Renan “Barao” Pegado has won 19 fights in a row. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Those complaining about the quality of UFC on Fuel TV shows need look no further than Saturday at the Wembley Arena in London. For the first time, the promotion is offering a title bout on a Fuel TV card, as Renan Barao defends his interim bantamweight strap against Michael McDonald in the main event.
If that were not enough, the co-feature pits Cub Swanson against Dustin Poirier in a bout between featherweight title hopefuls. In addition, the lineup features the usual collection of national favorites, as Jimi Manuwa, Che Mills, Terry Etim and Tom Watson -- among others -- will showcase their skills in front of a supportive English crowd.
Here is a closer look at the UFC on Fuel TV 7 card, with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fuel TV 7 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship
Renan Barao (29-1, 4-0 UFC) vs. Michael McDonald (15-1, 4-0 UFC)
The Matchup: The ongoing knee troubles for reigning 135-pound king Dominick Cruz mean “Barao” will be forced to make at least one -- if not more -- interim title defenses before “The Dominator” returns to health.
The Brazilian extended his remarkable 30-fight unbeaten streak by defeating Urijah Faber for the temporary strap at UFC 149. It was an impressive performance for “Barao,” who controlled distance with his striking while successfully defending all six of the “The California Kid’s” takedown attempts. The Nova Uniao representative goes from the experienced and marketable Faber to a still-improving commodity in McDonald, who turned heads with a first-round knockout of former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Torres at UFC 145. A onetime Tachi Palace Fights 135-pound ruler, the best is probably yet to come for the 22-year-old McDonald, while the 33-year-old Faber’s skills have declined -- if only slightly -- since his WEC heyday.
Has McDonald progressed rapidly enough to give “Barao” a significant test at this point in his career? While the Californian’s victories over Torres, Alex Soto, Chris Cariaso and Edwin Figueroa are solid, Pegado’s resume includes wins over Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett -- all top 10-caliber competitors.
“Barao” completely nullified the takedown games of two former collegiate wrestlers in Faber and Jorgensen, and he survived a brief firefight in the pocket with Pickett before swiftly ending the contest with a rear-naked choke. In short, the Brazilian has proven himself to be comfortable in all aspects of a fight while ascending to the top of the division.
McDonald will have to author the finest performance of his career, which is not out of the realm of possibility given his age. “Mayday” carries legitimate knockout power in his right hand, as he demonstrated in scoring knockouts on Torres and Soto in his last two outings. McDonald’s ability to match the Brazilian’s pace on the feet and counter effectively will go a long way in determining the direction of this fight. Although the Last Stand Fight Team product averages nearly 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes and owns an aggressive ground game, it is difficult to imagine him succeeding in an area where both Faber and Jorgensen failed.
“Barao” is not as accurate as his opponent, but he makes up for it with volume striking. The interim champion controls distance with leg kicks and jabs, while patiently picking his spots to attack with combinations. He also has good offense in close quarters, punishing his foes with knees and punches to the body. Though McDonald’s countering skills are formidable, he must also initiate exchanges in order to avoid allowing “Barao” to get comfortable on the outside.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, “Barao” is opportunistic on the floor, quickly transitioning to submission attempts when given an opening. McDonald works to advance position on the canvas, but he will have to disguise his takedown shots with good combinations in order to secure top control.
The Pick: McDonald has plenty of potential, but unless he stuns “Barao” with a big right hand early, he is going to have a long night. The Brazilian is more versatile on the feet, and a consistent barrage of leg kicks will gradually slow McDonald’s advances. As he gets more comfortable in the standup exchanges, “Barao” might find a chance to finish in the championship rounds if McDonald fades. Pegado retains his title by decision or late technical knockout or submission.
Next Fight » Cub Swanson vs. Dustin Poirier