A knee injury to Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight kingpin Dominick Cruz set in motion the events that led to an interim title bout between Urijah Faber and Renan “Barao” Pegado in the UFC 149 headliner on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Faber has recorded three wins in his past four outings. The 33-year-old Team Alpha Male founder last appeared at UFC 139 in November, when he submitted Brian Bowles with a second-round guillotine choke. A former WEC champion at 145 pounds, Faber wrestled collegiately at the University of California at Davis. In 31 professional appearances, he has never been submitted. Faber views “Barao” as a different kind of threat than the man he was originally booked to meet.
“Cruz and ‘Barao’ are polar opposites. ‘Barao’ is a guy that starts hard and looks for the finish right away but seems to fade a little bit as the fight goes on,” he said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “Dominick is really tricky, has great conditioning and is always looking to outpoint you in a long fight. I’m a good combination of those two put together. I’m dangerous and I thrive in long fights.”
Pegado, who trains out of the same revered Nova Uniao camp as UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, has secured 19 of his 28 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. The 25-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt last competed at UFC 143 in February, when he coasted to a unanimous decision over Scott Jorgensen. “Barao” views the fight with Faber as a defining moment in his career.
“Urijah is a great fighter and person,” he said. “It will be the most important fight in my life, and this can put me at another level in the UFC and as an MMA pro fighter.”
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 149 “Faber vs. Barao” main event:
Joseph Sandoval: I’m going for Renan. He’s just too fast and is a smaller Jose Aldo. He’s gonna finish Urijah in the championship rounds; I say [via] TKO.
Keith Berry: Faber is pretty well-rounded, with great wrestling, but Renan is a phenom. I think he will get the TKO in the third round.
Jason Dent: Picking and pulling for Faber. To be honest, I’m not that familiar with Renan just yet. I have to believe Faber has fought the tougher competition, though.
Jeff Hougland: Faber will win, but it will be an awesome fight for the fans. Neither one knows how to have a boring fight.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I’m going to take “Barao” in this fight. I think he is going to be the next big thing at this weight class. It’s hard to pick against him. I see him outstriking Faber standing, maybe with low kicks like his training partner Aldo did. It will set up Barao-Cruz down the line for the belt.
John Hackleman: I pick Faber to win because of his explosive wrestling, much improved striking, his very underrated yet dangerous submissions and, most of all, because of his very cute dimple. No one with a dimple like that should ever lose.
Travis Wiuff: Faber wins by decision.
Erik Paulson: This will be a fun fight to watch. Faber needs to take him down and try to choke him to finish. “Barao” could possibly win by KO if he can keep it on the feet.
Mark Bocek: “Barao” wins by decision.
Cung Le: Going with Faber.
Javier Vazquez: This should be a fun fight. I just have a feeling about this one, and I think “Barao” is going to finish Faber. I don’t like to pick against Faber, but I think “Barao” might just be the guy that beats Cruz. “Barao” will finish Faber in a spectacular fight.
John Gunderson: “Barao” is a beast and only 25. This will be a tough fight for Faber, but I believe he will pull out the victory. Faber has more experience in the big show and championship fights. Plus, his work ethic [will help]. His incredibly fast-paced fighting style will prevail. He also has a good team of guys to work with everyday and will dominate this fight later on [in the] championship rounds.
Nam Phan: Faber all the way.
Pros Picking Faber: 7
Pros Picking Pegado: 5
No Pick: 1
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