This Saturday (Sept. 21, 2013) Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland will go to war for the Interim UFC Bantamweight championship in the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event of UFC 165 from Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The stakes are incredibly high for both fighters, as Barao will look to lock up an early 2014 fight against UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. The Brazilian champion is riding the momentum of an incredible 31-fight unbeaten streak in mixed martial arts (MMA). Last seen submitting the dangerous Michael McDonald at UFC on FUEL TV 7 this past March, Barao has taken Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) by storm.
Wineland, on the other hand, hasn't had as smooth a ride to the top. The former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 135-pound champion was met with initial adversity in the Octagon, dropping his first two bouts to Team Alpha Male-trained products Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez.
He got back on track by defeating Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett last year, earning him a shot at Barao, who will likely provide the stiffest challenge of his career. Wineland looks to play the spoiler at UFC 165, but he'll have to be at the absolute top of his game to get the job done.
This fight has the makings of a highly technical war, but both fighters also have the power to end it at any point as well. Barao holds the advantage with his insane win streak, but Wineland is a fighter who can't be counted out of any bout.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland:
Record: 30-1(1) overall, 5-0 UFC
Key Wins: Urijah Faber (UFC 149), Michael McDonald (UFC on Fuel TV 7), Brad Pickett (UFC 138)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Being one of the finest mixed martial artists in the world, Barao has a multitude of ways to win this fight. His high-level striking has lead to six knockouts, but his primary skill has been his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, which has earned him 14 submission victories. Of Wineland's eight losses, four have been by way of the tapout, so this may be Barao's easiest outlet for a finish.
Wineland is a good wrestler, but Barao has sharp takedown defense thanks to his time spent training alongside UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo at Nova Uniao. Barao won't be taken down easily, and even if he is, a wealth of opportunities will open up on the ground. He'll look for a variety of submissions early and often.
On the feet, Barao has a precise striking game that keeps his opponents guessing, evident by his ability to pick a decorated champ like Faber apart. It's not unconceivable to think that Barao could outpoint Wineland in a kickboxing match thanks to his finesse, but that shouldn't be his highest priority.
Barao is supposedly healed up from the foot injury that forced this bout to be rescheduled from its original date at UFC 161, but any lingering effects could hinder him.
Wineland is a strong Bantamweight who never shies away from an exchange. Barao will be ready for this and could lull him into a false sense of security similar to how he finished McDonald after getting taken down.
Barao is a complicated puzzle that no fighter in the UFC has been able to figure out as of yet. His confidence is soaring, and he has the utmost belief in his ground game. Barao will be incredibly tough to defeat come Saturday night.
Record: 20-8-1 overall, 2-2 UFC
Key Wins: Brad Pickett (UFC 155), Scott Jorgensen (UFC on FX 3)
Key Losses: Urijah Faber (UFC 128), Joseph Benavidez (UFC Live 5)
Keys to Victory: Wineland is a gritty fighter whose style echoes his walk of life, as he still works as a full-time firefighter while training. For the most part, Wineland comes into the Octagon looking to take his opponent's head off with a barrage of powerful punches. He's found success in doing so to the tune of 10 knockout victories.
That's going to be a difficult goal to accomplish at UFC 165 because Barao has never been knocked out. Despite this fact, Wineland will most likely stick to what's worked for him in the past. And he probably should, as any attempts to get into a ground war could prove deadly for him.
Wineland has a good takedown game that could score him some points in the eyes of the judges, but he's going to have to be careful even if he can secure a few. Barao's much-discussed submission game will come into play once the fight hits the ground, so Wineland will need his submission defense to be on a new level to avoid getting caught in a hold.
Barao also utilizes a diverse kicking game that Wineland will need to overcome in order to use his trademark boxing. He'll need to make the fight dirty and get inside of Barao's range to land some significant punches. A five-round kickboxing match will be very difficult to win, so Wineland will need to get in Barao's face early on.
While that could get him finished, Wineland won't back down.
He has a chance to shock the world and emerge with a UFC belt around his waist, and he'll have to fight the most complete fight of his life to do so.
Bottom Line From Toronto: The bottom line here is that this bout will shape the direction of the UFC Bantamweight division for the next year. Dana White has stated that if Cruz can't return to action by early next year, decisions will have to be made regarding the belt.
Barao has been eager to unify the belts, and he's also been a fighting champion by defending his interim strap against the tough challenges of McDonald and now Wineland in the meantime. There's no easy fight at the top levels of the UFC, and Barao will need to remain focused on Wineland. A mental lapse could get him knocked out, but Barao has shown very solid mental preparedness thus far.
Wineland is the underdog here--and for good reason--as Barao soundly defeated the man who beat Wineland in his Octagon debut. But, he's one of those fighters who is so tough that you can never count him out.
On paper, Barao has the more ways to win with his diverse striking, excellent submissions and strong takedown defense. Wineland has a better chance to end the fight with one huge punch. That's not something you want to rely on too heavily against a fighter like Barao.
This fight has the potential to be very exciting, and the tensions will be run high in Toronto. Look for Barao to come out sharp, but if Wineland can turn the fight into a slugfest, he just might pull off a monumental upset.
Renan Barao has looked close to unbeatable. Can Eddie Wineland pull off the epic win? Let us know your thoughts below!