The interim featherweight championship bout between Renan Barao and Michael McDonald marks the first time that a title fight will headline a UFC on Fuel card, and it's going to be a dandy.
With Dominick Cruz out since October 2011 and unlikely to return to action until late 2013 at the earliest, this is an interim title that actually feels like it matters.
Barao and McDonald are the best bantamweights outside of Cruz that the UFC has to offer. Both have been dominant in the UFC and are guaranteed to produce some fireworks when they meet on Saturday to determine who gets Cruz when he gets back from injury.
Odds (via Bovada): Renan Barao -300, Michael McDonald +230
The reigning interim champion gets the nod from Vegas. He comes in as a fairly sizable favorite. That tends to happen when you've amassed a 29-fight win streak.
As dominant as Barao has been, it seems like he's favored a bit too much here.
Barao hasn't lost since 2005, so it would be absurd to make him the underdog, but McDonald has proved that he's worthy of the hype.
Miguel Torres was considered to be a big step up in competition for McDonald in his last fight. McDonald won by knockout in the first round.
On the feet, this match comes down to volume versus power.
Barao is a skilled Muay Thai striker who controls distance well. He may not have one-blow knockout power, but he overwhelms opponents with his ability to control the pace of fights.
McDonald, on the other hand, is the most powerful puncher in the division. His boxing makes him an extremely dangerous opponent for anyone and the most dangerous Barao has faced in the UFC.
On the ground, Barao holds the advantage of experience. Not many have tasted McDonald's power long enough to get the fight to the ground, so his ground skills are largely untested.
Barao is an excellent Jiu-Jitsu player with a proven submission game. McDonald just fought a submission whiz in Torres, but Barao's ability to go toe-to-toe on the feet will make him much more dangerous to set up takedowns and threaten McDonald on the ground.
If this fight goes to decision, Barao will take it. He has all of the tools to control the fight and win every aspect of the fight that impresses the judges.
However, for the fight to get to the judges, he will have to avoid McDonald's power for 25 minutes. That's a difficult task.
McDonald has impressed and shown improvement every time out. He may be the underdog, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him come out and prove everyone wrong again.
McDonald by KO/TKO
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