At UFC 169, both of Nova Uniao’s UFC champions retained their titles, and remained undefeated inside the Octagon. Jose Aldo and Renan Barao both showed why they are among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC, when they each vanquished yet another challenger, bringing Aldo’s UFC undefeated streak to six, and Barao’s to seven. UFC 169 set a record for most decisions on a card at 10, with every fight going the distance aside from Abel Trujillo’s vicious knockout of Jamie Varner and Barao’s first round stoppage of Urijah Faber in the main event. Among the plethora of decisions being handed down were Alistair Overeem’s three round pounding of Frank Mir, and Ali Bagautinov staking his claim for the number-one contender spot at flyweight. Let’s take a look at some of the night’s biggest winners and losers from the UFC’s less than ‘Super’ Saturday card.
Biggest Winner: Abel Trujillo
The Blackzillians’ Abel Trujillo took home a $75,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus and another $50,000 bonus for “Knock-out of the Night” in his back-and-forth war with Jamie Varner which ended in a dizzying firefight that sent Varner soaring to the mat after a right hook knocked him clean out. Both of these guys were winging punches at each other throughout the fight, and they each had the other hurt on a few separate occasions. The end of the fight came as Varner had Trujillo staggering from a punch and Trujillo was able to put all of his power behind one vicious left hook. Trujillo put away a crafty and durable veteran in Varner, and with the win he will most likely be headed into the much deeper waters of the lightweight division. After the fight Trujillo talked about being confident in his hands and who he’d like to face in his next outing.
“I always trust my power. I always knew I could knock him out. After this win, I’m looking forward to fighting the toughest guys in my division. The ones that could get me close to the title shot such as “Cowboy” Cerrone or Nate Diaz. I’m ready to get the gold.”
Biggest Loser: Urijah Faber
“Renan is a great champion but the fight could have gone longer. The referee did his job. I’m not complaining on the decision of this fight, but I had other expectations. I do my best, as always.”
Faber isn’t the night’s biggest loser because he had the night’s worst performance, but because of what it is that he actually lost, and how he lost it. This was Faber’s third title opportunity in the UFC, and his second against Barao. He took the opportunity on short notice, and fought through a hamstring injury. He fought perhaps the most dangerous fighter in the UFC, and his fight ended with a premature stoppage. You have to wonder how many more title shots there are in the future for the 34 year-old “California Kid”, as each time it’s taking him a more and more impressive win streak to get there, and there just aren’t a lot of fights left for him in the division. If I was Urijah, I’d aim for the biggest fights I can get at either 135 or 145, regardless of whether or not it’s on a path toward a title.
Most Deserving of Recognition on the P4P list: Renan Barao
Despite the controversial nature of the fight’s ending, Renan Barao looked as dominant as ever in his first official title defense against Urijah Faber. He dropped Faber with a perfectly timed right hand and was relentless from there. Faber managed to get back up but ate some more shots that sent him right back to the floor, and Barao unloaded a barrage of punches to a covered Faber until Herb Dean stepped in and called it off at 3:42 of the first round. Whether or not Faber could have endured more punishment, or whether or not he could have recovered from that position is the big debate coming out of UFC 169. What’s not up for debate is Barao’s place amongst the very best fighters in the UFC.
Most Likely to Become a Two-Division Champion: Jose Aldo
Another Jose Aldo fight goes by and the man on the horizon is once again Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Pettis sent UFC President Dana White the infamous text message at this time last year after Aldo’s win over Edgar, stating he’d like to face the 145-pound king. That fight was booked, but didn’t happen, as Pettis pulled out with an injury, just in time for him to swoop into a fight with Benson Henderson and capture the UFC lightweight title last August at UFC 164. Well, Pettis contacted the UFC again this time around, and verbal agreements are in place for a champion vs champion fight, likely for the lightweight title. After Aldo’s unanimous decision win over Ricardo Lamas, the only remaining contenders for him are guys he’s already beat like Chad Mendes and Cub Swanson. The fight was intriguing last year, and it’s even more intriguing now that both men are carrying around some gold. How will Aldo look at the heavier weight class? Will his cardio improve in the later rounds if he doesn’t have to get down to 145 pounds the day before the fight?
Most in Need of a Reality Check: Herb Dean Apologists on Twitter
Frank Mir’s ribs weren’t the only thing that took a beating on Saturday night, as my ‘@’ timeline on twitter got lit up by the arduous defenders of the apparently infallible Herb Dean. I’ve got some bad news for the Herb Dean die-hards out there: He’s human, just like all the rest of us. If we are going to criticize all the other mma officials when they make the wrong call, then we need to do the same for Herb. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s probably the best referee in the sport, and rarely makes mistakes, but Saturday night’s main event stoppage was the wrong call.
Yes, Faber had been dropped by Barao, and yes, Barao was on the attack. But Faber was trying to weather the storm of punches being thrown by Barao. He was covering his face, and was clearly still in the fight. Now, whether or not he could have recovered meaningfully from that position is another debate, but the point is that he wasn’t given the opportunity to. I’m not saying Herb Dean needs to be punished or admonished in any way, as it is his job to protect the fighters and in that sometimes comes some grey areas. But we need to stop the excuse making about it being the right call to make, and just accept that it was stopped early.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports