Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan “The Baron” Barao (34-2) will face off against up-and-coming grappler Mitch Gagnon (12-2). This is a huge drop off in experience when comparing both fighter’s resumes, Barao hoisting up a list of wins against the most formidable opponents the division had to offer, ranging from Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, and Urijah Faber.
After looking nearly unstoppable, he was stopped by one of the biggest underdogs in UFC history — T.J. Dillashaw. For awhile, Barao was even being considered in the same class as the Jose Aldo’s and Anderson Silva’s of the world, then dominated by Dillashaw. Not many people saw that coming — to be outclassed and then finished in the last round by knockout.
This fight is being considered as a stepping stone to launch Barao back into contention, but it should be a fight he doesn’t take lightly considering his last encounter with an up-and-comer, Mitch Gagnon being ranked #14 in the division. I think Barao should come out victorious and ready to square off against Dillashaw for a rematch, that could have a drastically different result.
1. Heavy hands – Few fighters want to go toe to toe with Barao and certainly not Gagno; this just isn’t his forte in the octagon. This is where the Brazilian holds a huge advantage in this matchup, and surely will be his game plan coming in to keep it on the feet.
As Urijah Faber learned in the second matchup losing to Barao again but by knockout, he has the tools to put anyone away, no matter their pedigree.
2. Dangerous submissions – The scary thing for Gagnon is that his strength leads into Barao’s biggest asset, his ground game is filthy and very few opponents survive a few minutes of rolling around. Barao on the ground is the equivalent of being stuck under a tree — you know if the tree was also punching you in the face and moving around you with freakish speed.
He will be looking to finish things on the feet but if an opportunity opens up then fans should be prepared for a spectacular finish on the ground.
3. Hunger for redemption – Being one of the UFC’s staples for so long and also being unaccustomed to not losing while he held one of the most impressive winning streaks in MMA as a whole, it is almost guaranteed that he will take this opportunity to bury any doubt how dominant he is. Some fans even question if his mind was in the Dillashaw fight to begin with. All that is left is for him to get to a point where he can prove those fans right.
Barao is a straight up winner, and to be facing such a low profile fighter must hurt, especially fighting in his home country. This is a chance to build his momentum with his whole nation behind him to support, while those on the outside question whether he is still as good as previously shown.