Who is Renan Barao?
You would think that's a question no fan should have to ask about a guy fighting in the main event of a pay-per-view (PPV) card in the largest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization in the world today, yet Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has thrust the Brazilian in exactly that role.
Perhaps we should know Barao. He's taken the slow track to the top, despite his relatively young age. After losing in his debut in April 2005, he's gone on a streak the likes of which no one in MMA -- at least not at this high a level -- can match. He hasn't lost in 29 straight fights. Sure, he's got a No Contest in there but the dude hasn't been beaten in 29 fights.
That includes two victories under the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) banner and three inside the Octagon against the likes of Cole Escovedo, Brad Pickett, and Scott Jorgensen. He's ready for a title shot and if he can beat Faber, he'll solidify himself as the second best bantamweight in the world today.
The stakes for "The California Kid" are just as high, if not more so.
There was a time when Urijah Faber was king. Sure, it was of the WEC but at one point the promotion was basically centered solely around getting him over. And that's what happened, too, as he reigned supreme over the featherweight division.
A couple impressive wins earned him yet another crack at yet another crown, this time with Dominick Cruz at the helm. Again, he lost. That makes him 5-4 in nine fights, which isn't bad but it's not championship level.
Combine that with the fact that Faber's four losses were all in title fights and a loss here, in another title fight, will be devastating for his career. There's another marketable bout against Cruz but only if "The California Kid" has something to bring to the table, like an interim title.
The prospect of a loss tonight could send Faber, 33, into a career tailspin.