Photo of Renan Barao by Jeff Bottari courtesy Zuffa LLC., via Getty Images
After watching Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz go at it on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15: "LIVE" on FX for 10 weeks, it was a little bit of a letdown when it was announced that "The Dominator" tore both his ACL and MCL, rendering him out of action for quite a while.
It became clearly necessary to create an interim belt in lieu of Cruz's absence, and it was then that Faber was paired up against Renan Barao. It might not have been the fight originally promised, but it was a pretty decent consolation prize to say the least.
"Pegado" came into the night riding a ridiculous unbeaten streak. "The California Kid" had every intention of ending that streak, but he never came close to even threatening.
For five rounds, Barao dictated the pace, landed thunderous kicks and combos and proved to simply be the better man.
Before this fight went down, it seemed as though both Faber and Barao were looking past each other, at least a little bit, as both were willing to comment freely on what they thought would happen in the event of a victory.
Faber was adamant about not being willing to sit and wait for Cruz to come back from his injury. Barao took the opposite approach, stating that he preferred to take a hiatus until he was able to get the opportunity to try and unify the bantamweight title belts.
So, unless something changes and UFC President Dana White gives different marching orders, it looks like Barao's next fight will be versus Cruz, whenever the champ is ready to roll.
It makes for an interesting match up, to be sure.
Barao possesses the speed and power to pose a threat to Cruz. He may have better odds on being able to cut off the cage in a way that Cruz has not experienced thus far in his career. Barao is also very, very good on the ground, and if he's able to take Cruz down (which is no small task), it could be trouble.
With all that said, if Barao is able to figure out the puzzle that is Dominick Cruz, it would be the first time in a long time. Cruz has secured four consecutive successful title defenses, and he has not lost since 2007, when his nemesis Urijah Faber was able to submit him at WEC 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada, when both fighters competed for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
Barao isn't on Aldo's level. Not yet, anyway. But, he's getting there, and the fact that he trains with "Scarface" every day certainly is not hurting his endeavor toward greatness.
Should Dana White decide to keep Barao active, my preference for his next opponent would be Michael McDonald.
The 21-year old McDonald has won eight fights in a row and has looked mature far beyond the age on his driver's license. (He does have driver's license, right?)
It makes for a good in-between fight, in my opinion. It really just all comes down to Cruz's health and how soon he's ready to get back into the cage.