UFC 169: Barao vs Faber II, UFC’s first PPV of 2014, is UFC’s annual superbowl weekend event, falling on the same weekend Superbowl XLVIII, both in New Jersey.It features two title bouts in the lighter weight classes, the bantamweight and featherweight title will both be on the line on Saturday night. This card also features a loser leaves down heavyweight fight between two of the heavy division’s biggest names and two men who were once at the top of the division but now see themselves needing victory to keep their UFC career in tact. An unofficial number one contender flyweight fight between two fighters who have been on an absolute tear in the past few years. And a lightweight bout with two fighters looking to establish themselves into the division’s upper-tier. But that’s just the main card.
(C) Renan Barao (31-1, 1 NC) (-270) vs Urijah Faber (30-6) (+230) II
Unfortunate news came out at the beginning of the month when UFC President Dana White announced on ESPN that bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz would have to once again pull out of his scheduled title fight, suffering a groin tear in training. His 3rd straight set back due to injury. As a result the UFC had no choice but to strip Cruz of the bantamweight title, and name then interim champion Renan Barao, the bantamweight champion, removing the interim tag.
In steps “The California Kid” Urijah Faber, taking this rematch against Barao on three weeks notice. After going 4-0 in 2013—defeating 3 top 10 ranked bantamweights—this will be Faber’s 5th fight in 12 months. The former UC Davis wrestler’s last loss came at the hands of the same man he will be sharing the cage with on Saturday, suffering a unanimous decision loss in an interim bantamweight title fight at UFC 149.
While Urijah Faber will be looking to win his first title fight in 6 tries, it will be no easy task against the man they call the Baron. As the song goes—“he hasn’t lost in a while”—32 fights in a row to be exact dating back to 2005 (and yes, he does have Jens Pulver’s smile). Riding a 31 fight win streak, coming off two successful interim bantamweight title defenses—including one of the most impressive knockouts of his career, a spinning back kick to the body of Eddie Wineland—Renan Barao will have confidence on his side having already defeated Faber by a lopsided (49-46, 49-46, 50-45) unanimous decision.
In their first encounter Barao out-struck Faber 85-60 in significant strikes, while defending all 6 of his takedown attempts, despite landing a lower percentage of strikes (29% to Faber’s 34%). These stats however, should be no surprise to any one given their career numbers in the UFC. Barao owns 36% striking accuracy, throws in high volume, landing 3.66 significant strikes per minute (SLpM). While Faber lands at a significantly higher 43% of his strikes, with a lower SLpM of 2.71. Both are two of the better fighters in their division at avoiding strikes, both avoiding at least 65% (67% for Barao) of their opponent’s significant strikes. Taking into account Barao has an incredible 95% takedown defense, which ranks amongst the top of the UFC, and Urijah has a rather low 36% takedown accuracy, these stats played out exactly how the first fight went down in Calgary.
However one significant factor that was missing in their first fight, which Faber now possesses is ‘The Bang Factor” in the form of head coach, Dwane “Bang” Ludwig. Prior to Ludwig joining Team Alpha Male, Faber had been training with long-time muay thai coach Master Thong, but since Faber as well as his teammates have noticed a significant difference in their performances, specifically in their striking. As evident in his previous bout against Michael McDonald, Faber put his improved striking to use, rocking McDonald with several shots before finishing with his signature guillotine choke.
On the other hand, no matter how much Faber’s striking has improved, Barao is seen as the best striker in the bantamweight division and as long as he is able to keep the fight standing on the feet, he should enjoy that slight advantage. However Faber can never be counted out, given his toughness and ability to absorb punishment–only finished twice in his 36-fight career, but this fight will be a real indication of how much his stand up has improved. Will Urijah be able to bridge the gap and close the distance between Barao and himself, speaking literally and figuratively. And of course the takedown threat will always be there for the former division 1 wrestler, landing 1.55 takedowns per fight, but by no means will it be an easy task to take the defending champion to the ground.
“THE CALIFORNIA KID”
|TALE OF THE TAPE|
|Average Fight Time||12:30||12:07|
|Height||5′ 6″ (168 cm)||5′ 6″ (168 cm)|
|Weight||135 lb. (61 kg)||135 lb. (61 kg)|
|Reach||70.0″ (177.8 cm)||69.0″ (175.26 cm)|
|STRIKING (Significant Strikes)|
|Strikes Landed per Min. (SLpM)||3.66||2.71|
|Strikes Absorbed per Min. (SApM)||2.33||2.24|
|Takedowns Average/15 min.||1.65||1.55|
|Submission Average/15 min.||0.9||1.11|
(C) Jose Aldo (23-1) (-600) vs Ricardo Lamas (13-2) (+450)
Before Barao steps in the cage, his Nova Uniao teammate and featherweight kingpin, Jose Aldo will look to defend his belt for a 6th time. Riding a 16 fight winning streak, and coming off his 5th straight successful title defense against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung—in a fight where Aldo capitalized on Jung’s shoulder injury leading to 4th round TKO.
