Renan Barao has not lost a fight since April 2005. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
UFC Interim Bantamweight ChampionshipRenan Barao (30-1, 5-0 UFC) vs. Eddie Wineland (20-8-1, 2-2 UFC)
The Matchup: These two were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 161, but a foot injury suffered by Barao postponed the matchup until now. Despite that delay, no official timetable has been set for reigning champion Dominick Cruz’s return. In the meantime, Barao becomes further entrenched as the promotion’s interim titlist.
If there was any doubt as to the Brazilian’s worthiness of such a status, it should have disappeared with his fourth-round submission of Michael McDonald in February and “Mayday’s” subsequent thrashing of top 10 staple Brad Pickett at UFC Fight Night 26. Already Barao has gone through a who’s who of the division, besting Pickett, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber and McDonald. If he can dispatch Wineland in similarly impressive fashion, the clamoring for a 135-pound title unification bout would only grow louder. Cruz’s health is beyond Barao’s control, however, so he must focus on Wineland, a durable foe with heavy hands.
Perhaps no victory says more about the power in Wineland’s hands than his UFC on FX 3 triumph over Jorgensen in 2012. The 29-year-old Duneland Vale Tudo representative popped Jorgensen with his jab in round one before flooring his opponent with his trademark right cross for the second-round finish. It remains the only time that Jorgensen has been stopped by strikes in a 21-fight professional career. Wineland followed that performance with another solid effort in taking a decision from the aforementioned Pickett at UFC 155.
While Wineland hits hard and is difficult to finish -- neither Faber nor Joseph Benavidez could accomplish the feat in his first two UFC appearances -- it would appear that he simply lacks the versatility to truly threaten Barao. Wineland’s best approach would be to follow the blueprint laid out by McDonald, who rocked Barao with punches in the opening round of their UFC on Fuel TV 7 encounter. However, Wineland is not the athlete “Mayday” is, and he will too often find himself being picked apart on the outside by the champion’s jab and leg kicks.
Barao’s multi-faceted attack will gradually take its toll on Wineland. The Brazilian has the ability to punctuate punching combinations with leg kicks, and more flashy attacks such as spinning back kicks and flying knees are also part of his arsenal. Compare that with Wineland, who will primarily rely on a sprawl-and-brawl approach in hopes of landing his dangerous right hand.
Wineland’s upper body strength makes him difficult to take down, but Barao’s ability to vary his strikes and counter will eventually have the American off-balance. If Barao is able to get the takedown, he makes life difficult for foes by transitioning from one dominant position to another while allowing little opportunity to create space. His submission instinct is uncanny; it was only a matter of moments before he was able to elicit tapouts from the likes of McDonald and Pickett. Wineland will not find refuge in the clinch, either, as Barao can exact damage with knees and body punches.
The Pick: Barao is simply too quick and dynamic for Wineland. The former World Extreme Cagefighting champion will prove to be a difficult out, but the bout will grow increasingly one-sided the longer it goes. Barao wins by unanimous decision or late submission.
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