The UFC Bantamweight division has a new champion as the UFC has dropped the ‘interim’ label from Renan Barao‘s belt and long time champion Dominick Cruz has vacated the title after more than two year away from the sport. Cruz was scheduled to face Barao in a unification bout after two years and two surgeries, but that comeback is now derailed by a torn groin. Though the UFC has shown an inordinate amount of loyalty to Cruz, they have moved on as Renan Barao will now defend his title against Urijah Faber at UFC 169 on Super Bowl weekend.
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For Cruz, this likely spells the end of his comeback and possibly his career. There was a downside to being able to keep the belt through multiple rehabs and surgeries, and that was that he had to comeback to face Barao, who had become a force in the weight class. It was the toughest possible way to come back, and now should he choose to stay in the sport, Cruz will get a chance to ease his way back in. Staying retired would carry no shame with it for Cruz.
So we are left with Faber v Barao II for UFC 169. Faber remains the popular ‘California Kid’ and in his current 4 fight streak he has looked the best he has looked in a long time. His last loss came at the hands of Barao, however and it is also hard to over look the fact that Faber has lost his last five title fights. Barao was favored in that fight and won, and he will be the betting favorite for this one.
Faber has likely closed the gap a bit with Barao since their first meeting, and he has shown a lot of smarts fighting as of late. He is going to need every bit of those smarts to get by Barao. Faber is also going to have to avoid getting injured during the fight, as he has fought with broken hands before and lost, so he is going to need a little luck as well.