One of the first stars of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lower weight classes, Renan Barao commanded the respect of mixed martial arts fans as an unstoppable force in the early beginnings of the bantamweight division. Winning one title fight after another, Barao’s legacy was cemented with an almost unprecedented run of title defenses before T.J. Dillashaw shocked the world twice.
Before Barao’s fight at UFC on Fox 28 in Orlando, Sherdog took a look at the defining moments of his career:
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1. First UFC fight of the night bonus
Coming in as one of the most accomplished fighters in the UFC’s then newly-created bantamweight division after acquiring World Extreme Cagefighting, Barao made an instant impact in his first year in the Octagon. In just his second fbout, Barao earned fight of the night honors for his first-round submission of Brad Pickett. Already an accomplished fighter by this point, the emphatic victory cemented the Nova Uniao product’s status as an elite mixed martial artist.
2. Interim UFC bantamweight title.
Following the win over Pickett along with a unanimous decision against Scott Jorgensen at UFC 143, Barao earned himself a title opportunity against Urijah Faber for the interim UFC bantamweight championship. Headlining UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Barao continued his then 28-fight win streak with a dominant performance against “The California Kid.” For five rounds, Barao made it clear he was superior in a convincing unanimous decision victory (49–46, 50–45, 49–46) to become the interim ace at bantamweight.
3. Successful title defenses.
After defeating Faber for the interim bantamweight belt, Barao then scored two successful title defenses in 2013 to become the undisputed champion. A submission of the night on Michael McDonald and a knockout of the night against Eddie Wineland entrenched Barao as an unstoppable force. With Barao defeating everyone in his path, Faber was given another shot at the strap. Instead of a repeat of the five-round fight in the first meeting between the two, Barao wasted no time in finishing off the rivalry and earning a first-round TKO to defend his title for the third time. UFC 169 serves as the peak of his career and extended his undefeated run to 32 contests.
4. 0-2 record in the Dillashaw rivalry.
Scheduled for the main event of UFC 173, Barao appeared to be a lock after Raphael Assuncao pulled out of the fight with a rib injury and was replaced by the unproven T.J. Dillashaw. Instead, Barao was stunned by one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Dillashaw would outclass Barao in a thriller and ultimately finished him off with a head kick and punches in the fifth round to end his undefeated streak, along with his championship reign. In the rematch, Dillashaw repeated the performance to earn a fourth round TKO and squash the rivalry. The losses to Dillashaw served as a passing of the torch from Barao, whose reign at the top of the bantamweight division came to a screeching halt with the emergence of a younger champion.
5. Losses to Stephens and Sterling.
Since losing to Dillashaw in his final two UFC title fights, Barao has continued his decline in the latter stage of his career. A featherweight return has yet to be kind to Barao as Jeremy Stephens defeated Barao at UFC Fight Night 88 via unanimous decision before Aljamain Sterling bested the former champion at UFC 214 in a catchweight bout at 140 pounds. The recent losses have defined Barao as a fighter falling from the great heights he had once achieved.