UFC bantamweight Renan Barao left the Octagon with divisional gold around his waist after submitting Michael McDonald in the UFC on Fuel 7 main event. He also exited the cage with the label of being an “interim” champion.
In order to shed the tag, the 25-year old will have to beat linear title-holder Dominick Cruz who has been out of action for sixteen months due to a stint as coach on the Ultimate Fighter and series of injuries. Still healing up from a torn ACL (his second), Cruz won’t be ready to battle Barao for months. However, to hear “The Dominator” talk about it, he’s already amped up about the prospect of putting his reputation on the line against the brilliant Brazilian.
“Enjoy that title because the truth is I’m the champ and I can’t wait to get in there and fight him,” said the excited Cruz on Fuel TV’s post-event coverage. “This guy is so good. I’m excited. He has so many different tools and is such a different challenge than I’ve ever faced. I love the challenge. I’m excited for it. I’m sorry that I’m making you wait for me. You deserve to get to fight me and you deserve to get that loss.”
Asked to assess the Brazilian’s performance against McDonald, Cruz gave the 30-1 Barao some credit but didn’t see any areas he himself won’t be prepared for when the two tussle at some point in 2013.
“Nothing really concerns me. What I noticed was the way McDonald chose to fight Barao. He had the same problems I thought Barao would give him. He can’t take down Barao, which gave him more chances to win and he could go for the takedowns. He can stay on the outside and strike. On top of that, McDonald was looking for the power shots, and was not looking to set them up. He was looking to counter them or force them. And, as I thought, Barao was able to keep the distance and keep McDonald from landing the big shot. He was able to dictate the range, keep the distance and score the takedowns that won the fight,” offered Cruz. “I fight differently than anyone else. I’m not going to stand in front of you. I’m not just going to counter you and I mix things up. You take away range with angles. I can wrestle. I’m not going to just stand in front of him and strike the whole time. Feints ruin the entire game of Barao, in my opinion. You take away the range by taking away the jab. He’s going to be confused when he gets in there looking for me.”
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC