Big news coming from Dana White today on ESPN's SportsCenter concerning the health of Dominick Cruz. The 28-year-old has pulled out of his Bantamweight title unification bout with Renan Barao with just under a month to go before UFC 169. Cruz has also vacated his belt, which means Barao is elevated from interim champion to undisputed champion.
Dominick Cruz pulls out of UFC 169 with groin tear, will vacate bantamweight title.— UFC Tonight (@UFCTonight) January 6, 2014
Obviously a devastating turn of events for Cruz, whose last title defense came in October 2011 against Demetrious Johnson. One has to wonder whether he'll ever fight again after this latest health setback. Urijah Faber, who effectively clinched his title shot last month, has stepped in on short notice to rematch Barao in what is now the co-main event of the evening:
Renan Barao becomes UFC bantamweight champion and will fight Urijah Faber at #UFC169 per @danawhite— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) January 6, 2014
Faber (30-6) fought (and won) 4 times in 2013, and his dominant 2nd round submission win over Michael McDonald at UFC on Fox 9 occurred on December 14th, so this is a very quick turnaround time for "The California Kid". The 34-year-old fought Barao in 2012 for the interim belt when Cruz first injured his knee, and lost a unanimous decision. It's Faber's 6th title shot since 2009 dating back to his days at featherweight in the WEC. Once the reigning force at 145, he's lost his last 5 title fights at both featherweight and bantamweight.
According to Mike Chiappetta, Faber vs. Barao will remain the main event over the featherweight title bout co-main between champion Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas. UFC 169 is scheduled for February 1st at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.