Former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) featherweight champion Urijah Faber insisted that the outcome would be different in his second fight against Renan Barao, when they traded leather in the main event of UFC 169, which took place last Saturday night (Feb. 1, 2014) in Newark, New Jersey (results).
He was right.
Despite lasting 25 minutes in their first go-round, a unanimous decision loss at UFC 149 in July 2012, Faber was unable to get out of the first round in "The Garden State," crumbling in the wake of a Brazilian blitzkrieg, which led to mildly controversial technical knockout (TKO) finish.
Either way, "The California Kid" was not intelligently defending himself and eventually put out to pasture.
With him out of the title picture for the foreseeable future, there aren't many options left for the champion. At least none that make sense on paper. Raphael Assuncao (ranked No. 3 and winner of five straight) comes to mind, depending on how well he performs at UFC 170, but as far as a compelling narrative, there's really only one name left to consider.
The problem with "The Dominator" is that he just can't stay healthy. After riding the pine for two years with a bum knee, Cruz shredded his groin training for UFC 169, paving the way for Faber to step in on short notice and get another crack at the crown.
But his nether regions, unlike his ACL, is expected to be a temporary setback.
That means we could, conceivably, have Barao vs. Cruz for the bantamweight belt this summer. I know it's hard to overlook the time off, but to be fair, the Brazilian -- formerly the "interim" titleholder -- was able to merge the belts by default, which means he's got some unfinished business with the ex-champ.
And he's earned it.
Even with his recent setbacks, Cruz is still 19-1 overall, 2-0 inside the Octagon and undefeated over the last seven years. I'm not sure you can find a more qualified opponent and the fact that he was never beaten for the title should make him next in line.
For more UFC 169 results and fallout, including recaps, videos, highlights and more, check out our "Barao vs. Faber 2" live story stream by clicking here.