It took a lot of patience from Ricardo Lamas but he is finally about to get his shot at the UFC featherweight title. Having already made a case for himself to be the number contender by defeating then top Japanese featherweight Hatsu Hioki via UD in 2012, Lamas had to fight once more against Erik Koch–that one ending in an absolute one-sided bloodbath before Lamas got the 2nd round TKO. Since that fight in January of 2013, ‘The Bully’ has been sitting and waiting patiently on the sidelines for his turn at a crack at Jose Aldo. Originally scheduled to face ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung at UFC 162 in July, before Jung took the place of the injured Anthony Pettis and fought Aldo for the title, leaving Lamas without an opponent.
It seems that the odds makers do not give Ricardo Lamas much of a chance to dethrone the featherweight champion, opening as a 4-to-1 underdog, and neither do the statistics. Jose Aldo has the advantage in almost every single statistical category on FightMetric, including those in the striking department landing 3.29 SLpM to Lamas’ 2.44 and absorbing slightly less significant strikes (SApM of 1.81 to Lamas’ 1.91) and a higher percentage of defense is in Aldo’s favor 10% higher than Lamas’ 64%. But you may have already knew this, with Lamas being a predominant wrestler, the Division III All-American will likely look to do what many an opponent of Aldo’s has failed to, which is to take this fight to the ground. Jose Aldo owns officially on FightMetric, the 2nd highest takedown defense in UFC history (min. 5 fights, 20 takedown attempts), at 92%. Ricardo Lamas lands on average 2.03 takedowns per fight, at a 38% success rate. This fight will be likely decided based upon Lamas’ ability or inability to find a way to take his opponent to the mat.
A few things to take into consideration coming into this fight, the potential ring rust of Lamas who hasn’t fought in 12 months. And the recovery of Jose Aldo’s foot, which he broke in the title fight against Chan Sung Jung in August, in addition to the injury, this will be only Aldo’s 4th fight in 3 years.
|TALE OF THE TAPE|
|Average Fight Time||12:18||09:35|
|Height||5′ 7″ (170 cm)||5′ 8″ (173 cm)|
|Weight||145 lb. (66 kg)||145 lb. (66 kg)|
|Reach||70.0″ (177.8 cm)||69.0″ (175.26 cm)|
|STRIKING (Significant Strikes)|
|Strikes Landed per Min. (SLpM)||3.29||2.44|
|Strikes Absorbed per Min. (SApM)||1.81||1.91|
|Takedowns Average/15 min.||1.03||2.03|
|Submission Average/15 min.||0.09||1.56|
Frank Mir (16-8) (+270) vs Alistar Overeem (36-13, 1 NC) (-330)
While unofficial dubbed the ‘loser leaves town’ fight, it is almost a given that the loser of this heavyweight contest be shown the door Saturday night. A release would be quite the fall for former UFC heavyweight champion, Frank Mir, who 3 fights ago had just fought for the title against then champion, Junior Dos Santos. Since that fight Mir has suffered 2 straight losses to top contenders Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett. Still with a big name in the MMA world, one could make a case for the 34 year old to stick around even after a 4th consecutive loss. But it seems the UFC has their mind set.
Alistar Overeem came into the UFC on an absolute hot streak dominating competition in Japan and in Strikeforce, with a win over Brock Lesnar, ‘The Reem’ found himself just one win away from a UFC title shot. But that title shot never came to fruition when his streak was halted by Antonio “Big Foot” Silva in the form of a comeback 3rd round knock out, this was followed by another knockout loss to Travis Browne. Overeem’s two fight slide could have easily gone the other way, in both bouts Reem was well ahead and on the way to victory until the danger of the heavyweight division struck, 1-strike from these men can change the fight at any point. Reem has since left the Blackzillians camp in Florida, and moved to train in Thailand for this upcoming bout against Mir.
This fight is not likely to go the distance, as both fighters’ average fight times are just over the 5 minute mark, and only 9 of their career combined 74 fights have gone to a decision (12%). Frank Mir has suffered 7 knockouts of his 8 losses, and history suggests that if he isn’t able to takedown the former K-1 heavyweight grand prix champion, then this might be another short night.
Overeem significantly has the advantage in every statistical striking category, methodically calculated Reem lands 57% of his sig strikes against Mir 39% defense, which suggests that he absorbs more of his opponents strikes than he does not. But more importantly a 77% takedown defense to Mir’s 46% takedown accuracy. Although Mir, being one of the greatest grapplers in heavyweight history, it may not be an easy task to submit Overeem—having only been truly submitted once in 50 bouts by Werdum. It would also not come as a surprise if Frank Mir lands a strike to put an end to the night of Overeem, as evident by Alistair’s last two fights.
