MMA Odds and Ends for Tuesday: Cruz Out, Faber In Against Barao At UFC 169

Urijah Faber Poor Dominick Cruz. UFC president Dana White yesterday announced that Cruz, the UFC bantamweight champion, tore his groin in training and has been forced to vacate his belt because he isn’t fit to fight UFC interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao at UFC 169, which is set for Feb. 2 in Newark, N.J. Because Cruz vacated the title, Barao has now been promoted to undisputed UFC bantamweight champion. Cruz hasn’t defended the title in over 26 months, with his last title defence coming against Demetrious Johnson at UFC on Versus 6 back in Oct. 2011. Since then, Cruz was booked for multiple fights, but he tore his ACL twice and it took him this long to recover from that knee injury — only, now that he’s fully recovered from it, he’s torn his groin. Poor guy. In Cruz’ place now will be Urijah Faber, who will fight Barao in a rematch on just three weeks’ notice. The pair first met at UFC 149, with Barao winning the fight via unanimous decision. However, keep in mind that Faber suffered a broken rib in that matchup, and thus wasn’t able to compete to the best of his abilities. As good as Faber was in 2013, winning four-straight fights against Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, Yuri Alcantara and Michael McDonald, he will still open as a moderate underdog to Barao, who many are hyping up as the next big star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And that’s for good reason, as Barao hasn’t lost in over 30 fights and has looked absolutely amazing in every single fight he’s had in the Octagon, most recently a TKO victory via spinning back kick and punches over Eddie Wineland at UFC 165. So the champ will open as a rightful favorite. As far as this rematch goes, while I do favor Barao for sure, I don’t think you can count out Faber. The guy has really evolved his game since he first met Barao nearly two years ago, and remember he was fighting with a broken rib in Calgary. So I don’t know how much stock you can put in that performance, and I expect him to perform much better in this rematch against Barao. Having said that, Barao has also improved dramatically since his first fight with Faber, as he’s turned into an even better striker and even an better takedown defence artist. If this fight with Faber stays standing, one certainly has to give Barao the edge, so I totally understand why the general sentiment is that he is going to beat Faber. But if Faber can somehow get a takedown in, I really believe he has a chance to earn the upset. In a Pick ’em fight, I’d go with Barao for sure, but laying big juice on him? I don’t know if that’s a great idea. As far as Cruz goes, it’s a shame what’s happened to him as this guy is supremely talented but just can’t get over the injury bug. Hopefully this groin injury doesn’t deter him from attempting to fight again, but honestly? It wouldn’t surprise me if he called it quits and just focused on his career as a FOX Sports fight analyst. Either way, it’s very sad what happened to Cruz’ career in the last two-plus years, and I hope he can come back again because I really enjoyed watching him compete. But for now, we have Barao vs. Faber II to look forward to, and I’m hoping the fight is much better than their first meeting, which was more-or-less a borefest.

Written by Adam Martin.

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