Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight standouts Renan Barao and Phillipe Nover will collide this Saturday (Sept. 24, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 95 inside Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia, Brazil.
Barao is in a seriously rough spot. After nearly a decade undefeated and being touted as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Barao has now lost three of his last four bouts, including his 145-pound debut. He’s obviously still a skilled fighter and hasn’t lost to scrubs, but the Brazilian desperately needs a win here. On the other hand, Nover has a split a pair of bouts since returning to the Octagon. Even with Barao’s decline, this is a major step up in competition for "The Filipino Assassin."
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Record: 33-4 (1)
Key Wins: Urijah Faber (UFC 169, UFC 149), Eddie Wineland (UFC 165), Michael McDonald (UFC on Fuel TV 7)
Key Losses: T.J. Dillashaw (UFC on FOX 16, UFC 173), Jeremy Stephens (UFC Fight Night 88)
Keys to Victory: Barao is a former champion, earning his golden strap by being a well-rounded and aggressive mixed martial artist. Barao is an excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, powerful Muay Thai fighter, and has some of the best takedown defense in the world.
This match up is designed to help Barao bounce back. On paper, Barao has a considerable advantage in just about every category, from technical skill to physical attributes to experience against top competition.
He should be able to dominate his opponent.
In his last bout, Barao faced a Top 10 foe in Stephens, and he looked incredible in the first round, stabbing at Stephens with quick combinations and counters. However, some poorly planned takedown attempts really sucked the energy out of him in the second, and he wound up in a brawl with the division's best brawler.
This time around, Barao cannot make the same mistake. If he chooses to look for the takedown, he needs to put more of an emphasis on timing the shot, or simply break away if his opponent does a nice job of defending.
Key Wins: Yul Chul Nam (UFC Fight Night 66), Darrell Horcher (Bellator 95)
Key Losses: Zubair Tukhugov (UFC Fight Night 80), Tony Martin (Dakota FC 14)
Keys to Victory: Nover is a strong submission fighter with some strong kicks and solid wrestling. His biggest problem has been getting overpowered by superior athletes, but even then Nover is fairly skilled at slowing the fight down and making it a more technical battle.
In this match up, Nover needs to attack Barao's conditioning. It's the only area that Nover may have an advantage, but he won't be able to make use of it unless he pushes the pace. To make Barao slow down, Nover needs to force his way into wrestling exchanges. As a former Lightweight, Nover should be the larger man, and he'll be able to hang onto Barao and slow him down.
If Nover can force his opponent to wrestle for an extended period of time, there's a solid chance Barao will fatigue like he did in his Featherweight debut. If that happens, the takedowns may come easier, or Nover will at least be able to control his foe along the fence.
It'll be ugly, but this could be a big victory for Nover.
Bottom Line: It’s an important bout for both athletes.
Barao absolutely has to win this fight. He’s not in danger of being cut (yet), but defeat here completely eliminates Barao’s relevance as a Featherweight.
Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case. Barao looked great in the first round of his bout with Stephens, perhaps even better than in his fights as Bantamweight champion. If Barao can learn to manage his energy better, he could still be a player at 145 pounds.
Meanwhile, Nover’s back may be against the wall. If he comes up short, this is two in a row, and Nover has been released before. It wouldn’t exactly be fair considering Barao’s skill, but it’s a definite possibility. On the other hand, a victory pushes Nover to new heights. The promotion raved about his potential way back on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), and if there were ever a time for Nover to live up to those compliments, it’s this fight.
At UFC Fight Night 95, Renan Barao and Phillipe Nover will duel in the co-main event. Which fighter will have his hands raised?