Top MMA News Breaks Down UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao
The UFC is making their way to the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta for the first time in the organization’s history on July 21st. They were prepared to make a splash with one of the best cards of the year. Unfortunately for the UFC and Canadian MMA fans, the card has been brutalized by a summer full of injuries. Either way, this card will go under the radar with UFC fans having the opportunity to watch some of the prospects or future title contenders along with the Interim Bantamweight title fight between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao. The five main card bouts will be aired live on Pay-Per-View.
Interim UFC Bantamweight Championship Bout
Urijah Faber (26-5) vs. Renan Barao (28-1)
After Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz went down with an injury, Urijah Faber was left without a fight until it was announced that Renan Barao would get the opportunity to fight for an interim title. Though the third installment of Cruz and Faber would have been another very fun fight, Faber taking on Barao is a battle between two guys that are more killers than fighters. Cruz is more of a point fighter that uses effective movement to frustrate his opponents. Faber and Barao look to knock out or submit their opponents. That should be no different coming into this war as these two never hesitate to do otherwise. After Faber lost the WEC Featherweight title, he struggled to beat much bigger fighters. He looks like his old self at Bantamweight and his recent performance against Brian Bowles showed how devastating his power and finishing ability is. He is quick and powerful as well as excellent in all disciplines of MMA.
Standing across the Octagon from him will be Barao, who has arguably been the best prospect in MMA for years now. He was able to rip off the prospect tag after his unbelievable performance against Brad Pickett where he was able to dominate the Brit on the feet as he rocked him, took his back brilliantly and finished the fight all within a round. He is coming off of an extremely impressive performance against Scott Jorgensen, though the fight may have showed some flaw in his cardio. Both fighters push at a relentless pace and will constantly move in and out. The exchanges will be devastating and although both guys have tough chins along with phenomenal submission defense, there is undoubtedly a chance of a finish with offensive studs like these two. If Faber can work for takedowns and manage to use his strength to wear down Barao’s questionable cardio in a five round affair, he could come out on top. Barao will need to utilize a similar gameplan to that of his training partner, Jose Aldo, who put on a leg kick clinic on Faber two years ago. This is one of those 50/50 battles. Picking either fighter is a good pick. Since we have yet to see many flaws in the game of Barao, it will be tough to bet against him for now.
Prediction: Barao via Unanimous Decision
Hector Lombard (31-2-1) vs. Tim Boetsch (15-4)
UFC fans have been waiting a long time for the arrival of Cuban judoka Hector Lombard. Finally they will have the opportunity to watch him in the Octagon as he goes up against the powerful Tim Boetsch. Lombard has been an extremely successful fighter and dominated in his reign over the Bellator Middleweights. He is a very successful grappler that would much rather keep the fight standing so he can show off the power he carries in both his hands. Boetsch will be tough to overpower as the former Light Heavyweight has looked great at 185. His last performance against former title challenger Yushin Okami was one for the ages as he was being dominated for two rounds before he knocked out Okami in the third with nasty uppercuts against the cage. Lombard is the more talented fighter in every aspect of MMA and he should easily be able to frustrate Boetsch; however, despite Lombard’s talent, that should not mean Boetsch should be counted out. Both fighters will have a tough time getting it to the ground as they are both talented grapplers but Lombard likely will not look to do so. He will push forward and throw punches with massive power and look to finish the fight early. If Boetsch can survive the constant onslaught through the first couple rounds, he could come out and do as he did to Okami. That is tough to envision as Lombard is far too dominant and should earn a title shot with a finish of a rugged opponent.
Predicition: Lombard via TKO Round 2
Cheick Kongo (17-7-2) vs. Shawn Jordan (13-3)
Originally scheduled to fight MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cheick Kongo now has to go up against a lesser name in prospect Shawn Jordan. Kongo is going into this fight on a bad note after getting knocked out by Mark Hunt in Japan. Before that had happened he had knocked out Pat Barry in an amazing comeback victory and got a decision over Matt Mitrione. Kongo has always been known for his impressive kickboxing ability but he is now more prone to getting the fight to the ground and using effective ground and pound from top position. Jordan had a successful debut against Oli Thompson where the two UFC rookies had an exciting stand up war that ended with Jordan knocking out the Brit in the second round. This is Jordan’s opportunity to greatly increase his stock.
Kongo has always been a solid gate keeper throughout his career. Jordan, a Jackson’s MMA product, is known for his tremendous athleticism. He is undersized for a Heavyweight but he has great hand speed and he is quick on his feet. Both fighters have knockout power in their hands so there is a good chance we see a finish in this fight. If Kongo starts to feels uncomfortable on his feet as he did against Barry, Hunt and Mitrione, he will gladly try to take the fight to the ground and get comfortable from top position. Jordan is the smaller fighter so he will need to utilize his quickness and rock Kongo early and often. If he is unable to do that and he lets Kongo get in tight, he may struggle as he is forced on the cage where Kongo gets most of his takedowns. There, Kongo should be able to take advantage of his overwhelming strength as he grapples his way to a decision victory.
Prediction: Kongo via Unanimous Decision
Brian Ebersole (50-14-1) vs. James Head (8-2)
After getting his 50th professional win, Brian Ebersole refuses to give himself a break as he takes on James Head. Not even a month after winning his fourth fight in the UFC, he will be back in the Octagon to try to go a perfect five out of five in the organization. Head looked impressive against Papy Abedi as he rocked the Swedish Welterweight and finished him off with a rear naked choke. Ebersole is as unorthodox as they come in the division and his pace is tough to keep up with. He has good striking but if he allows Head to get comfortable, he may start getting tagged as he proved against TJ Waldburger and Claude Patrick. Ebersole will likely get the fight to the ground, learning from Nick Ring’s performance against Head as he should be able to dominate from top position. Ebersole has excellent ground and pound and has great technique and submission defense. He should be able to get right into his opponent and get the fight to the ground where he takes control and finishes the fight via strikes. Win or lose, Ebersole will likely be a Lightweight for his next fight and he has proven to be a great company man for the UFC.
Prediction: Ebersole via TKO Round 2
Chris Clements (11-4) vs. Matt Riddle (6-3)
Although on most cards this would be considered a preliminary bout, nobody should be sleeping on this war between Chris Clements and Matt Riddle. Both guys fight to put on a show more so than going in for the victory. Clements had been waiting for his opportunity to make it into the UFC for a long while and the Team Tompkins product had a successful UFC debut in Atlanta against Keith Wisniewski. Riddle is going into his 10th professional bout, all of which have been in the UFC. Riddle has always been fighting the lower tier fighters of the Welterweight division and a win over Clements may be exactly what he needs to continue to move up the division to see how much he has improved since getting the biggest win of his career against DeMarques Johnson back in 2010. Clements is a very awkward striker that throws at different angles and will not hesitate to throw punches that are not exactly considered technical. Clements struggled when the fight went to the ground against Wisniewski. He did get a lot of damage done while he was on his back but he should want to avoid being taken down which should make takedown defense a priority for Clements to succeed.
Riddle is a balanced fighter but he is not exactly talented. Riddle prefers to engage in stand up battles even if he may potentially see a weakness in his opponent’s ground game. His striking is below average and he was completely picked apart against Sean Pierson and Lance Benoist and barely got through the much smaller Henry Martinez. Considering he is fighting on short notice, he will likely be more willing to engage in a stand up battle. Clements will take advantage of Riddle’s willingness to stand and bang and he should be able to beat up the Ultimate Fighter veteran on the feet. Clements will find his spots repeatedly and he should be able to use his punching power to finish Riddle.
Prediction: Clements via TKO Round 3