A week tonight, Jon Jones will look to defend his light-heavyweight belt for the sixth time in his young career and as against Swedish Phenom, Alexander Gustafsson.
The pair head-up a solid card and by far, will be the fight of greatest interest at UFC 165, in Toronto.
However, as many expect Jones to crush Gustafsson by way of his reach, wrestling and overall dynamism, it’s entirely possible that the more entertaining fight will be the co-main and not the main.
The second bout from top of the card features Renan Barao defending his interim bantamweight belt against Eddie Wineland. Barao is an extremely accomplished fighter, having only lost one fight in his entire (32 fight) career. He is good everywhere and anywhere the fight goes, but is most renowned for his formidable ground game; 47% of his fights have been finished by way of submission; 40% in the UFC, particularly.
In terms of finding a flaw in Barao’s game, it would be difficult to know where to start. He’s never been knocked-out or submitted and he has great cardio, heart, passion and drive. If one were to try and identify any issues with his game, it might be that Renan might lack a little power. In his 32 fights, he’s only been able to rack up six KO or TKO stoppages, for a total of 20% and he hasn’t had one of those since August of 2009.
In comparison, Barao’s opponent and underdog coming into the fight, Eddie Wineland, packs more punch. Wineland has been able to finish a remarkable 50% of his fights by way of either KO or TKO and if we factor in his percentage of fights finished by submissions (25%), he actually has a higher finish rate then does Barao; 75% vs. 67%, respectively.
Regarding the above, Wineland might walk into the Octagon Saturday night as the underdog, but in doing so, Wineland will be an underdog that might well prove to be a good bet to win the fight and the title.
Here’s what we know about the former WEC bantamweight champion, Wineland: he’s going to be in great shape, has solid wrestling and takedown defense, has very good boxing, packs power, likes to work his angles, and he’s very aggressive. Beyond that, he’s only been KO’d once in his career and that was back in 2004, and where he’s been submitted four times in 28 fights, he hasn’t suffered one of those since 2009.
In synopsis, Wineland is going to prove difficult for Barao to either KO or submit, and Renan might do well by simply earning a decision victory. Of course, the same can be said of Wineland regarding Barao. However, as Eddie packs more punch, the numbers suggest that Wineland might stand a better chance of stopping Barao, than does Barao stopping Wineland.
On this point, Renan would probably fare better on the ground, but again, he has to get it there (first), and as the fight starts on the feet and at every round, it might prove to be a tall order to get Wineland to the canvas and then have the time required to work his magic.
For his part, Wineland believes he has the capacity to keep it on the feet and that by working his angles and taking advantage of his speed, he should prove a difficult target for Barao to hit. As Wineland stated:
“He’s not going to be able to find me. If you can’t find somebody to hit or kick them, it kind of nullifies your striking game. I’m not concerned with his quickness or his speed. I feel that I’m the faster stronger fighter. So, if I’m faster his speed shouldn’t be a concern.”
On these points and looking at him, Wineland could well have a point. If he can keep the fight standing and prove to be an unhittable target, then he could easily carry the day and throw a monkey-wrench into a Barao / Cruz unification match.
From the point of view of the fans, this is a no lose situation. Regardless of whether or not Barao sustains his belt or Wineland rests it from him, it really doesn’t matter. The bout is well matched, with two very good and talented fighters, and no matter the winner, it sets up a great match for Dominick Cruz when he returns; hopefully in January of this year, as has been suggested.
In conclusion, for fans that are more interested in this bout than the top of the card, it should be a very entertaining match and could well end up being FOTN, KOTN, SOTN or a combination, thereof. This fight is a must see for ardent UFC / MMA fans.