When Renan Barao steps into the Octagon on February 1 to face Urijah Faber, he will be announced as the UFC bantamweight champion. Barao had the interim tag removed from his title when now former champion Dominick Cruz was pulled from UFC 169's main event. At the same time Barao transitioned to full-fledged UFC champion, Faber took Cruz's spot on the fight card.
Barao will have a lot on the line when he faces Faber in Newark, NJ on Super Bowl weekend. At risk will be his title, as well as a 32-fight unbeaten streak. If you listen to UFC president Dana White, Barao will also be fighting for the chance to be named the top pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
White, speaking to select media members following UFC Fight Night 35 said of the 31-1-0-1 Barao, "If Barao goes out and stops Faber, he's probably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world."
Barao has history on his side, defeating Faber by unanimous decision at UFC 149. That victory gave Barao the interim UFC bantamweight title, a title that the UFC thought necessary as then champion Cruz recovered from knee surgery.
Barao would defend the interim title twice, defeating Michael McDonald by submission and Eddie Wineland by TKO. Barao and Cruz were to unify the titles at UFC 169, but as fate would have it, a groin tear forced Cruz from the bout. Due to his latest setback, the UFC elected to strip Cruz of the title.
Cruz last fought in October 2011, defending the bantamweight title with a unanimous decision win over Demetrious Johnson. The win was Cruz's tenth consecutive victory.
White had the following to say about the situation Cruz found himself in after enduring two knee surgeries, a torn groin, and having the UFC title taken from him due to his inability to defend that title, "I couldn't feel more sorry for a guy than I do for Dominick Cruz. The things that have happened to this kid over the last two years, I think him and Cat Zingano are neck and neck for bad luck."
Barao is currently ranked No. 6 in the pound-for-pound rankings. In order to take the top spot, he will need to leapfrog five other UFC champions, middleweight Chris Weidman, flyweight Demetrious Johnson, heavyweight Cain Velasquez, featherweight Jose Aldo and light heavyweight Jon Jones.
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