Barao vs. McDonald: Little to Gain, Everything to Lose for Barao

Matt MolgaardCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2017

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

Interim bantamweight champion Renan “Barao” Pegado will meet Michael McDonald in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 7. Barao’s title will be on the line as he tangles with the brightest prospect competing at 135 pounds.

From a fan’s standpoint, this is a magnetic battle that will more than likely produce brutal flurries and high-octane aggression.

Both of these men show up to win, and they aim to win in extremely impressive fashion. The idea of fighting not to lose is a completely foreign concept for these two, and that, coupled with their technical skills, will lead to a certified barn burner. In fact, this could be the best Bantamweight bout we’ve seen in years.

But there are some thought-provoking points to this affair that need be examined, meticulously.

See, Barao will enter this bout with very little to gain as a professional fighter.

The Brazilian is enjoying one of the most impressive win streaks in MMA history. The man’s gone unbeaten in his last 30 fights, with his lone blemish being a unanimous decision loss to Joao Paulo Rodrigues de Souza, which Barao suffered in his first professional fight.

He entered the UFC ranks and rattled off four consecutive victories, including impressive wins over Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett.

He earned his interim belt by besting Faber at UFC 149, and at this point, appears the clear-cut stud of the division (until Dominick Cruz makes his long-awaited return to action).

But Barao may run into a problem on February 16th.

Michael McDonald is the sleeper assassin of the division. Heavy hands, crisp combinations and an uncanny killer instinct make for a threat that few fighters possess. His willingness to take risks and his one-punch power makes for a difficult challenge to overcome.

However, McDonald has yet to reach the upper echelon of celebrity. He’s a recognizable young man, and most would label him a future superstar, but at this point in time, his stock isn’t exactly exploding through the roof, a hail of fragmented wood and split shingles spraying the sky in the wake of genuine stardom.

McDonald simply doesn’t carry that kind of weight in MMA at this point.

That fact alone makes this an incredibly dangerous bout for the interim champion.

If Barao puts McDonald away in impressive fashion, he’s managed to dispose of a relatively green opponent. In the eyes of pundits, the experience disparity will warrant reason to attempt to discredit Barao, reaching for strings, declaring he’s done little other than beating a “good but ill prepared” foe.

Flip the coin and Barao faces similar scrutinization. If McDonald batters the interim champ, the Brazilian’s legitimacy will immediately be called into question. His accomplishments thus far will likely see belittling, with critics attempting to discredit the man’s previous victories.

I can hear it now...Faber was over the hill! The Pickett fight was luck! Jorgenson is nothing more than a fading fighter...a shell of his former self! 

This bout, in all actuality, is an amazing clash of styles between two superb combatants. Barao is every bit as dangerous as he’s been billed, and McDonald, a man with bricks for fists, may truly be the future of the division. However, it’s the kind of match-making that leaves (unwarranted) room for berating.

I anticipate a fantastic battle next weekend. And while Renan Barao stands to gain little from this fight in the eyes of many, the truth is this: If the Brazilian trounces McDonald, he’ll have eliminated four hazardous foes in succession, all of which are world ranked.

Should the interim champ come up short against McDonald, he loses virtually everything: his belt, his momentum, his unbeatable aura and sadly, the mystique he’s worked so hard to establish throughout his career.

While it shouldn’t be, this is a lose-lose battle for Barao, regardless of outcome. There’s virtually nothing to gain by this match. A win for Barao does little, a loss send him spiraling in the ranks and may very well trigger a barrage of insults from keyboard warriors...He was never that good to begin with!

It’s tough to be an elite champion in a relatively thin division, and this is the kind of fight that echoes that sentiment.

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