Renan Barao and Urijah Faber are set to do battle on February 1st at UFC 169 after an injury forced Dominick Cruz off the card. As most fight fans know this is not the first time they have met in the cage. They first faced off in July of 2012 where Barao took a unanimous decision over the former WEC Featherweight Champion. In preparation for their next bout let’s look at an in-depth analysis of their first bout.
Round one was a close round contested entirely on the feet. Faber never threatened for a takedown in this round and paid for it. When Faber would engage Barao he would charge straight after him which left him open for counter hooks and uppercuts. Barao utilized a very cerebral offense in this round. Barao’s main tool in this round was his length and quickness. Throughout the round he would keep Faber at distance with kicks to Faber’s head, body, and legs. Occasionally he would open up with a spinning back kick or a barrage of kicks and knees. About halfway through the round Barao opened up with kicks and knees which ultimately won him the round. I would score round one 10-9 Barao.
Round two was not nearly as close as the first round. Faber looked lost on the feet versus Barao. Faber seemed to have difficulty with the wide array of strikes Barao was throwing. Barao was not just keeping his distance with his jab but also through a heavy diet of kicks. Faber’s most successful offense this round was the inside leg kick which landed cleanly a few times. Faber failed to capitalize on those kicks by not throwing them as a part of a combo. He would simply throw the inside leg kick then look to see how Barao would counter. Barao on the other hand would use very effective leg kicks as part of a combination. One of Barao’s best sequences in this round was a straight jab that he followed up with a brutal leg kick that buckled Faber. Barao also was great with his hands in this round. He would almost always initiate the offense and use the entire reach of his punches to touch Faber while staying out of his opponent’s striking distance. This was a masterful round for Barao and I would score it 10-9 in his favor.
Round three was easily Faber’s best round in the fight thus far. Faber had success hitting Barao with a straight right hand and finally threatened with a takedown. While he went 0-2 on takedown attempts just the threat of them is enough to change the way an opponent fights. Faber did have some bright spots in the round but Barao was still the better fighter. I’d say that the amount of shots landed between the two were almost the same but Barao landed the much harder strikes. Barao’s kicks, punches, and knees caused visible damage to Faber. The Brazilian also landed a deadly leg kick at the end of this round that definitely took a lot away from Faber’s mobility. This round was a lot better for Faber but I would still score it 10-9 Barao.
Round four was more of the same for Barao as he got the better of the standup once again. Faber came out early and had success with his straight right but again refused to throw any combinations. All Faber had done in the fight up to this point was throw single shots that occasionally connected. Barao once again used his distance and variety to keep Faber guessing. Barao’s looping hooks connected many times this round, staggering the American early. The distance between the fighters was made longer by Barao’s kick combinations. One of Barao’s most impressive combos this round was a spinning heel kick he threw at Faber’s head which was followed by a regular head kick almost immediately. Another solid offensive weapon Barao used in this round was body shots. Barao hit Faber with a hard punch to the liver at the end of the round which had a big impact on “The California Kid.” I would again score this round 10-9 Barao.
Faber came out in round five and fought the way he should have the entire fight. At the beginning of the round Faber was always first on offense. He didn’t wait for Barao to make a move and hit the Brazilian with jabs and punches. Half way through the round Faber seemed to fade and gave way once gain to a dominant Barao. Barao hit Faber with hard punches and kicks the latter half of the round which ultimately pushed him over the top. The last round of this fight was the closest but I still lean toward Barao 10-9 due to landing the cleaner and harder strikes.
Both fighters can learn a lot from re-watching the film of their first fight. For Barao, he can learn how his physical advantages can take him to victory. Barao did very well mixing up his strikes and keeping Faber off balance. If he brings the offense to Faber like he did in the first bout then he should be able to pull off a victory once again. Faber on the other hand has a bit of work to do. His biggest mistake in this fight was letting Barao be the offensive initiator.
When Faber is at his best he is pushing the pace and taking the fight to his opponent. Faber looked timid during this fight and nothing like the California Kid we all know. Another good thing for Faber to do this fight would be checking leg kicks. After having his legs beaten to death by Jose Aldo you’d think he would want to avoid that happening again. If Faber can push the pace, threaten with takedowns, and make Barao fight at his distance then he has a great chance of walking away with his first UFC title.