Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced it’s plans for UFC 169 earlier this week, which is scheduled for February 1, 2014, in New Jersey, and it includes title defenses in both the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions. Jose Aldo will defend his 145 lb. title against Ricardo Lamas. The big news is the return of 135 lb. titlist Dominic Cruz, as he faces interim champion Renan Barao in a long awaited match that will see the two titles in the division consolidated into one. Let’s take a look at the matchups and where the odds will fall. MMA Oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Aldo as a wide, comfortable -600 favorite over on Several Bookmakers. Aldo is in the top five in the pound for pound lists, and to be honest, in a true pound for pound, he has one of the strongest argument for being the number one guy out there right now. He has defended his belt 5 times, and he has never really been threatened. His competition level, the likes of Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber and Kenny Florian, is of the highest level. At 27, he is just entering his prime. Lamas has won four fights in a row in UFC and has earned his shot, but his competition level isn’t quite up to par with Aldo’s. Lamas has won with strikes and submissions in the UFC, and he has gone the distance. Lamas should also be motivated highly, as this title shot has been a long time coming. Although in my opinion, none of that will be enough for Lamas to overcome Aldo in the long run. The Bantamweight title is a much more intriguing match. With Champion Dominick Cruz, his last six matches have been against the top shelf of the division, in Faber, Demetrious Johnson, and Joseph Benavides and they all went down as victories. Cruz is going to be two years and four months away from competition due to a series of serious knee injures, so it is impossible to gauge where “The Dominator” will be when he returns. As for Barao, he has spent the last two years establishing himself as the clear kingpin at 135 sans Cruz. He not only won the interim title, but due to Cruz’ long absence, Barao has defended his title successfully several times. Barao is in the top 10 pound for pound, and he is likely low on the list, since like Aldo, he possesses a varied skill set and has seemed to have all the answers for his opponents on his way to dominating the division. Barao opened as a considerable -305 favorite at the books, likely due to Cruz’s expected cage rust. Cruz is really a mystery after such a long layoff. In my opinion, UFC probably did not do Cruz a favor by letting him keep his title rather than stripping him, since returning directly to face the toughest guy in the division is a very tall order.