Home Science Education Renan Barao: Dissolving Urijah Faber’s Game

Renan Barao: Dissolving Urijah Faber’s Game

A breakdown of Urijah Faber and Renan Barao's strategies at UFC 169.

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(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

At UFC 169, Urijah Faber and Duane Ludwig had a solid game plan going into the rematch with Renan Barao. On paper, the strategy is simple “Press forward, no breaks, be in his face… run through him.”

In their first bout, there was a common theme: both Barao and Faber had the most success when they pushed forward. Barao was more successful in doing so, and it played a significant role for his win.

Barao is a strong kicker with good looping punches in combinations. To make a strong kicker hesitate Faber has push Barao back; to intercept a “brawler” Faber should throw straight punches better than Barao can.  It sounds simple, but the execution is definitely not.

The Fight:

Urijah clearly prepared to deal with the kicks, and he’d be able to cut it off at the center:

Barao was ready for Faber’s right hand over the top (his signature punch when he’s pressed). Faber was ready to cut off Barao’s kick at the center.

When a kicker is able to push his opponent back, a whole world of possibilities open up. Near the cage, the room to move back is limited — this leaves two remaining options (a) try to move out laterally (b) rush forward.

Unfortunately, strong kickers generally excel at trapping their opponent with arced strikes — see Jose Aldo: A Lesson on Aggression and Center Control. Against guys who can constantly press forward, rushing forward is not only predictable, they also have plenty space to move back and quickly regain center.

Barao pushes Faber back. Faber thinks about throwing a lead-leg push-kick but Faber is just out of range. Faber tries to circle out and Barao follows him and blocks the way… Faber felt obligated to rush forward, and Barao is more then ready to defend and then regain center.

Another Example: 

Barao pushes Faber back with linear strikes and goes for arced strikes near the cage (similar to Jose Aldo). Faber feints going to his right, Barao falls for it and goes for a left-roundhouse, and Faber exits the other way.

Successful Press:

This set was probably Faber’s most successful attempt — left (miss) to the body and right-hand over the top. He pushed Barao back, but had no arced strikes to keep him there, so Barao easily regains center. This was one of Faber’s better chances to capitalize and he didn’t.

Despite Urijah’s attempt to “make it a dirty fight“, Barao negated his attempts; Faber was forced into Barao’s game. Like Jose Aldo, Barao excels in the exchange range and welcomes it [GIF example].

As much as I want to see Faber crowned in the UFC, much of the bout was him being pushed back. Both of them are employing a similar principle: but Barao, at least for this round, was much better at it. Eventually, Barao capitalized with a right-low kick set up into a right-overhand around the guard.

Barao takes center and keeps Faber there, lands a right low kick, gets Faber to think about it — when he steps in again Faber either expected another one or tried to push-kick. Whatever it was, it was ill-timed and he paid for it by eating a right-overhand around a sloppy guard. As Jack Slack alluded to, few can defend well on one leg.

Also, it’s not just about defending well on one leg — when anyone is struck on one leg, they have less leverage to cushion the blow — the result is more damage. From here on out it was more downhill exchanges till the eventual stoppage. *Remember that Anderson Silva was also knocked down while one leg against Chris Weidman in the first round of their rematch. 

The game plan Ludwig and Faber had in mind works, but Faber needed more polished tools to execute it against Barao. Regardless of the controversial stoppage, Faber either didn’t or couldn’t execute the game plan. It was Barao who made it a “dirty” fight on Faber.

As always, thank you for reading. To stay updated, you can follow Lawrence Kenshin on his social media — the links are located below.