As far as the UFC’s plans go, it looks like central Canada is becoming the land of the interim-bantamweight title.
News broke today that UFC 161, the long-rumoured debut of the UFC in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, finally has a main event. Renan Barao, fresh off his dismantling of Michael McDonald, will one again put his (pretend) belt on the line against dangerous veteran Eddie Wineland.
Barao is no stranger to title fights north of the border. He first won the (make-believe) 135-pound title against Urijah Faber at UFC 149 in Calgary. Who would have thought the Nova Uniao fighter would, almost a year later, still be fighting for interim-gold in the cold north. Hope Barao brings a jacket, as I hear Winnipeg is a little colder than Brazil this time of year (for non-Canadians, Winnipeg is basically the planet Hoth with a hockey team).
And I’ll stop all the “pretend title” jokes right here and now, because Renan Barao really should be the undisputed 135-pound champ. That’s because Dominick Cruz has been injured since before I hit puberty (yeah, I hit puberty a year and a half ago. I’m a late bloomer).
In all seriousness, Barao won his interim-title by outworking the aforementioned Urijah Faber to a unanimous decision. He was arguably more dominant against Faber than Cruz was in his decision win over “The California Kid”. He’s also defended his interim belt, which according to that old bit of boxing wisdom makes him the “true” interim-champion.
Wait, I’m confused.
Point is, Barao is legit. Keeping him the interim champion is the UFC’s way of preserving Dominick Cruz’s value when he returns (hopefully soon). Until then, Barao is for all intents and purposes the top dog at 135-pounds.
It’s strange that we have a title fight featuring a young, exciting prospect against a proven, old-school veteran – where the young guy is the champ and the veteran in the challenger. But that’s exactly what we have in Eddie Wineland, a longtime UFC and WEC veteran with 29 fights to his resume.
Wineland has been up and down in his UFC tenure, but is on a bit of a roll at the moment. In his last fight, he stopped fellow veteran Brad Pickett via split decision. Before that, he KO’d top bantamweight contender Scott Jorgensen in impressive fashion. That’s two back-to-back wins over top bantamweights – not bad for a guy who’s world title prospects were once written off by many.
The problem in this match-up is their common opponent, Captain Butt-Chin himself (editors note: Urijah Faber gets more action in a weekend than you or I will get in a lifetime). Barao handled Faber en route to a unanimous decision. Wineland was competitive with Faber, but ultimately succumbed to his pace and came out on the wrong end of a decision.
Now granted, Faber is a very different style match-up than Barao. My point is Barao, despite being a fake champion (last time, I promise) is quickly entering the lofty realm of well-rounded Brazilians who are dominating the modern day MMA landscape. Anderson Silva blazed the trail, and it’s since been well-worn by Jose Aldo and Junior Dos Santos – not to mention Barao, who is riding an unbelievable 31-fight winning streak.
In either regard, this fight should be a lot of fun. Now that UFC 161 has a headliner, it’ll be interesting to see what other fights fill the card for the UFC’s Winnipeg debut.