The injury bug has hit mixed martial arts pretty hard this summer, but despite losing two champions from the UFC 149 lineup, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, still found a way to host a title bout on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. With UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz on an injury layoff, an interim title is now up for grabs.
Former WEC champion and the alpha male of Team Alpha Male Urijah Faber will take on the surging Renan “Barao” Pegado. While making predictions is best left to Octagon veterans, I do want to see how these two match up and provide you all with deeper statistical insights than you can see anywhere else. Let us get to it.
Tale of the Tape
Yet another “Ultimate Fighter” coaching derailment is certainly disappointing, but Joe Silva arranged a worthy and very close matchup here, as we will see. While Faber is an exciting and steadfast draw for MMA fans, “Barao” has only competed on the big-show circuit for two years. Yet “Barao,” undefeated in 29 straight fights, is the early favorite.
The Tale of the Tape shows two evenly sized, orthodox stance fighters who can both finish fights better than their peers. One item from the tape is worth noting. Amazingly, Faber is now 33 years old. No longer the bouncing “California Kid” who dominated the WEC five years ago, he is now a seasoned veteran just beyond the 32-year-old threshold of natural youth advantages in MMA. Barao will be eight years younger than Faber, a difference that leads to a win rate of 63 percent for the younger fighter.
The Striking Matchup
Note: Bantamweight division statistics only
Faber’s power striking has always been a strength, and it will remain a mismatch area for this fight. Keep in mind that at featherweight he scored four more standing knockdowns, further illustrating his knockdown power. The threat of his high mix of power strikes is also compounded by the creative ways with which he throws strikes. Since moving to the bantamweight division, his striking accuracy has gotten even better, and he will have the edge over “Barao” in this critical striking metric.
However, what “Barao” may lack in accuracy, he makes up for with volume. The second most important number here is the standup striking ratio. “Barao” has pushed the pace, averaging 50 percent more striking attempts than his opponents, though mostly with jabs rather than power strikes. It is worth noting that “Barao” throws three times as many leg kicks as Faber.
Faber had to be more reactive in his fight against Cruz, but, in general, he does not rely on a high-volume jab attack. He picks his shots and throws heat. The critical question here will be if Faber can get the timing right and land some early damage by countering “Barao,” or if the Brazilian will mimic his training partner, Jose Aldo, and keep Faber off balance with a barrage of strikes.
Takedowns & Grappling Matchup
Both fighters have dominated their opponents on the ground with superior positioning, striking and submissions. They have both finished fights on the ground, and neither has ever been submitted, so this aspect of the matchup will certainly be a challenging test for each fighter.
Pegado’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt means Faber will not have the same submission advantage he has had in prior fights. However, Faber’s additional years of experience bolster his own grappling credentials. When it comes to wrestling, here is a surprise. While Faber attempts takedowns at twice the rate of “Barao,” the Brazilian has had the much better success rates, both offensively and defensively. We will temper some of that advantage based on the Brazilian’s slightly lower level of competition and Faber’s NCAA Div. I wrestling pedigree. If either fighter’s strategy is to put the other on the ground, it will be interesting to see who is first to get top position.
A Final Word
The betting line began close to even, with “Barao” as a very light favorite, but market activity has pushed the line further in his favor, and he currently owns a -200 edge. That is a pretty big deal considering Faber is the much more popular fighter. Faber has been favored in all his fights except the two unsuccessful title attempts versus Aldo and Cruz. “Barao,” favored in all his Octagon appearances, has averaged a betting line of -250.
It looks like Joe Silva has been up to his usual tricks. While each fighter has a few advantages in this matchup, it looks to be a competitive tilt for the interim strap. Faber winning a belt would surely be a marketing dream come true for the UFC. It could also be that the biggest beneficiary of Cruz’s injury was a man that did not have any shot at a title just two months ago. What numbers stand out most to you and how do you see this going down?
Next month, we will take a look at the third main event rematch of the summer, when Benson Henderson welcomes Frankie Edgar back for a chance to regain the lightweight title.
Enjoy the fights.
Note: Raw data for the analysis was provided by, and in partnership with FightMetric. All analysis was performed by Reed Kuhn. Reed Kuhn, Fightnomics, FightMetric and Sherdog.com assume no responsibility for bets placed on fights, financial or otherwise.
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