but Barao continued to squeeze and it became too much for the 22-year-old.
McDonald will almost assuredly get another crack at the tile someday, but today was Barao's time to shine.
Let's take a look at some of the other action from UFC on Fuel 7:
- I couldn't figure out why McDonald had blood on his chest early in the fight, since neither man was cut at that point. Then I realized that it was probably a pimple that popped. And that was kind of gross.
- If Cruz isn't ready to go soon, it's tough to see a clear-cut challenger for Barao at this point. There are a few that probably need another big win to get the opportunity.
- The co-main event was one of my favorite fights of 2013 thus far. Both Cub Swanson and Dustin Poirier showed reckless abandon with their striking and they were all over the cage. Cub's omoplata and awesome throw in the third had me in awe as well. I've been hesitant to believe that Swanson had changed so much from his WEC days, but he definitely proved himself to me tonight. He's a tough out for anyone at 145.
- Cyrille Diabate didn't exactly look excellent early, but it's a shame that he was forced to throw the towel in before the bout got going. Jimi Manuwa is now 2-0 in the UFC, and he hasn't actually finished a fight or won a decision. How weird is that?
- Gunnar Nelson is hilarious. From looking like he just woke up, to his odd way of touching gloves before rounds, to his unique stance, I just get a kick out of the guy. And he can definitely fight too. I do think it's too early to write of Jorge Santiago at welterweight though. I thought he fought a good, competitive fight and I'd like to see him get another chance despite his bad UFC record (1-5).
- That being said, why did Nelson drop his hands with a few seconds to go in the fight? He got absolutely clobbered by Santiago at the bell, and that could potentially have been disastrous. Fight to the horn, Gunnar!
- In my favorite result of the night, James Te Huna overcame a massive head kick to come back and brutalize Ryan Jimmo over the final two rounds. I've never been shy about sharing my dislike of Mr. Jimmo, and watching him get trounced was a highlight of my day. My only regret is that Te Huna couldn't finish him, but you can't win 'em all.
- Speaking of not winning, I went 3-9 on my fight picks. I'm terrible at the world.
- So let me get this straight - Matt Riddle wasn't happy about having to fight in England again, and said he might just go in there and lay on Che Mills for 15 minutes. Then he goes in there...and actually does it? He's got stones, I'll give him that. I have no problem with a guy fighting to his strengths, but dissing the UFC before you do it might not be the wisest course of action.
- Che Mills threw an enziguri kick at Matt Riddle. That was, bar none, the best part of the fight.
- How in the blue hell did one judge give Mills that fight anyway?
- The undercard was a big bag of brutal. Five out of the six fights went to decision, and other than a nice performance from Renee Forte against Terry Etim, no one really stood out in terms of action. But one fight more than made up for that - Tom Watson vs. Stanislav Nedkov. They absolutely threw down and the fight was all kinds of brutal.
- Watson's post-fight interview was gold. "I got knocked out three times tonight" was a funny line, and calling out fighters on TRT was a great touch too. I don't think his long-term prospects in the UFC are that great, but he made me a fan with his performance tonight.
- There was some absolutely terrible entrance music tonight. It was P4P the worst I've ever heard at a UFC event. And masks. What's up with the masks everyone?