UFC 173 Preview: Barao Vs. Dillashaw

1)   Is Renan Barao The Number 2-Pound For Pound Fight In The World?-

 renan

 

Renan Barao has a legitimate claim of being the number two-pound for pound fighter in the world, but is that enough to make Barao breakthrough and become a major draw for the UFC? Renan Barao has not lost since his professional MMA debut in 2005, which was 33 pro fights ago. Since joining the WEC in 2010, he has rattled off nine-consecutive victories and captured the undisputed 135-pound world championship in 2014. While his teammate and UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, also has a legitimate claim to the second spot in the pound for pound rankings, Barao has been the more devastating fighter of the two during his shorter title reign. Renan has only allowed three of his nine Zuffa opponents to see the judges score cards. In MMA style points count, not only does Renan always win, he wins impressively. Now he attempts to defend his Bantamweight world title for the second time against underdog T.J Dillashaw. An impressive win over Dillashaw won’t leapfrog Renan in front of pound for pound king, Jon Jones, but it can keep his place in line behind him. Will Renan’s recent finishes of top contenders Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland be enough to make Barao a star in the U.S and a can’t-miss attraction? Probably not yet but a few more jaw-dropping finishes from the 27-year-old champion should do the trick.

2)   The Team Alpha Male Curse-

 

T.J

Team Alpha Male is undoubtedly one of the premier camps in the world for fighters 155-pounds and under but there is one glaring thing missing from the camp’s achievements. And that is a UFC world title. So far the camp is 0-for-7 in title attempts in the UFC since 2011, can T.J Dillashaw be the first to bring a world title back to Sacramento? He will be a very heavy underdog against Renan Barao but a win here could be huge for his fight-team. T.J was offered a title shot in part because of Faber’s praise and suggesting T.J as a contender to Renan following his own loss to the champion this past February. Now that T.J has his chance can he capitalize and bring a world title to a team that seemingly can’t win the big one? It would be a feel good story for the MMA community if one of the least heralded members of Team Alpha Male were able to capture a world title for the team. However the 28-year-old Dillashaw will certainly have his work cutout for him this Saturday night against the world champion Barao.

3)   Cormier Positioning Himself For Jon Jones-

Cormier

 

Daniel Cormier has already publically stated that if he beats Dan Henderson in the UFC 173 co-feature, he intends on benching himself and waiting for a world title shot. But first Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones must attempt to defend his world title against top contender Alexander Gustafsson later this year. So if Daniel Cormier does beat Dan Henderson Saturday night is he prepared to sit out almost a full calendar year instead of continuing to build on his momentum? We have seen similar situations backfire on competitors in the past, but a win over MMA legend Dan Henderson would certainly be the signature victory Daniel Cormier is looking for. Cormier is a heavy favorite to defeat the grizzled veteran but will he really sit out the rest of the year for a potential title shot? I think that all depends on how impressive Cormier potentially wins Saturday night. If he goes out there and scores a knockout in the first round, we may see him sit back and catapult the victory into a title shot early next year. If he has a slow, plodding and uneventful decision win, the UFC may insist he fights one more time before being awarded that title shot. Either way the 14-0 Daniel Cormier has a great opportunity to get his name out there to the fans if he can win impressively against Dan Henderson. Just in case this is his last fight before a world-title shot, I’d suggest this is worth checking out.

4)   Is Henderson To Gritty For His Own Good?

Henderson

 

Before I go any further here, I want to make it perfectly clear I consider Dan Henderson the greatest American mixed martial artist in history and a legend in this sport. That being said I am not a fan of this matchmaking. To Henderson’s credit he understands at 43-years-old he doesn’t have much time left to accomplish his goal of winning a UFC world title, so he’s asking for the fights that will get him to a title shot the quickest. The problem? He’s getting just the fight he wants when he takes on one of the sport’s premiere fighters in Daniel Cormier. Not only is he fighting one of the division’s most decorated competitors, he’s doing it about 8-weeks after a fight with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, that certainly took it’s toll on him. Henderson is only one fight removed from the first knockout loss of his 17-year career and as a fan you can’t help but to feel Henderson has been taking to much damage of late. While he is certainly still a top-10 205-pound fighter, he may just be a little too old to fight with the absolute best in the world.Than again UFC President Dana White has already stated that if Henderson can defeat Cormier he will be awarded a title shot despite going into this contest losing three of his last four bouts. So maybe Henderson can land his trademark ‘H-Bomb’ for the win and goes on to fight for the world title making me look silly for worrying about him and the damage he’s taking. But more realistically there is a reason Cormier is a heavy favorite and maybe Henderson shouldn’t be in the cage fighting the guys of this level this late in his career. If anyone has earned the right to decide how long they want to keep fighting, it’s Dan Henderson. But at the same-time maybe Henderson is setting himself up for a rude reminder Saturday night that this is a young-mans game. Henderson is a legend but I think he may be too tough and gritty for his own good.

 

5)   Is Robbie Lawler The Biggest Star of UFC 173?

Lawler

 

It’s almost as if Robbie Lawler’s career can be divided into three different parts. The first is the promising 19-year-old prospect that could put a cow to sleep with one punch that never quite panned out into a contender. Next there was the journeyman Lawler that went from organization to organization fighting strictly for the paycheck as he masqueraded as a Middleweight. Now we have the 32-year-old rejuvenated Robbie Lawler that has returned to Welterweight and took the UFC by storm these past 15 months. Suddenly Robbie Lawler was reaching the levels everyone expected out of him when he was a can’t-miss prospect in 2002. Lawler is proof that talent never really expires if the fighter is willing to put the time in. Robbie came up one round short on the judge’s scorecards from capturing the UFC Welterweight title this past March against Johnny Hendricks in one of the best fights of the year. But to the surprise of many he’s jumping right back in the cage 8-weeks after his five-round classic against Hendricks. Not only is he jumping back in the cage he’s doing it against one of the division’s top contenders in Jake Ellenberger. Perhaps Lawler realizes that his stock has never been higher and he wants to capitalize now while the iron is hot and work his way back to another title shot in 2015. I think out of all the big names fighting Saturday night, right now no one on the card has the fans attention like Robbie Lawler does. Can Lawler keep building the momentum he started since rejoining the UFC last February? Everyone loves a comeback story and you can’t help but get the feeling that Lawler is currently working on a comeback story for the ages.

Picks-

Main Card

Renan Barao over T.J Dillashaw

Daniel Cormier over Dan Henderson

Robbie Lawler over Jake Ellenberger

Takeya Mizugaki over Francisco Rivera

Jamie Varner over James Krause

Prelims-

Michael Chiesa over Francisco Trinaldo

Tony Ferguson over Katsunori Kikuno

Chris Holdsworth over Chico Camus

Al Iaquinta over Mitch Clarke

Anthony Njokuani over Vinc Pichel

Sam Sicilia over Aaron Phillips

David Michaud over Jingliang Li

Fight Record Since UFC Fight Night 39-

37-19

Tweet me @Carlosjortiz32

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