Dominick Cruz — the man who was the UFC’s Bantamweight champion — backed out of February 1’s UFC 169 title fight against Renan Barao and vacated the title. Smart man. I can’t blame him. Renan Barao is the most underrated champion in the UFC right now. Yes, I called him the champ, even if he’s only known as the interim champion of the 135 lb. division, and sure, I’ll grant you the grand idea that “to be the man, you have to beat the man“, but he’s as vicious as anybody in the octagon and has dominated everybody in his path while Dominick Cruz hasn’t stepped into the cage since October 2011.
Cruz being absent for over two years and coming back to face a Brazilian buzzsaw to be reckoned with in Renan Barao would be almost like knowing you are going to get humiliated upon coming back. Cruz has cited an existing injury in his excuse for pulling out of the fight, but let’s be honest: this fight’s no contest for a returning mixed martial artist.
Now the fight that will be taking place is a hell of a lot more intriguing to me as a fight fan, as Barao will challenge the “California Kid” (not so much a, uh, kid at 34-years-old), Urijah Faber for the vacant Bantamweight title. This will be a rematch from their previous fight in July 2012 in which Barao destroyed Faber. No hyperbole. Again, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Barao has pummeled each and every single competitor that’s been in the way on his path of destruction the last couple of years. Some pundits say that Faber is a refined fighter compared to how he was in July 2012, and I wholeheartedly believe in Faber’s capabilities of pulling off the upset because it is MMA after all, but you won’t see me betting against Barao.
In the other main event of the evening, we’ll see Ricardo Lamas challenging the kingpin of the Featherweight division, Jose Aldo, for that illustrious 145 lb. title. Hey, Lamas has been next in line since Aldo defeated the the “Korean Zombie”, Chan Sung Jung, back on August 3rd. And speaking of that fight from August 3rd, if that fight didn’t coerce you into respecting the hell out of Aldo, I have no idea what will. Aldo broke his foot during that fight and, in the fourth round, he TKO’ed after drilling the Korean Zombie with three consecutive spinning back kicks — yes, kicks, with a broken foot.
I’m not sure what challenge Lamas will present, but I can’t imagine Aldo dropping the title to Lamas. Now is not the time. I hate to be that fan, but I’m more interested in a superfight between Aldo and Lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis at 155 lbs. Even before the potential superfight, I’d like to see Aldo give Chad Mendes a rematch for the belt. Mendes — excuse the upcoming language — is a fucking monster and, in the previous fight between him and Aldo, Aldo knocked him out with a brutal knee with one second remaining in the first round. Since then, Mendes has transcended as a fighter and is hellbent on avenging the only loss in his young mixed martial arts career.
As for the potential fight with Anthony Pettis, I feel that Pettis may have more knockout power, and not to mention he’s coming off a first round armbar submission win against the former Lightweight champion Benson Henderson (Bendo is also one of the most difficult guys to force to tap), but here’s the thing: I have a feeling Pettis’s knees would falter and snap in two if Aldo starts ripping his kicks.
Here I am, bloviating on the future state of the Featherweight division and a superfight at 155 while disregarding the threat that Lamas can be.
February 1st will be a fun night.