Renan Barao is the UFC bantamweight champion, arguably one of the top fighters in the world regardless of weight class and holds a 33-fight unbeaten streak.
However, even with another convincing victory over T.J. Dillashaw Saturday night at UFC 173, he won’t become a household name like fellow Brazilians fighters Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo and others.
Barao needs one man to return to the Octagon for that to happen.
The two were set to finally collide earlier this year to crown the unified bantamweight champion, but another injury – this time to the groin – sidelined Cruz. Instead of waiting around for another handful of months, the UFC stripped him of the belt and awarded it to Barao.
At the time, Barao was the interim champion, so it made all the sense in the world considering it’s been over two years since we last saw “The Dominator” compete. But that did no favors to “The Baraon.”
The 27-year-old from Natal was born Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado, so the decision to go by Barao was an easy one. Still, regardless of a name change, there is just one fight that can solidify his name atop the pecking order.
Barao already bested former WEC champion and legend Urijah Faber twice. He’s turned back the challenges of contenders such as Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland with ease. Since joining the UFC, Barao (32-1) has won all seven of his fights, which followed a 2-0 mark with the WEC.
Under the guidance of Zuffa, he’s turned himself into a key figure in the MMA world, but people seem to have trouble grasping on to his status.
A win over Cruz would do that.
Sure, he’s been gone for years and likely isn’t the same fighter who dominated the division from 2009-11. But he’s still Dominick Cruz, and fans will rejoice his return and embrace his iconic status.
Cruz owns wins over current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, Faber, Joseph Benavidez (twice), Brian Bowles and Scott Jorgensen. He was climbing that pound-for-pound list rather quickly before knee issues flared up and forced him to the bench.
Barao likely won’t have much trouble adding Dillashaw’s name to his resume, and while we still have yet to hear from Cruz in regards to a return, here’s hoping he makes it back before the end of the year and we can finally see Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz inside the Octagon.