Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald: The Best Title Fight Nobody's Talking About

Matt Juul@@MattchidaMMAContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

Jul 21, 2012; Calgary, AB, CANADA; Renan Barao during the interim bantamweight title bout of UFC 149 against Urijah Faber (not pictured) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Mixed martial arts fans like fun fights—especially when a belt is on the line.

Sure, we moan and complain about the merits of, say, Chael Sonnen talking his way into another title shot (this time, in a division he hasn't fought in since his first stint with the UFC) or, in more recent news, Anthony Pettis receiving a crack at champ Jose Aldo despite having never fought in the featherweight division. But, in spite of our reservations, we still obsesses over and talk about every little bit of news that trickles out about these bouts.

Now, I'm not saying that this is an inherently bad thing. Hell, who wouldn't be excited for another super fight? However, lost in all the championship chatter is one bout that, in my opinion, is a surefire candidate for fight of the year: Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald.

I know, it's an interim title fight, so technically it doesn't hold the same weight as, say, Nick Diaz getting a shot at Georges St-Pierre's welterweight crown, but that doesn't mean MMA fans shouldn't be excited. Unlike the recent string of championship bout bookings, both Barao and McDonald earned their way to this bantamweight battle, leaving a myriad of former champs and top contenders in their wake. 

If you look at the list of UFC title holders, not a single fighter on the list has a lengthier unbeaten streak than the interim 135 lb. champ.

Yes, I know that he hasn't faced the same level of competition as Anderson Silva or Benson Henderson, but with recent wins over the likes of Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett, Barao has proven that he is an elite bantamweight. If it wasn't for Dominick Cruz's string of injuries, the Brazilian could have already been the king at 135.

As for the fiery 22-year-old challenger, McDonald is a star on the rise and boasts an impressive resume of his own, most recently knocking out former WEC champ Miguel Torres. "Mayday" could very well be a lighter weight version of Jon Jones if he can capture UFC gold at such a young age.

When you look at this matchup, it's hard to pick a favorite because both men are just so well-rounded and explosive. While I can't guarantee who will win, I can say without a doubt that this fight is going to be an all-out war.

It's a shame that the UFC relegated this battle to a Fuel TV card as many fans will likely miss out on seeing all the action. The promotion should have done a better job at pushing this fight because both men have a chance at becoming big stars in the near future—should either of them dethrone Cruz.

While I don't plan on missing any upcoming championship bouts (who's excited for Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche?), but Barao vs. McDonald is one fight I'd rather lose a limb than miss.

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