This evening, the UFC has announced that Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao will headline the upcoming February 1rst UFC 169 card, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Although not shocking, most fans probably assumed that Jose Aldo’s featherweight title defense against Ricardo Lamas, would top the card. As it turns out, they won’t be and will fill the lead-in spot to the main event, as its co-main.
Surely the justification for this would be that regardless of the fact that Cruz and Barao are bantamweights, and subsequently the smaller division relative to the featherweights, they are nonetheless both champions (official and interim respectively) and as such, the match is of greater interest and value to the fans. On this point, the UFC has probably gotten it right.
The story of this card is not only Dominic Cruz’s return to the Octagon after a two year layoff due to injuries, but also that he’s facing an incredible fighter, and one who became a two time defending interim champ during Cruz’s absence. And where Jose Aldo will be taking on a tough fighter in Ricardo Lamas, and in what's sure to be a great fight, the match simply doesn’t have the backstory or gravitas of the Cruz / Barao double title fight.
As the card now plays host to these two bouts, plus the Alistair Overeem / Frank Mir, someone is exiting the UFC fight, the card is shaping up to have some really great MMA drama, and is likely to only get better, with the addition of further matches.