UFC 169 MATCHUPS
A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 169 today at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.:
Renan Barao (champion, 31-1, 1 NC) vs. Urijah Faber (30-6)
■ CLASS: For bantamweight title
■ LINE: Barao -280
■ STORYLINE: Faber wins whenever he steps into the cage with no title on the line. Barao always wins. Unfortunately for Faber, this is a title fight. These two matched up in July 2012, and Barao won the interim belt with a unanimous decision. While Faber went on to have a sensational 2013, with four impressive victories and no losses, not enough has changed to create a different result. Faber is incredibly resilient and won’t be finished by the powerful Barao. He also won’t be able to create enough offense to find a path to victory. Barao lost his professional debut in 2005 and has not lost since. Despite Faber’s run of recent success, that’s not likely to change. Barao is just too good in all areas.
■ PICK: Barao by decision
Jose Aldo (champion, 23-1) vs. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
■ CLASS: For featherweight title
■ LINE: Aldo -600
■ STORYLINE: Aldo’s run of victories is nearly as impressive as Barao’s. Aldo has won 16 straight fights since his only career loss in November 2005. That stretch includes five straight defenses of the featherweight title. Aldo has been a dominant force in the division, but his time at featherweight might be coming to an end. There is rampant speculation that Aldo might move up to lightweight to fight champion Anthony Pettis. While that would be a great fight, that sort of looking ahead could be the distraction needed to open the door for an upset here. Lamas has been waiting for this chance for two years. He is unbeaten in four fights since dropping to 145 pounds, with two knockouts and a submission. The Chicago native is more than a live dog in this fight. He has a decided edge in cardio and can win by wearing down Aldo. If you’re betting the fight, take a shot with Lamas. That said, Aldo is really good. Watch for him to use leg kicks to wear down Lamas early then look for the finish.
■ PICK: Aldo by second-round knockout
Frank Mir (16-8) vs. Alistair Overeem (36-13, 1 NC)
■ CLASS: Heavyweight
■ LINE: Overeem -320
■ STORYLINE: This one has been deemed all over the Internet as a “loser-leaves-town match.” Both are highly paid stars on losing streaks. At least Mir, a former champion, has a history of UFC success. Overeem arrived from Strikeforce with all kinds of hype but hasn’t lived up to it. After knocking out Brock Lesnar in his debut, Overeem was knocked out in back-to-back fights. Mir has dropped three consecutive fights against three of the world’s top heavyweights. Both badly need a win and know this is their best chance to get it. Overeem is a powerful and dynamic striker. His kicks and punches can end fights quickly, but his knees in the clinch are what has made him so feared. Unfortunately for Mir, knees have proven to be a bit of a weakness lately. Mir wants to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible and take advantage of his significant grappling edge. If he can get it there, he will win. That’s a big if. Overeem will be swinging from the opening bell and probably will catch Mir with something early.
■ PICK: Overeem by first-round knockout
John Lineker (23-6) vs. Ali Bagautinov (12-2)
■ CLASS: Flyweight
■ LINE: Bagautinov -135
■ STORYLINE: Far too often when a fight is anticipated as potentially the most exciting of the event, it falls flat. The expectations become too great, and there is little chance the action can match the hype. Don’t worry about that here. Lineker just comes out firing big punches from the opening bell. He looks to end fights with everything he throws. Bagautinov, a winner of 10 straight fights, including two in the UFC, is just as aggressive. Bagautinov implements his offense in different ways, though. He is well-versed in striking, but also is capable of taking down, or even throwing his opponents all over the cage. Even on a card with two title fights and a heavyweight showdown, this one will steal the show. The winner very well could be in line for a title shot. Lineker, however, needed a second attempt to make weight. It has been a consistent problem throughout his career. If he had another bad weight cut, cardio very well could be an issue.
PICK: Bagautinov by decision.
Jamie Varner (21-8-1, 2 NC) vs. Abel Trujillo (11-5)
■ CLASS: Lightweight
■ LINE: Varner -140
■ STORYLINE: Trujillo has been on a tear, winning six of his past seven fights. The loss came against rising superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov. Varner took the fight on short notice for an injured Bobby Green. He has had a few exciting fights lately but is 2-2 since returning to the UFC. Varner is a veteran with a well-rounded game. Trujillo might be too dynamic, though. He is a big, strong lightweight who figures to be the more impressive fighter when they enter the cage. It might be Trujillo’s time.
■ PICK: Trujillo by decision
ADAM HILL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL