Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 7/22/12
Brazilian berserker Renan Barao fought brilliantly at UFC 149, outclassing former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber to win the interim UFC bantamweight crown. Let's examine some of the storylines emerging from the UFC's promotional debut in Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Barao could be best bantamweight Barao, a standout from the Nova Uniao camp who was facing his biggest challenge to date, channeled his inner Jose Aldo, systematically picking apart "The California Kid" in five one-sided rounds to emerge as the interim bantamweight king. "Barao looked like a beast," UFC president Dana White said. "Barao dominated one of the best guys ever in that weight division in mixed martial arts." Barao was successful in implementing a strategic offensive assault, landing crisp combinations on Faber while effectively thwarting all takedown attempts by "The California Kid." It was truly a career-defining performance for the Brazilian, who improved to 29-1, while showcasing his ability to go five rounds. UFC commentator Joe Rogan made an interesting point during the broadcast, insisting Barao's domination of Faber was far more convincing than Dominick Cruz's razor-thin decision win over the Californian last July at UFC 132. In assessing the two performances, it becomes abundantly clear Barao could very well be the man to beat at 135 pounds. Barao has no weaknesses, similar to teammate Aldo: Barao's muay thai is exceptional, his submissions are fierce and his takedown defense impenetrable. At this point, it remains to be seen if Barao will wait for the champion, Cruz, to return from a blown anterior cruciate ligament. However, the magnitude of the injury suggests Barao will likely need to defend the interim belt at least once. The primary candidates for a title shot include 21-year-old phenom Michael McDonald, who knocked out former WEC champion Miguel Torres in his previous appearance, and Alliance MMA product Mike Easton. Easton is 3-0 since joining the UFC, including a unanimous decision over title contender Ivan Menjivar at UFC 148. Meanwhile, Faber, 33, will need to go back to the drawing board in hopes of climbing his way back to a title shot. Faber vs. Torres in a matchup of former WEC poster boys would surely deliver the goods. Lombard flops in UFC debut against Boetsch One of the most anticipated UFC signees in recent memory dropped the ball at UFC 149, as former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard suffered a split-decision loss against American powerhouse Tim Boetsch. The fight was largely uneventful as Boetsch landed peppering kicks from a distance, while Lombard did very little to press the pace or initiate any offensive exchanges. White said the performance was out of character for Lombard but noted Lombard actually implements a slow, meticulous offense in most of his fights. Fans and critics are still sorting through the wreckage of Lombard's crashed hype train, but expectations of the Cuban-American were likely too high to begin with. Lombard's UFC 149 performance was no different than his lethargic win over Falaniko Vitale under the Bellator banner. "I think you look at a guy like Lombard, he comes in on a 20-fight winning streak, and the fight was horrible," White said. Boetsch was not particularly imposing, either, and he might have lucked out with the close decision. There was previously talk of the winner of this fight going on to challenge Anderson Silva for the middleweight title, but those plans will unquestionably be scratched. "After beating (Yushin) Okami and Lombard now, this guy has put himself in a very, very good position," White said. To Boetsch's credit, he's come into his own as a middleweight, racking up the biggest victories of his career. Stylistically, however, a potential pairing of Boetsch and Silva is as absurd as the fighters' gap in striking technique and overall abilities is drastic. However, a bout between Lombard and Mark Munoz is fitting since Munoz is coming off a rough loss of his own, while Lombard has taken exception to the Filipino-American criticizing the qualify of his opponents. Boetsch might not be ready for a title shot, but Alan Belcher and Chris Leben could both make for intriguing opponents in his next go-around. Kongo, Jordan disappoint in heavyweight stalemate It wasn't the first time chiseled Frenchman Cheick Kongo has disappointed on a pay-per-view, but his slow-paced clinching match with Shawn Jordan at UFC 149 was one of his most forgettable performances. Kongo looked as menacing as ever as he entered the Octagon against Jordan. With most fans expecting a highlight-reel knockout, what they got was far from it. "Kongo and Jordan pushed against the fence for three rounds, and I think the ref let them do it," said White, who was especially critical of veteran referee Yves Lavigne. Kongo's strategy was bizarre as he was getting the best of all the striking exchanges, yet he would still tie up with Jordan in close quarters. Jordan, who was clearly not ready for the step up in competition, will need to return to camp, refining obvious holes in his striking and conditioning under Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. Kongo, meanwhile, needs a striker to bring out the best in him. Initially expected to take on former Pride heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, that fight remains a possibility. Conversely, Kongo would match up well with other another kickboxer like Shane del Rosario. Regardless of what lies ahead, the abysmal efforts turned in by both fighters indicate neither man deserves to be mentioned among the upper echelon of UFC heavyweight contenders. Riddle, Head notch surprising main-card victories Matched up with a dynamic striker such as Canadian Chris Clements, unheralded submission specialist Matt Riddle turned in his finest career performance, coaxing a tap-out from the Ontario native with a third-round arm-triangle choke. Riddle wasted no time calling out his next opponent at the post-fight news conference, challenging British banger Dan Hardy to a future welterweight duel. Riddle is still largely a work in progress as his striking borders on amateurish, while his willingness to bang with superior kickboxers is perplexing. The submission earned Riddle a $65,000 "Submission of the Night" bonus. Clements had his moments in the fight, but poor takedown defense ultimately led to his demise. He will need to make wrestling a major focus of his next training camp if he hopes to stick around in the UFC. Big win for Head Illinois native James Head recorded his biggest career win, cruising to a unanimous decision over well-traveled veteran Brian Ebersole. Head utilized superior striking, strong sprawls and exceptional scrambling to frustrate the much more experienced Ebersole throughout 15 minutes. Head's triumphant performance spoiled Ebersole's 11-fight winning streak. Having dropped from 185 pounds, Head could become a player in the welterweight division. Charlie Brenneman, Dong Hyun Kim or Paulo Thiago would be stern tests for Head's next outing, while Ebersole could benefit from a fight with another battle-tested veteran, such as Josh Neer, Duane Ludwig or even Matt Serra. Canadians impressive on undercard A number of Canadians turned in memorable efforts on the preliminary portion of UFC 149. In an emotional featherweight win, Canadian pioneer Antonio Carvalho knocked out Daniel Pineda in just 71 seconds, earning his first UFC victory in a career that dates to 2002. The humble Ontario native broke down into tears in front of the frenzied Calgary crowd, acknowledging the support of his peers and fans over the years. Canadian light heavyweight Ryan Jimmo silenced harsh critics with a resounding seven-second knockout win over Anthony Perosh. Constantly condemned for a conservative fighting style that involves grinding on his opponents to win decisions, Jimmo shocked the crowd with a knockout that nearly broke the UFC record and also earned the talented robot dancer a $65,000 "Knockout of the Night" bonus. In a somewhat contentious call, Calgary's own Nick Ring outpointed Court McGee, a fellow veteran of the 11th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," after three competitive rounds. Many pundits and White himself disagreed with the call, but it marked Ring's third UFC win. Despite coming out on the losing end, Mitch Gagnon delivered a gutsy performance in his UFC debut as he went toe-to-toe with Bryan Caraway in an all-action bantamweight affair. Gagnon nearly finished Caraway in the first round, but his conditioning began to fail him as the fight entered deep waters and he succumbed to a third-round rear-naked choke. Both fighters were rewarded for their efforts as they pocketed a $65,000 "Fight of the Night" bonus. Finnish lightweight Anton Kuivanen outhustled Canadian Mitch Clarke to take home a split decision, while Francisco Rivera stunned Winnipeg's Roland Delorme with a first-round knockout in a bantamweight tilt.
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