Ali Bagautinov (12-2) (-130) vs John Lineker (12-2) (+105)
The next contender in line for Demetrious Johnson’s flyweight title will likely be determined in this bout. John Lineker (#5 ranked flyweight) has more than done enough to fight for the title—knocking out 3 of his last opponents. However the only blemish on all of these victories is that Lineker has missed weight in both of his last fights and a total of 3 times in his 5 fight stint in the organization. He has moved to American Top Team and is working with a doctor for this upcoming fight to deal with the weight cut.
Ali Bagautinov (#7 ranked flyweight) is one of the many top prospects coming out of Russia in the recent years, arrived in the UFC in 2012 and defeated Marcos Vinicius and Tim Elliot to solidify his spot in the upper tier of the division. Riding a 10 fight win streak, Bagautinov can become the first Russian to fight for a UFC title.
The ‘Puncher King’ may be wise to utilize his gold medal in combat sambo to take this one to the ground and avoid trading with the heavy handed Lineker, who lands at an astonishing 6.56 SLpM. A small sample size for Bagautinov, but he has averaged 2.11 takedowns on 44% accuracy against the 73% takedown defense of the Brazilian.
Jamie Varner (21-8-1, 2 NC) (-150) vs Abel Trujillo (11-5, 1 NC) (+130)
A win on Saturday night will not put either lightweight into the top 15 of the division, but can likely set themselves up with a good chance to face one of the opponents in that upper tier. Abel Trujillo comes off completing the 2-fight grudge with Roger Bowling, ending in a fight which Trujillo came out looking to prove a point and threw with bad intentions. Resulting in his most impressive performance to date in the UFC.
If ‘Killa’ comes out with that same mentality Varner could be in for some heavy leather, but let’s not forget that memorable fight Trujillo had with Khabib Nurmagomedov, who took him down a UFC record 21 times in the fight at UFC 160. Varner is no Khabib when it comes to wrestling, but he can certainly hold his own. And if Abel gets too reckless, Varner will not hesitate to shoot for the double.
MMA Lab’s Jamie Varner is 2-2 in his second stint with the UFC, coming off a close split decision loss to Gleison Tibau. What is at stake here for him may be more so than for his opponent, which is the need to stay relevant in the most stacked division in the UFC. The former WEC lightweight champ needs to prove that the at 29 years old, his best days are still ahead of him.
Statistics show that both fighters are great offensive wrestlers, but one is vastly superior to the other when it comes to defensive wrestling. Varner lands an average of 3.73 takedowns per fight with a 54% accuracy coupled with Trujillo’s 37% takedown defense. If Abel decides to reverse the roll and take Varner down, he definitely has the ability to, landing takedowns at a high 89% rate, at nearly 3 (2.97) per fight, but Varner’s 64% defense may have something to say about that. Focusing on the wrestling aspect of this fight because there’s a strong likelihood that the fight will be decided based who can impose their takedowns on the other. Trujillo holds a clear striking advantage over Varner with a 20% greater accuracy in significant strikes.
A quick rundown of the undercard:
John Makdessi (-165) seems to have reached a new plateau in his career after going 2-2 to begin in the UFC, he will be looking for his 4th straight win against undefeated Brazilian 11-0 Alan Patrick (+145).
Chris Cariaso (-150) avoided a 3rd straight loss last time out, defeating Illarde Stantos via TKO, he will take on UFC newcomer, 20-fight veteran, and 1 time WEC veteran, Danny Martinez (+130) fighting out of Alliance MMA.
In a fight where the loser may be cut, New Jersey’s own Nick Catone (+170) looks to avoid a 3rd straight loss when he takes on England’s Tom “Kong” Watson (-200), who has lost 2 of his last 3—including a UD loss to Thales Leites.
Ray Longo trained Al Iaquinta (-250) hopes to continue his momentum into the new year after going 2-0 in 2013, against debuting undefeated (7-0) wrestler Kevin Lee (+210).
Clint Hester (-190) has looked impressive since coming off TUF 17, winning two fights by stoppage. He will face another fellow TUF 17 castmate in Andy Enz (+165), who lost to eventual finalist Uriah Hall in the opening round fights to get into the house, but the UFC has since signed him to a 4-fight contract.
Neil Magny (+160) hopes to avoid a 3rd straight loss in the UFC, but it will be no easy task as he faces 14-2 debuting Russian, Gasan Umalatov (-185).
The opening bout of the card sees Red Fury Fight Team’s (15-1-1) Rashid Magomedov (-250)—the former M-1 welterweight champion’s lone loss comes at the hands of Bellator featherweight tournament winner Frodo Khasbulaev—against (8-0) Tony Martin (+210), both making their UFC debuts.
Preliminary fights begin at 6:30 PM EST on UFC Fight Pass.
Then shifts over to FOX Sports 1 at 8 PM EST for the final four prelims.
All stats and charts courtesy of FightMetric: http://hosteddb.fightmetric.com/events/details/646
All betting odds courtesy of 5dimes on http://www.bestfightodds.com/