The UFC 161 card scheduled for Winnipeg, Canada in mid June could lose it’s main event fight between Interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao and challenger Eddie Wineland due to a foot injury suffered by Barao. Barao was as high as a 5 to 1 favorite at some of the sport books that already have a line on this fight, so it will be interesting to see if whatever becomes the new main event for the card is more competitive at the books.
The Bantamweight class in the UFC is a mess, and this makes it worse. Barao is the interim champion because official champion Dominick Cruz has not been seen in the octagon since October of 2011 and still has no date set for a return. The UFC seems set on awaiting his return, however what may be best long term for the organization is to strip Cruz of the belt and let him ease back into the flow of competition when and if he does return.
Assuming Barao’s injury is not a major one, you can assume the Wineland-Barao match would be rescheduled, and the winner would go on to fight Dominick Cruz upon his return.
But what if Barao is on the shelf for more than a few months? The UFC would effectively have the top two guys with title belts both on the shelf? Could they really set of an Interim2?
The best option the UFC has left is to strip both Cruz and Barao and start fresh. That would mean that the top two non injured fighters fight for the title, which would mean Wineland versus firmly ensconced contender Urijah Faber.
This would be Faber’s fourth UFC title shot, and he has failed at winning a belt the first three times out, but he would be favored against Wineland. He already owns a win over Wineland, and with the fight under a month away, can probably be lured for a short notice title shot. Another factor in this favor is that Faber came through his last fights relatively unscathed.
I am not a fan of watering down belts, and Faber has gotten plenty of chances in the past, but the UFC has it’s hands tied with injuries taking out two titlists in the weight class. IF Faber takes the match on June 15th against Wineland, it should be for the title.
For Faber too, it changes potential rematches against Barao and Cruz when they come back, as he would be defending the belt and not looking to take it – in a close fight, that psychological edge could be the difference.
If Wineland wins the belt, the same scenario plays out – he gets Barao and Cruz just as any titlist would get. This would be better than waiting until September to see Barao-Wineland.