UFC on FUEL TV 7: "Barao vs. McDonald" goes down this Saturday afternoon (Feb. 16, 2013) at Wembley Arena in London, England. The mixed martial arts (MMA) event is headlined by an interim Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight championship bout between current interim titleholder Renan Barao and No. 1 division contender Michael McDonald.
With the top two bouts of UFC on FUEL TV 7 garnering most of the attention from fans and MMA media alike, it's time to break down what -- besides a paycheck -- a victory in the United Kingdom means for the four men carrying the UFC on FUEL TV 7 fight card.
Here we go:
Barao, the UFC's interim bantamweight champion, is currently riding an obscene 30-fight undefeated streak, including an undefeated (4-0) stint in the Octagon going into his first title defense at UFC on FUEL TV 7.
Barao captured the crown last July when he outpointed Urijah Faber to a unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 149 in Calgary. It was believed his next fight would be a title unification bout with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, but when "The Dominator" went under the knife for a second knee surgery a few months back, the UFC told Barao waiting was not an option and he must put the interim title on the line against McDonald.
The 25-year-old will be in an unfamiliar situation come Saturday. For the past few fights, especially against Faber, Barao was the young lion trying to take out the established veterans of the sport and gain recognition in the MMA world. But, now that he has the title, the bounty is on Barao's head and everyone -- including McDonald -- wants what the Brazilian has.
Barao has stated time and time again since winning the belt that he is very anxious to unify the titles with Cruz and reluctantly look Saturday's fight. On top of taking out an extremely talented youngster in McDonald, a victory for Barao at UFC on FUEL TV 7 means he will, barring any further setbacks, likely get his chance to trade leather with Mr. Cruz.
What's on the line for McDonald at UFC on FUEL TV 7 is pretty clear. A win for McDonald would push his current win-streak to nine, would be the first time a fighter has defeated Barao since the Brazilian's first professional fight in 2005. Oh yeah, a win on Saturday would also make "Mayday" the youngest champion in UFC history at 22 years, one month and two days of age.
One has to wonder how McDonald will deal with all the additional fame that comes along with being a UFC champion. Every fighter handles it different, but McDonald seems like a very grounded individual and given the amount of maturity he has shown in the past, it's unlikely McDonald is the type of guy who would let the fame of being champion go to his head.
McDonald has a chance to be a part of history and his destiny lies in his own hands.
It's hard not to feel for Swanson, who seems to be getting somewhat of the short end of the stick in the UFC featherweight division. Swanson was originally supposed to fight German juggernaut Dennis Siver at Saturday's event in what dubbed as a No. 1 contenders fight at 145-pounds. Siver was forced out of the bout due to injury and replaced by Dustin Poirier, a talented and exciting fighter in his own right but one that lost a title eliminator to Chan Sung Jung less than a year ago.
A win over Poirier would be a welcomed edition to Swanson's resume; however, a win over Siver probably would have done more for the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn product.
In hindsight it really doesn't matter who Swanson faced at the event, as he would have been leap frogged in the ranking by Anthony Pettis regardless. The match up with Siver was arguably the more relevant fight, though.
A win on Saturday means Swanson keeps his ranking in the division strong for the time being. With champion Jose Aldo set to face Pettis in August, it gives time for a lot of things to happen in the division. With the 145-pound weight class becoming more and more competitive by the day, Swanson needs a win just to keep his head above water with the likes of Siver, Jung, Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida and Chad Mendes.
One man misfortune is another man's opportunity as Poirier stepped in for Siver to face Swanson in a fight that could help him jump right back in the featherweight title picture despite being just one fight removed from a devastating loss to "The Korean Zombie."
At this time last year, Poirier was on a five-fight win-streak in the UFC and was viewed as a potential challenger to featherweight champ Jose Aldo. In his chance to get over the hump and prove he is a top contender, "The Diamond" stumbled and was unable to come on top when it counted most.
The 24-year-old is still young enough to learn a lot from his losses, which are few and far between, and come back as a better and more successful fighter. Step one in that process began last December when Poirier submitted Jonathan Brookins in the first round.
Now he faces the second step of that challenge in Swanson.
A victory on Saturday puts Poirier back in the featherweight title mix. As stated above, there are plenty of matches to be made at 145 pounds right now, especially with the title unlikely to be defended again until the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. Poirier has done some good things so far in his Zuffa career, but he lacks that signature win on his resume.
Swanson can be that name.
What do you think a win means on Saturday for these four men? Let us know in the comments section below!