Renan Barao might be the UFC featherweight champion today were it not for his close friendship with Jose Aldo, the guy who actually holds the 145-pound belt.

So Barao simply dropped a division and got himself a belt there. On Saturday, he retained the UFC interim bantamweight championship at Wembley Arena in London by submitting Michael McDonald with an arm triangle at 3:57 of the fourth round.

That sets up a potentially massive fight with injured champion Dominick Cruz.

Cruz, though, has had two knee surgeries since he last fought on Oct. 1, 2011, when he defended his title against Demetrious Johnson. His return date is unknown, but it's a good bet he won't be back until at least the summer.

If it's any later, though, it may jeopardize a high-profile match with Barao, who won his 20th consecutive match in the back-and-forth affair with McDonald.

Aldo is set to defend his title on Aug. 3 against Anthony Pettis. If he wins that match, he's likely to move to lightweight. And that likely would send Barao up to his far more natural division of featherweight.

An exhausted Barao pleaded for Cruz to get healthy after the entertaining match with McDonald.

"Dominick Cruz, I'm ready for you," Barao said in the cage after his win. "I'm ready for you."

The public is definitely ready to see that. Barao is 30-1 with a no-contest; Cruz is 19-1 and has won 10 in a row, tearing through a roster of the greatest fighters in the world. He's beaten Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles, two men who have held titles and Johnson, the current flyweight champion. He also beat Joe Benavidez twice.

[Also: Ring card girl's embarrassing gaffe after fight]

The only thing holding back what would be one of the most significant matches in the history of the lighter weight divisions is Cruz's health.

Working as an analyst on Fuel TV on Saturday, Cruz praised Barao but said he would present an entirely different set of problems than McDonald.

"I'll tell you the difference: I fight different than anybody else," Cruz said. "I'm not going to stand in front of you. I'm not just looking to counter you, and I'm mixing things up. On top of that, you take away range with angles. That beats range every day of the week. And I can wrestle. I'm going to wrestle this guy. 

"I'm not just going to stand in front of him and strike all the time. I'm going to mix it up and keep him guessing. Feints ruin the entire game of Barao, in my opinion. You take away the range by taking away the jab."

Barao had a couple uneasy moments against McDonald, particularly in the first round when the phenom caught him with a left and then a series of short rights.

Barao was dropped by the punches, but his superior size and strength enabled him to get out of danger once they hit the mat.

Barao forced McDonald to repeatedly defend the takedown and that took its toll on the 22-year-old Californian. McDonald got winded in the third and was badly sucking for air in the fourth.

The finish came after Barao flung McDonald to the canvas out of a body clinch. He quickly gained the arm triangle and locked it in. McDonald resisted for about 20 seconds, and twice gave the thumbs up to show referee Marc Godard he was OK.

But he couldn't break Barao's grip and was finally forced to tap, accepting only the second loss of his career.

That set the stage for arguably the biggest fight in the division, provided Cruz gets back before Barao moves up.

Popular UFC video on Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel has torn ACL, out for season
Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib will throw at combine
Derrick Rose won’t return until he’s ’110 percent’
Who is Josh Hamilton thanking for his weight loss?

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

UFC Fight Night 95 results: Renan Barao back in win column with decision over Phillipe Nover

  • 29 days ago

BRASILIA, Brazil – Renan Barao outstruck and outwrestled Phillipe Nover over the course of three rounds, and the result was a predictable one when the fight went to the scorecards. Filed under: Featu read news >>

Renan Barao Decisions Phillipe Nover at UFC Brasilia |

  • 29 days ago

Former bantamweight champ Renan Barao snapped a two-fight losing streak on Saturday, defeating Phillipe Nover in the UFC Fight Night Brasilia co-main event . read news >>

UFC Fight Night 95: Renan Barao vs. Phillipe Nover video highlights

  • 29 days ago

After the first two-fight losing skid of his career, Renan Barao is back in the win column. The former bantamweight champ picked up a much-needed win over Phillipe Nover.Filed under: News, UFC, Video read news >>

UFC Fight Night 95 draws announced sold-out attendance of 8,410 fans in Brasilia

  • 29 days ago

BRASILIA, Brazil – Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 95 event drew an announced attendance of 8,410 for the UFC’s second show in Brazil’s capital city.Filed under: News, UFC read news >>

Renan Barao vs. Phillipe Nover… (UFC Brasilia Fight Highlight) |

  • 29 days ago

Check out the Renan Barao vs. Phillipe Nover UFC Brasilia fight highlights from Saturday's event in Brazil. read news >>

Fans invited to UFC Fight Night 96 workouts, weigh-ins

  • 27 days ago

There is a thin schedule of media events for this week’s UFC Fight Night 96. And with few chances to see the fighters before the enter the octagon Saturday, fans are invited to check out the open wor read news >>

UFC Fight Night Cyborg vs Lansberg rewind: What you got right & wrong

  • 28 days ago

UFC fans made their predictions ahead of UFC Fight Night Cyborg vs Lansberg - but were they correct? We look at all the prefight picks and see what really happened on fight night. read news >>

Jose Aldo requests release from UFC 'after being fooled so many times'

  • 26 days ago

Fed up, Jose Aldo has requested his release from the UFCFight fans may never get a change to see longtime featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo step foot inside a UFC Octagon ever again.On Tuesday, in an i read news >>

Who is Next for Dominick Cruz? Dana White Weighs In |

  • 25 days ago

Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz defended his title in June at UFC 199. His next title defense is in the works, but whom he’ll face is still in question. read news >>

UFC Picks up Former Bellator Heavyweight Champ Alexander Volkov | FIGHTLAND

  • 23 days ago

Photo by Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports Fight fans love the heavyweight division for its unpredictability. When two massive men step onto the canvas and start winging fists at one another, the likeliho read news >>