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UFC 169 Preview: “What Urijah Faber Needs To Do To Beat Renan Barao”

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Photo via FcFighter.com

At the highest level, strategies and techniques can get quite complicated. Yet sometimes, to win, the overlapping principle can be quite simple.

It’s quite plausible that this is the case for Urijah Faber. Because of precedents, many believe that it’s Barao’s fight to lose. After all, Barao hasn’t lost in 8.5 years, and he’s beaten Faber to become the interim champion. Urijah isn’t particularly consistent in championship bouts either — in the past, Faber has lost (dramatically) to good kickers, and Barao is a good kicker.

But the this MMA Math isn’t sufficient to make Barao a clear winner. Actually, it can be reckoned that Faber has a decent chance to exploit Barao’s “strengths”. Here’s what Team Alpha Male’s head coach, Duane Ludwig, had to say about the bout — Youtube [Link]:

Interviewer: “Whats the key for Faber to win this championship fight?”

Ludwig: “Pressing forward, no breaks.”

Interview: “That’s it?”

Ludwig: “That’s it. Haha ya that’s it. Pressing forward, no breaks, in his face… I’ve been watching Barao a lot throughout the year. He’s the main goal since I got here”

Why press forward with no breaks? Why must Faber be in Barao’s face?

First Fight

Going back to watch the Barao and Faber fight at UFC 149, it wasn’t particularly lopsided. Going by Fightmetric stats, round 1, 2, and 4 went to Barao, round 3 to Faber, and round 5 was dead even.

Total significant strikes: 60 from Faber and 85 from Barao. Barao attempted 19 powerkicks (roundhouses mostly), and he landed 15 of them. This is a significant statistic — kicks (to the leg) were Barao’s highest percentage strike.

Everything else wasn’t particularly effective: Barao hit Faber 55 times to the head, out of 236 attempts. It’s important to consider that Faber’s accuracy and output wasn’t better either — he landed 39 of 142 to the head — accuracy wise, they’re quite close.

Techniques and Strategies in the Fight:

Barao was able to push Faber back consistently, and that’s when Barao had the most success. Coincidentally, Faber had the most success when pushing Barao back. This is a part of why Ludwig says they’re going to “run through Barao [SciFighting Interview]; press forward, and be in his face.”

As Jack Slack alluded to in his piece on Urijah Faber vs Renan Barao, one must choose two modes against a kicker: “The thing about strong kickers is that you have to always be too far away for them to kick you, or too close for them to kick you without risking being bundled over or hit.”

Pressing forward to cut off a strong kicker is what Faber and his camp plans to do. To be successful in this bout, Faber must refrain from doing two things: (a) move back (b) stay still.

Center-of-Gravity (COG)

To continuously press forward, one must have a solid base. One option is for Urijah to keep his COG low and be ready to throw combinations (most likely punches) — it won’t be an easy task as Barao has good timing and footwork. This means Faber must be willing to take shots going in, and probably what he means when he says “I’m going for a dirty fight.“ Keeping the COG low will allow Barao effectively kick to the leg, and it’d be tough for Urijah to check them (I discussed this principle at length in the Anderson Silva piece).

The Inside Low-Kick Counter:

There are certain great counters, such as timing the punch when the low-kick is launched:

[youtube id=”cjVcJz2FlZI”]

Hoost would allow an inside leg-kick, tricking the opponent to think that they can safely attack. Seconds later, he’d exploit their false sense of security. Since Faber does throw inside leg-kicks, Faber’s wicked right-hand can come into play.

Though this technique against McDonald is an overhand-draw, Faber does often lead with an overhand, teep, or left-hook. Working with Ludwig bettered his timing and gave him several setups and options.

Conclusion on Pressing Forward:

Pressing forward will allow the kicks of Barao to be cut off. Moving closer to the cage ensures this principle even further (movement becomes more limited). Faber is athletic and has a strong base, but Barao has these traits too. This strategy is sound long as Faber has the base, footwork, and timing… but it is certainly a big if.

As always, thank you for reading. Tune in on the exciting bouts on Saturday and let me know what you think! You can contact me on Facebook or Twitter, the links are located below.