Last night (Sept. 21, 2013) there were two title fights on the UFC 165 main card from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. One -- Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson -- was an epic, back-and-forth battle that may just go down in history as the finest mixed martial arts (MMA) bout in history.
The other one wasn't quite as close.
Interim Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight champion Renan Barao looked to defend his belt for the second time when he met former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion Eddie Wineland in the co-main event.
He did just that with one of the most stunning finishes this year, earning a much-deserved "Knockout of the Night" bonus for a performance that would have shined through had Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson not stole the show. To watch full Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland fight highlights right now click here.
Let's examine how Barao almost blew the roof off Air Canada Centre.
Wineland was never shy about his gameplan to come in and knock Barao out. It's his gameplan for all of his fights, and he's knocked ten opponents out with his dangerous, hands-down striking style. He appeared sharp in the opening moments of the bout, scoring with a few crisp right hands as he pushed the action.
Barao was on point as well, looking limber while looking for his dangerous kicks. It was a close first round that may have seen Wineland edge the champ out with his quick combinations.
The second round was an entirely different story.
Soon after the round began, Barao twisted and uncorked an absolutely deadly spinning back kick that caught Wineland square on the chin. Barao followed his opponent to the mat with follow-up strikes, but they were unnecessary as Wineland was completely unable to defend himself.
That's two title defenses for Barao in UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz's absence, and it's also an incredible 21 wins in a row for the Nova Uniao-trained Barao. Talk of Barao being declared the legitimate champion will now reach an all-time high, and for good reason. But Dana White stated his belief that Barao and Cruz will square off to unify the belt early next year.
The details of that long-awaited bout are yet to be determined, but can Cruz tackle the tall task of facing a machine like Barao after more than two years on the shelf? His highly documented struggle with multiple ACL surgeries seems never-ending, and if the champ can't face Barao, someone else will have to be lined up.
Obviously Urijah Faber would be the first name to come to mind, but he lost a decision to Barao at UFC 149 and still has to get past Michael McDonald at UFC On Fox 9 this upcoming December. McDonald was submitted by Barao at UFC On Fuel TV 7.
The title picture at Bantamweight is confusing, but one thing is for certain: Barao is quickly becoming a dominant champion while Cruz waits to come back healthy.
Wineland finds himself miles away from the title scene after last night. He sits at an unfortunate 2-3 in the UFC, but he owns wins over divisional stalwarts Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett. Wineland's in an odd position right now, so a rebound fight with an opponent like Mike Easton might help him get back on track.
Renan Barao showed that he's the cream of the UFC crop among 135-pound fighters. Does he deserve to hold the belt all by himself, or is a bout against Dominick Cruz inevitable. Give us your take on the Bantamweight division below!