In the build up to UFC 149 there was a very memorable and captivating promotional video. That included the audio of Joe Rogan claiming quite passionately “Renan Barao is a monster“.
Barao had been drafted in to fight Uriah Faber for the UFC bantamweight title. When it was revealed that champion Dominick Cruz had seriously injured his knee and would be out of action for a considerable period of time.
The Brazilian was undefeated in 5 bouts since moving to the WEC and UFC. Having faced some stiff opposition along the way. Indeed it was his impressive submission victory over solid Brit Brad Pickett that led to Rogan’s claims of monstrosity.
Barao defeated Faber comfortably via a unanimous decision. And joined his good friend and Nova Uniao training partner José Aldo as a UFC champion. In doing so fulfilling a lifelong dream and looking every bit the monster the promotion of the event suggested he was.
Look up Monster in the dictionary and it says two things;
1. ‘A large ugly and frightening creature’. If you’re reading this Renan I wholeheartedly wouldn’t associate that with you.
2. ‘A thing of extraordinary or daunting size’. That’s more like it.
Welterweight vs bantamweight
For a 135lbs fighter Renan Barao was enormous. I distinctly remember him walking into the TUF Gym. For his first face of with wee Uriah thinking my goodness this is like a welterweight against a bantamweight.
It’s unlikely that Barao would go back to 135 now anyway. But with the new weight cutting regulations I wouldn’t be surprised if that option has now been rendered impossible for the former champion.
He will make his UFC featherweight debut on Sunday at a weight limit of 145lbs. That is more suited to the Brazilians frame and eliminates that dangerous and dreaded weight cut we have seen him struggle with before.
Welcoming the Brazilian to the division is the extremely dangerous Jeremy Stephens. Taking the obvious quartet of exceptional talent in Conor McGregor, Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway out of the equation. I don’t think the UFC could have given Barao a more difficult challenge than the one Stephens possesses.
The former lightweight has had his ups and downs since moving to featherweight. Even having weight cutting issues of his own. But one thing that’s guaranteed is that the man comes to fight. And has knockout power available in every aspect of his striking arsenal.
Dillashaw stops Renan Barao
We seen Barao get rocked and knocked out by a much smaller Dillashaw in both their title fights. But I’m convinced the cut to 135 took an enormous amount of cardio away from the Brazilian. And in doing so handicapped him to basically a three rounds fighter at best.
Without that extra ten pounds to cut one would assume Barao. Will enter the octagon better prepared both physically and mentally, and ready to go to war for five full rounds. Which could very well be the case on Sunday night.
I expect the new weight cutting regulations to completely change the landscape of the UFC divisions. More fighters will be forced to compete at a more natural division. Which in my opinion can only be a good thing in terms of the quality of contests between fighters in peak condition.
In moving up a weight division to take on a fighter who wasn’t that long ago competing two divisions heavier. Barao might just be the smaller man for once heading into a UFC fight. In Renan Barao the featherweight, we will find out what exactly Joe Rogan was referring to when he claimed the man to be a monster.
Was it his extraordinary or daunting size compared to the other bantamweights competing at the time. Or is it the elite martial arts skill set he possesses with the capability of finishing a fight at any time? My guess is the latter.
By Neál Martin
Follow on Twitter: @NealKnows